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May 2020 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Cheerful scenes around Mallaig - Heather and Kriss Gray brightened up their street by painting rainbows on their garden wall! Local streetsweeper Allan Morrison made the national news recently - he's been dressing up in a different costume when he's been out working with the bin lorry every Tuesday morning! Thank you Allan for entertaining everyone!
Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice - update
The Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice has now secured GP locum cover until October 2020. At the moment there are two GPs, Kerstin and Graham, husband and wife, who between them are providing cover in the practice for two weeks. These GPs are part of the Rediscover the Joy of Working in General Practice - Islands and Highland Scheme. This is a collaborative project across four Health Boards, Highland, Western Isles, Shetland Islands and Orkney, and sponsored by the Scottish Rural Medicine Collaborative. The scheme has successfully recruited approximately 30 GPs who are very experienced, and are looking for a change in their work life balance, and who want to work in regular short blocks (one - three weeks at a time, for 12 - 18 weeks a year) in rural practices across these Boards.
The practice has also secured locum cover with a GP who has recently left post as a senior GP Partner in a practice in Lothian. He had planned to travel and work abroad, but this was put on hold due to COVID. He is now on the rota to work in the Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice for approximately three months. The practice is delighted with this, as it will provide continuity for the patients.
At some point soon, we will be looking for the best way to proceed with attracting a new GP to take over the provision of the General Medical Services at the Practice. Our aim is to keep the local community updated as we progress with this, and should we be successful with interest in the practice, we would be looking to the local community to be part of the selection process.
I'm sure the local community will understand that we have been concentrating all efforts on COVID-19 for the past number of weeks, to ensure that we have the best services in place to support our local communities as directed by the Scottish Government.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank the patients of Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice for supporting the practice during this current situation and to remind everyone that we are still available for urgent/non routine appointments.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Well, the strange times continue, but hasn't the weather been absolutely amazing? As I write, England is coming out of lockdown and we're all wondering what will happen next - let's hope there's not another upsurge of cases of Covid-19.
At some point we'll transition back to 'normal'. For all the difficulties of lockdown, there's surely some wonderful benefits too - the clarity of the air, the birdsong, the lack of traffic, the opportunity to step back and take stock.
The West Word committee and I would like to thank the Community Councils of Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig for their contribution to funding this edition, and their volunteers for distributing it to every household from Roshven to Mallaig.
If you're new to West Word, or haven't read it for a while, I hope you enjoy this edition.
Last but not least, thanks to my children for the clipart this month!
ISLE OF MUCK
Well another month has passed! This missive should be full of anecdotes about this year's visitors, how busy the Sheerwater and the craft shop have been, the up and coming Camas events . . .
Island life is all about seasons. After a long winter, rain, gales and just ourselves we really look forward to the visitors returning. Many people make an annual pilgrimage to the island and, having been doing so for such a long time, are part of the fabric of the summer. They are not just visitors but friends returning. Then there are the new faces, experiencing the beauty of Muck for the first time, enthusing while they wait for the boat about what a marvellous time they've had and vowing to return. And most of them do. By the end of the summer we quite look forward to having the place to ourselves again, to recharge the batteries, so to speak. It's not that we have had enough of visitors, it's just the natural order of the place that changes with the seasons year on year.
It's the strangest feeling to watch the spring burst into life while the holiday cottages remain silent; there's no 3.30 hooter sounding Sheerwater's imminent departure and the school playground doesn't reverberate to the sound of children playing at break times. As the posters in parts of London and other badly affected areas say, "these days will pass" and when they do visitors and friends alike will renew their connection with the island, and "normality" will return. The weather has helped lift spirits this month. Although the breeze has had an edge to it at times, the sun has shone with some power in it again and the rain has held off. It has been ideal weather for lambing and this year's crop are scattered all across the island. Most have barely seen any rain. Colin tells me he's never had so many sets of triplets from the Jacob cross ewes. With less than three weeks to go, lambing is heading towards the finishing line and the lambers a well-earned rest (if there is such a thing when you farm!)
It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of the Reverend Alan Lamb and our thoughts are with his wife Helen and the family at this time. Alan has been a huge part of the island for more years than most can remember. He has been a great friend to the island and islanders alike. A man with boundless patience, kindness and an ability to bring comfort in even the saddest of circumstances, he has presided over the happiest and saddest times this island has seen for many years. He will be greatly missed.
Lawrence adds: "My diary entry for 4th April 1994 records Alan's arrival on the island. Alan had recently been appointed 'temporary' minister of Arisaig church, a post which had recently undergone a period of turmoil and badly needed stability. The Small Isles church had recently left a union with Mallaig and joined Arisaig. Alan took the Small Isles part of his parish very seriously, so we saw a lot of him on Muck, often together with Helen. So he got to know us well and soon he was in at the deep end with journeys to the crematorium in Lancaster to say farewell to Ian and then Stella Stephens, former residents on the island.
But it was at one of the greatest tragedies ever to befall Muck - the death of young Izzy Fichtner Irvine - that he was really there for us.. In the Marquee and at the graveside Alan was there on a beautiful November day to comfort an island in shock at Izzy's early departure.
Alan 'retired' for a third time in 2005 but of course he did not. He was always there ready to fill the gaps when there was no one to conduct the services. Some of his best addresses from the pulpit were during this period and I was certainly inspired. Alan was one of four people who inspired me throughout life. He was a true Christian; I never heard him make an adverse comment regarding his fellow men or women. Because of the current situation, only Julie Mcfadzean from the island was there to bid farewell as his earthly remains finally made its way through the streets of Arisaig, but we were certainly there in spirit."
ISLE OF CANNA
As we near the end of April, Covid-19 continues to occupy our lives on Canna, though without dominating. We are fortunate enough to continue our everyday routines largely untroubled, in contrast to the daily news and first hand accounts we hear from friends and relatives on the mainland. It is the businesses here that are hardest hit by the pandemic - Fiona at Tighard Guest House has no guests - Isebail's Canna Campsite has no campers - our Community Shop has no customers, other than ourselves using up the small amounts of stock left over from last season. Gareth has at least opened up Café Canna every other Saturday evening for take-aways (also offering beer..) - a welcome event which just about everyone has taken advantage of. We are always mindful of the ever-present threat and potential consequences of the Coronavirus somehow being transmitted to Canna, so we remain in isolation, no-one coming or going to or from the island unless absolutely necessary, and continue to social distance in family groups. CalMac's 'Lifeline' ferry service, which we have just heard is being extended to 14 May, continues to bring essential supplies, with all appropriate safety measures in place on the pier. Although Canna only receives two ferries per week, the switch to a Monday and Friday (previously Tuesday and Thursday) does provide a better spread of deliveries, particularly of food.
The ordering restrictions put in place by the Mallaig Co-op seem to have eased a little, though some items still appear to be in short supply. Some individuals have been good enough to co-ordinate bulk orders of some items from suppliers - and both Gerry's and Anna's hens are laying large quantities of eggs - so we are not significantly short of anything.
With no contractors coming to carry out works, we are fortunately quite resilient in being able to undertake regular and sometimes essential management and repairs amongst ourselves. Whilst some maintenance tasks can wait, we do begin to wonder what might happen this year with regard to checks requiring compliance for health and safety or insurance purposes. Electrical testing, gas checks and water quality immediately spring to mind. On the subject of water, we are already experiencing the first signs of a shortage in supply, a pattern that seems to repeat each year now in late spring / early summer. Whilst the fine, dry weather has been welcome, the lack of rain means our spring fed supply is noticeably drying up. Perhaps just as well there are less than twenty of us on island at the moment, making it easier to implement water saving measures. (Remember the rhyme . . . 'If it's yellow, let it mellow....')
One of the things we have for a while been in discussion with our landlord, the National Trust for Scotland, is investigating a more reliable water source and treatment system, possibly a borehole, however, like most projects, this is on the back-burner for the time being. Water supply and demand will become increasingly important as we look to grow our community through additional housing. It is fortunate in some ways that we are at an early stage of our development plan. Andrew Prendergast, our Development Officer, is currently still working on our behalf from his home on Skye, taking forward housing initiatives which don't as yet require site visits to Canna.
The good weather also means that we can find plenty of time to tend to Canna House garden and the Rhu churchyard, both of which are looking tidy and colourful, the snowdrops and daffodils now giving way to the apple and pear blossom. We took the decision to turn over and prepare the whole of the vegetable plot this year, in addition to the polytunnel, to plant out with vegetables as a community project - in case we experienced a shortage of fresh veg! And if restrictions are eventually lifted, we might then have vegetables to sell to visitors late in the summer.
And of course, the sunshine and dry fields is just what is needed for lambing time, which is now in full production. We are all delighted with the news that Caroline MacKinnon (below) is now officially on the NTS payroll as part of the Canna Farm management team, and, according to Gerry, has taken command of this year's lambing operation down at the Square.
And finally, on the wildlife front . . . the puffins are back in their burrows, and the first Cuckoo was heard on the last day of April. And we had two first records for Canna this month - a Shoveler duck, and a Magpie.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
"Dh'čirich mi moch madainn Chčitein, faill il e ill hiu ill io
'N driůchd air an fhiar, ghrian ag čirigh
Ghabhainn an t-aiseag 'na dhčidh sin
Mach o Mhňrair nan geugan
I rose early one May Morning
The dew on the grass as it was dawning
After that I'd sail across
Out to Morar of the branches
Those are the first few lines of a well-known waulking song, many versions of which were collected by both John and Margaret Campbell of Canna. This version was collected by Father Allan MacDonald of Eriskay and begins with a poetic description of rising early in the dawn of a May morning and eventually travelling to Morar. This song appears in Johns seminal volume of work songs, "Hebridean Folksongs", first published 1969 and has become a staple of many Gaelic singers' repertoire. John's work extends to three volumes, and they actually include many songs with strong references to the month of May. Perhaps this was because May was the signal of the Summer coming to the croft or fishing boat. Perhaps it was because the weather improved enough to allow for more courtships to take place out of the house! Whatever, it is nice to see the sun these days, even if we can't go travelling like Fr Allan!
Father Allan Macdonald of Eriskay
St Michaels Church, Eriskay, consecrated 1903
In March 1920, teenager Margaret Fay Shaw was spending a year in school in Helensburgh. We are lucky in that she kept her experiences and thoughts of that year in her diary and, in this time of COVID 19, we are able to see in it a glimpse of what life was like at the time of the Spanish Flu pandemic. The diary is being blogged over the next few weeks on the NTS website so here is an excerpt to whet your appetite for more of Margaret's pithy and hilarious comments on life! Perhaps teenagers have not changed so much over the years! You can read the complete 'Story" at https://bit.ly/2VHxLKA Part 2 will follow.
"Feb 28 - I began the day by being miles late for breakfast. The rest of the day morning I wrote letters, argued with Celia and helped Bea and Eileen make sealing wax beads. We consequently made a dreadful mess and set the paper on the table on fire three times by upsetting the candle - We ate, drummed on the piano all afternoon and tonight the others returned and we ate some more junk and teased Mary Crabbe by hiding her raiment! Got a biff on my nose and feel like a boiled owl."
March 9 - Had my English exam today. It was fearfully hard. Six questions in three hours. Made an awful mess of it. Bea's temperature is normal. But Mary Crabbe is in bed with a bad cold and temperature. Grace has an ear-ache and we all have colds. Saw four mast schooner and a big Anchor-Brocklebank liner going to India on the Clyde today."
Schooner on the Clyde
ISLE OF EIGG
What a strange month this has been! As John the Post reflected, it's the first time in his 40 years of work with CalMac that the Saturday service has been cancelled! And so, instead of busying ourselves with the visitors' season, we find ourselves with plenty of time to do the things we struggle to achieve as we juggle many jobs: garden, painting and other DIY round the house, finishing that book or finalising those pesky minutes... Because this has not stopped us from having meetings, with zoom adopted here as in the rest of the country: it was certainly a new experience to use zoom for our monthly residents' meeting, but it seemed to have worked ok! Just as well that we are now on course to see our fibre optics connection finalised by the end of May! Hebnet has now connected three quarters of the houses on Eigg, so that's a great improvement. It's hard to think what we would do now without a reliable access to the internet, and we are getting the best possible connection! Many thanks to Simon and Shuggie, his cable digging assistant! To a degree, this crisis has shown that what we routinely have to do as islanders is now adopted by the rest of the country, so that we are no longer at such a disadvantage by being remote! From my point of view, it's a bonus to be able to partake in a two hour meeting which otherwise would have taken three days off or more, a return ferry and train journey or even a flight! I hope that some of these new ways of working will stay with us!
Meanwhile the secondary students are enjoying working from home, and feel very lucky to have so much support from Mallaig High. The primary kids are enjoying their daily online meetings with the kids on Muck and Rum. Plenty of time to do historical research at the moment, and the history society is starting to investigate flax growing on Eigg, following identification of a retting pool near the Sandavore burn. A good time too to dig out old photos and continue working on our contemporary archive. Interestingly, more pieces of mesolithic worked flint similar to those found in Shore Cottage garden have been recovered from the sandy soil above the beach disturbed by recent crofting activity in Cleadale!
The Covid crisis has also shown the fragility of our emergency medical cover, with our first responders being currently laid off. A two and a half hour wait to get Brendan Greene off to hospital after his bad bike accident on 30th April was not ideal (How come my Danish island colleagues only ever have to wait for 15 to 30 minutes max for a helicopter to come?) and we have to thank the Mallaig lifeboat crew for coming very swiftly once it became obvious no helicopter was available, as well as the ambulance guys that sorted him out (he is now well on the mend by the way!) Our Covid-19 Liaison team swiftly put together did not anticipate that the coastguards who are still able to respond would not be called out. So something to discuss further to ensure that Eigg and the Small Isles have increased resilience. In the meantime, our thanks also go to our local Councillor, Denis Rixson, who is making sure we have access to the latest info from Highland Council.
Despite the hot April weather holiday atmosphere - we are all enjoying the iconic Eigg walks that we signpost to our visitors - and there have been some courageous swimmers too - concerns remain about the economic impact for the island. Despite the help package put together, there are still too many self-catering business which have not been assessed by the Scottish Assessors Association office, and without a rateable value, they will not have then been listed for business rates by the Highland Council, and are therefore ineligible for a Covid-19 Self-Catering grant. Luckily we have a very active Island Team at the Scottish Government which is taking these issues up on our behalf and active local councillors looking out for us. When will it be possible to re-open for business is a difficult question to answer, as our islands which have so far been preserved from the pandemic might find themselves in an even more precarious situation. Talks of ending the lockdown is now making us more nervous than we would have anticipated at first!
With the good weather, bird watching has been taken up by even more residents than ever: sightings of the rare Nuthatch have been reported, showing the bird's northern progression, and the Cuckoo was heard on 16th April, one day ahead of its traditional arrival day of St Donnan's Day. Swallows have been back for a while and some of them have found Howlin House's post box a very effective nesting site! Norah and her family witnessed the amazing Eagle nuptial display at Struidh, and a great number of butterflies have been noticed fluttering about. Spring displays of violets, primroses and wood anemones are truly spectacular. With the annual abundance of wild Garlic, there has been plenty of time to make pesto and other green delicacies. It's great to have more time to enjoy nature's bounty, and a reminder that we should not neglect the seasonal delights our ancestors depended upon for their health after winter's dearth.
Mary-Anne Campbell, harvesting the last crop of oats grown on Eigg
Mary-Anne, Morag and Catriona
Finally, our condolences go to Morag Campbell on the passing of her aunt, Mary-Anne Campbell, aged 95 in her Bearsden care home this month. Maryanne and Morag's mother, Catriona, were locally known as "the Blossoms", as they were always cheery and full of laughter. Maryanne adored her cattle and when she was not seen out on her Cuagach croft, she still could be heard, whistling cheerfully as she made her rounds. She has a wonderfully rich soprano voice and it was a joy to listen to her lead the hymn singing in the Church of Scotland she faithfully attended. I recorded her Gaelic singing for the School of Scottish Studies when I first came to Eigg, and I am sure that she would have been a Mod Gold medallist if she could have been parted from her croft and her family. But she never would, caring so well for her bed ridden mother that she lived to be 100! Mary-Anne was also a favourite person to visit for the Cuagach children as she always had a supply of biscuits and sweeties for them! A lovely old island lady that many of us will remember fondly.
Update from the Arisaig Community Trust
As Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on national businesses and developments, our own projects have also unfortunately not escaped. The Community Housing project cannot proceed until the lockdown is eased and funding for both the Shorefront and Land, Sea & Islands Centre Extension projects is going to be harder than ever to secure. Our recent application to The Scottish Natural Heritage Fund (part of Plunge in! Coast & Waters Fund) has been declined. The funding was to help with the Arisaig shorefront developments and would have involved several other local groups and businesses, including links with local schools. The Heritage Lottery Fund have stated that they are restructuring their funding to focus on Covid impact rather than heritage capital projects such as ours and our outstanding application to the SSE Sustainable Development Fund has similarly been unsuccessful. That said, as we come out of this hiatus, since tourism has been severely impacted and since global travel is likely to be reduced for an extended time period, then we can expect more focus on 'home tourism' and therefore funding opportunities to support it will reappear. Rest assured, we will aim to be first in the queue to keep our community developments moving!
We have been busy trying to gather together ways of ensuring we can continue to support the community both during and after these challenging times. With community toilets closed along with the Land, Sea and Islands Centre, we continue to see a large reduction in donations. We are delighted to have been successful in our application to the Central Government's Resilience fund and will receive £3000. This funding together with our retention of staff through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will help to ensure the Arisaig Community recovers within a shorter time.
Although under current social distancing we are unable to go ahead with activities associated with the Arisaig Eco Project, we continue to look into ways we can support the environment by reducing waste and have registered Arisaig Community Trust with the Recycle4Charity programme. During Covid 19 lockdown perhaps you are finding you are printing more documents at home due to home-working and home-schooling and therefore using more printer cartridges? Used printer cartridges end up in landfill if put in household waste.
Did you know that you can help us raise funds FREE OF CHARGE simply by recycling your ink cartridges via our Recycle4Charity programme? All you need to do is go to the web link shown below and sign up for your free account. As part of the registration process, you can request recycle4charity to send you a bulk of free post environmentally friendly envelopes. All you need to do is pop your used cartridges in the envelopes and return them FREE OF CHARGE! For each inkjet cartridge recycled via the programme, we will receive a £1 donation, meaning you can help the environment by reducing landfill whilst raising money for Arisaig Community Trust!
Register at: www.recycle4charity.co.uk/Register/C96850
PLEASE NOTE: A full list of cartridges that will generate a donation is available on the Recycle4charity website. Select the Wanted List button and scroll down the page to select View Wanted List. Current brands accepted are HP, Dell, Canon, Kodak, Frama, Pitney Bowes and Neopost.
We value your support - thank you!
VE DAY - A FADING MEMORY
The media has been full of the celebrations across the country to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. Lockdown has meant street parties, concerts and memorial gatherings have had to be cancelled but there were some 'virtual' events and a two minute silence.
25 years ago, on the 50th anniversary of VE Day, the local area was buzzing with events. West Word's seventh ever issue looked back at the first VE Day and carried a front page banner headline of 'V.E. Day Celebrations - Mallaig, May 1945'. A photo, courtesy of Mallaig Heritage Centre and Mrs M Snow, showed Foxie Gillies, Roland Johnson, Mr W Letham, Annie and Tom Letham and Mairi McNeil at Mallaig Station on 1944 and the accompanying story was a reprint of an article which had appeared in the Oban Times describing the events in Mallaig on that first VE Day: the village and boats in the harbour decorated with flags and bunting and a special thanksgiving service in St Columba's Church. In the evening, an effigy of Hitler was paraded through the village and burnt on a huge bonfire at Glasnacardoch Fank! Round the bonfire, toasts were made and there was Highland Dancing to pipe music from A and R MacLellan, Morar. There were free refreshments and free ice cream for the children. The day was rounded off by a dance in the hall. The celebrations continued into the next day, with a football match, a shooting competition and a grand victory dance in the hall.
Fast forward to the celebrations for the 50th anniversary, inside the same issue of West Word, May 1995. In Mallaig there was a free street party at the top of the pier, with all the things our Gala days usually put on. In Morar, there was also a street party in the Station Square, while Arisaig put on a bus, free for pensioners and their companions, to go to the open air service and parade in Fort William, with a shinty match thrown in, and in the evening, there was a bonfire and BBQ at the Old Smiddy (now the Land, Sea and Islands Centre). There was a photo of Sgt Bob Poole at a Para training school in Italy in early 1945, with five of his colleagues and Bob shared his reminiscences of his time as a Parachute instructor with the Special Operations Unit. Paul Galbraith, who had served five years with the 6th Airborne Division in NW Europe and Palestine, also shared his memories of that time. There was also a photo of eight local air cadets - Donnie Ruadh MacDonald, Willie Cameron, Jack Patterson, John Coates, Alex Ironside, Hector MacLean, Angus MacLellan and James Manson.
Fast forward again to May 2005, the 60th anniversary of VE Day, and there were no celebrations. In my Letter from the Editor in that issue of West Word, I wondered about that: whether it was now just so far away, was it because there had been no lead or publicity from 'the powers that be'… Perhaps by then we already had our Gala Days and other celebrations in place and had no time or funding for more. One thing that had been encouraged nationally was for veterans to access lottery funding to return to places where they saw service. And I also realised that the peace treaty had been signed on my father's 25th birthday - what a present!
Now there are only a few veterans left. VE Day sinks into a remembered and honoured past but obviously doesn't resonate with us locally.
West Word received a letter from Mallaig's Roger Lanyon recently, after his wife Liz came across the Oban Times article mentioned above. Roger says "As a five year old living in Mallaig at the end of WWII, I vividly remember the events depicted in the Oban Times article of 26th May 1945. The bonfire was made principally from fish boxes piled "as high as a house". To a five year old it was "surely the biggest bonfire in the world!" It was set alight on the windward face and, for a time, the leeward side was an enticing and very easily climbed wooden cliff. One small man, nicknamed in the village "Locheil", commenced the climb just as the flames began to spread. Great consternation occurred and several young men had to risk life and limb to dissuade "Locheil" from assaulting the Hitler effigy placed at the summit of the bonfire and somehow return him to safety. Talk about something being "burned" in one's memory!"
Mallaig Harbour News
We're all adjusting a bit to the new 'normal' around the Harbour, and although it feels very strange to not have the usual 'hustle and bustle' that would have been associated with Easter, we are fortunate in lots of ways that there is still some activity around the Harbour. As I mentioned last month, the pier staff are not on-site all the time, and Audrey, Pimmy and I are working from home as much as possible. We are trying to keep the office staffed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9am until 1pm. Our fishing fleet are mostly tied up, as the market hasn't really picked up again yet. There has been lots of lobbying for financial support for fishermen, and this is starting to filter through now. It's been unfortunate in many ways that April was such a good month of weather this year, and it must be really frustrating for those who make their living from fishing to have calm weather and not be able to take advantage of it. CalMac are still operating their essential lifeline timetable, which means no sailings to Skye, no calls from the Lord of the Isles, and sailings to the Small Isles only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This timetable is extended to 14th May at the moment, but CalMac are offering refunds to anyone who had booked sailings with them up until 15th July, so it is likely that it will be extended further. Western Isles Cruises are also operating a lifeline timetable, with one sailing to Inverie on a Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Both CalMac and Western Isles Cruises have made great use of their social media - possibly in a slightly different way to normal - over the last month, keeping interested parties engaged and offering a wee 'virtual glimpse' of how things are operating. The Road to The Isles Marketing Group have also been very active on social media, providing 'virtual postcards' from the area, for those who can't be with us at the moment. West Coast Waters are still running their sunset competition, with some great prizes. There have been some cracking sunsets this month - so get your entries in! They are also asking people to 'immerse their senses' in the sights, sounds, tastes, textures and aromas of Scotland's West Coast Waters, focussing on a different sense each week and starting with sight. We are lucky to have a range of great businesses operating from the Harbour, not just in fishing and marine tourism, who are all trying to make the best of the situation. This includes those businesses servicing the Aquaculture industry, and Scottish Sea Farms and MOWI who are trying to maintain operations as far as possible, with appropriate modifications. The Marina remains closed to all visiting yachts. Part of the responsibility of the Harbour is to provide a safe berth if required, and, after discussion, we allowed a yacht from outwith the Harbour to come alongside the pontoon to take aboard a new battery on 15th April. We didn't do this lightly, and we were aware that the yacht had been anchored off Isleornsay for three weeks before coming into Mallaig so any risk of infection would have been minimal. Unfortunately, the battery did not arrive when promised, which resulted in the yacht having to stay an extra night. We know that this caused some consternation locally, but please be reassured that we had thought carefully about the implications before allowing the boat access. We haven't gone as far as other Marinas in completely closing the gates and not allowing people access to their vessels, as we recognise that no-one locally using the pontoon has to travel a distance to do so, and that it is important for people to be able to access their boats to do essential maintenance and safety checks. We are aware that the RYA is lobbying for access to Marinas and is developing a 'Return to Boating' strategy, so Mallaig Harbour Authority will continue to monitor the situation and react to guidance as it is updated. In the meantime, we are relying on our users to act responsibly and follow existing guidance.
We had some big tides at the start of the month, and on the 9th April, when this photo was taken, low tide was 0.0 - right back to chart datum. It's not often you will see the pontoon grounded!
CMAL have now published the Mallaig / Armadale STAG on their website, so if you have some time to spare, you can download the whole report from https://www.cmassets.co.uk/project/armadale-and-mallaig/. I would warn that it is 253 pages long! If you just want to look at the drawings for Mallaig, they start on Page 143, (which is actually page 152 of the download). On the website you will also see a request for those who would like to be considered as stakeholders for the project as it progresses in Mallaig to email email@example.com to register as a stakeholder. This is important as, because CMAL led on the process to this stage, Mallaig Harbour Authority does not have contact details for those who were involved to date, and we are aware that there may be wider interest in how the project progresses.
Many people make the presumption that the skip on the pier is provided by The Highland Council, when in actual fact it is paid for by the Harbour Authority, and costs us around £2,000 per month. We know that lots of people in the community use the skip, and we would rather this than stuff being fly-tipped around the Harbour and beyond. However, with people having more time on their hands, there is obviously a lot of clearing out going on, and last week the skip was changed on Thursday and was full again on Friday, before any of the Harbour rubbish went near it. Please be considerate about using the skip - it is primarily for Harbour waste, and please also consider that the Harbour's revenue is down significantly, so if you are using it, and would like to make a contribution towards the costs of it being emptied, we'd appreciate it. If you want to do it anonymously, then just put an envelope through the door with 'skip' written on the front of it!
Finally, after I wrote my article for the West Word last month, we had a request from the British Ports Association for boats to get involved with #clapforcarers on a Thursday evening. I shared the request on our Facebook page, and Audrey contacted some of the regular users of the Harbour, and we have been consistently amazed at the response each Thursday. It really is quite humbling to hear, and on one week, it was such a still night and there was such a great response that we had a message from Skye from someone in Sleat who was delighted to hear the boats sounding their horns. There are so many people who are responsible for keeping the country going as well as possible through all this, not least those working in and around the Harbour to keep the Small Isles and Knoydart in supplies and to ensure that the food chain keeps moving, some of them on the boats that are making time in their routine to join the tooting - and we are grateful to all of them!
01687 462154 firstname.lastname@example.org
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
30th April 2020
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg at 03:55. A resident on the island had sustained a severe injury to their ear to the extent that it was nearly detached. On scene at 04:50, the Lifeboat was met by the casualty who was able to board unassisted. Once the casualty was boarded they were handed over to the care of the Medics. During the passage back the casualty's wound was cleaned and dressed. Alongside at 05:35 the casualty was transferred to the ambulance for the onward journey to Fort William and was later transferred to Raigmore, Inverness, such was the extent of the injury. During this operation only the minimum of crew was selected and social distancing observed as much as possible. Lifeboat ready for service at 05:50.
Michael Ian Currie
CalMac Community Fund awards for Mallaig Groups
Mallaig Football Club and Mallaig Primary School Parent Council both successfully applied to the CalMac Community Fund during the latest funding round. Mallaig FC will use their award to sustain their recently established under 18s team and help to ensure young people in the area continue their engagement in the sport. The Club's Damian Kenning said, 'If it wasn't for the support we get from CalMac on a weekly basis during the season it would not be viable for us to have league football in Mallaig. This grant towards the Mallaig FC Youth Project further exemplifies this support and we cannot thank CalMac enough. These funds will be of huge benefit to the young footballers in our community and go a long way to ensure sustainability for structured youth football on the Mallaig peninsula for many years to come.'
Mallaig Primary School Parent Council had identified a lack of opportunities for pupils to engage in outdoor activities. Support from CalMac will enable them to organise a Winter Activity Residential where pupils can take part in range of supervised outdoor pursuits.
CalMac's Community Fund supports non-profit organisations, based in a mainland port or island the company serves, delivering projects to benefit the lives of children and young people living in west coast communities. Organisations can apply for an award between £500 to £2000. So far, the Fund has supported 76 projects. Each application was judged by a screening panel of young people recruited from across the area, in partnership with Young Scot.
MALLAIG FC LITTER PICK
On 6th May some of the lads from Mallaig Football Club and their families took part in a community litter pick between Mallaig and Lochailort. Abiding by the rules of social distancing and taking all the appropriate precautions, the boys went out to collect litter in their separate areas as their daily exercise. Mallaig player Aaron Mclean came up with idea and the lads were more than happy to get involved as a way of the club repaying the amazing support received in the past few years by giving something back to the community. It was a beautiful day for it and the boys managed to collect over 60 bags of rubbish!
Many thanks to everyone who waved, beeped a horn or spoke to the boys throughout the day, yet another example of the community support that the club is so reliant on! Special thanks to Lawrence Lowrie for supplying the guys with the ice lollies - much needed in the heat!
Traigh Golf Club - May Round Up
At almost this very moment, my fellow Traigh Golfers and I should be teeing the ball up on the first tee of the Torrance course, in the shadow of the Fairmont Hotel in St. Andrews, and competing for our Spring Outing Trophy. Unfortunately, as with everyone and everything else, we are instead in lockdown, and reduced to chipping practice in the garden. At least I am for once spared the annual disappointment of slicing my opening tee shot into the North Sea. Whilst our own suffering pales into insignificance in relation to the crisis at large, it is never-the-less still galling to pass our beautiful little course during this fantastic weather, and not be able to play. As a club our thoughts are with all those of our members and their communities, both locally and from further afield, who have been affected by this unprecedented emergency.
Following advice from both the government and the Scottish Golf Union, the course closed its doors back in March, a week or so before the full lockdown came into place. Along with everyone else, we await news that it is safe to resume activities in one form or another. The good news is that rumours currently abound that Golf may be one of the first sports to have Lockdown measures relaxed. The nature of the sport lends itself to being played with social distancing measures in place, so we are hoping that through the implementation of certain measures and restrictions, Golf may be able to resume in some shape or form. This may entail playing alone or in small groups whilst practicing social distancing, the removal of flagpoles and ball washers, or other similar measures. We will of course continue to follow guidance in these matters, with the health of our members and the public at large remaining the priority in any decisions that are made.
Once the nature and timing of our return to golf is known, we will adjust this year's fixture list accordingly. What form these competitions will take is uncertain, but hopefully we can still play for the various trophies whilst abiding by whatever restrictions are still in place. At present it is difficult to know if our Opens, which are the club's principal source of funding across the year, will take place.
Along with almost all other businesses in the area, the absence of visitors will have a significant impact on the course's income this year. Gavin, who is deemed an essential worker, continues his work at the course, and therefore the associated maintenance costs continue in the absence of any paying guests. I am therefore very grateful indeed to all those members who have renewed their membership during these uncertain times, as I feel that it is important that we support the course owners as much as possible through this difficult period. Whilst I fully appreciate that times are tough for many people at the moment, the support of those who are able to join the club is very much appreciated.
As there is a possibility that Golf may be one of the first sports to have lockdown measures eased, this is perhaps the best opportunity for those of you who have considered joining the club to do so. Membership fees for new members are just £100 for unlimited golf throughout the year, fantastic value I hope you agree. Juniors can also join for just £20. If you like to join then please e-mail Chris on email@example.com for details, or call him on 01687 450654.
We are currently selling new official club shirts (please see picture). These cost £40 for the Gents Nike shirt and £35 for the Ladies Adidas version, with £10 of this going to club funds. If you would like one then please contact Chris on the above details.
One thing that we have been able to progress during the Lockdown is the new handicapping system, which will hopefully feature on a tablet in the clubhouse once it reopens. This is being created in conjunction with the Scottish Golf Union, and will align us in preparation for the transfer to the World Handicapping System that will take place in November. It should also prove far easier to use than previous systems, but time will tell!
In the meantime, from all of us at Traigh Golf Course, please stay safe and healthy, and we look forward to welcoming you back once it is safe to do so.
On and Off the Rails
1. ScotRail have been assisting the charity NHS Scotland - For the Love of Scrubs by transporting bales of fabric, free of charge, for the group of volunteers to fashion into 7,000 of the sanitary garments. David Simpson, ScotRail's operations director said, "We hope it will allow the volunteers to spend money raised for the group on materials to make more of this vital equipment." Since the group's inception more than £41,000 has been raised in public donations to buy the correct fabric and sewing materials for the volunteers - a team of 300 machinists - to fashion 7,000 scrubs. Thank you ScotRail for the courier fees saved. One delivery alone to Inverness from Glasgow Queen Street enabled 43 more sets of scrubs to be made from the free transportation. What a kind gesture ScotRail. Thank you.
2. I appreciate that in these "lockdown" times railway timetables - paper printed ones especially - are of little use, but posters are beginning to appear, at some stations, which say "ScotRail and Transport Scotland are working together to take our first steps towards a paper free timetable". Our Transport Scotland behind this idea? I do not know - but if so our MSPs might ask the question. Glasgow Central station (before lockdown) had a Avanti, Cross Country and Trans Pennine booklets - but the ScotRail racks were empty! Please ScotRail - customers browse a timetable to plan ideas for journeys, not least when planning a holiday, albeit "socially distancing", in the future. You can't browse a journey planner - I rest my case - and hope that folded paper timetables continue - please, ScotRail think again.
3. I got really excited when the "Yellow Peril" Network Rail weedkiller train rumbled into, and out of, Mallaig in mid April. Luckily the tank sprayers were switched off as they went past our line side gardens! Very thoughtful - thanks boys.
4. The seagulls have started nesting at Mallaig railway station, again. They cannot understand why no fish and chip shops are open - or why no passengers are available to throw them chips!! As for diving down onto wee dogs on long leads at the station - forget it!! All I will say is don't have a sandwich in your hand as you come out of the Co-op in Mallaig because when the eggs have hatched the mother and father seagulls will chase you for it. You have been warned!!
5. Some very watchable railway related series showing on TV at the moment. On Sunday evenings a new series of Inside Central Station is showing on BBC2 Scotland at 9pm. Look out for a new series of The World's Most Scenic Railway Journeys with Bill Nighy on Channel 5 (episode 1, entitled Scotland: A Magical Journey Through the Highlands - a trip from Inverness to Edinburgh - airs again on Friday 15th May).
6. Spare a kind thought for any ScotRail staff who are currently "poorly" or "shielding", or doing their very best to provide an essential service where possible and coping with the occasional broken down train in Mallaig for a few days as well!! Unusual times all round - and I'm not allowed to tend my plants as a station adopter either. Sorry about that, but times will get better. A vaccine will eventually be available for this wretched coronavirus.
In the meantime a goose has taken up residence in a flower bed at York railway station, turfed out all the plants, made a nest, produced four eggs and become an internet sensation - #goosecam (so I am told!) She has been named Lucy Goosey and plans are in place for her and her brood to be returned to the river once hatched!!
My first potatoes are through the soil, the cuckoo is back in Mallaig; "stay at home for everyone that can't". You know it makes sense.
See you on the train sometime in the future
BIRDWATCH March 2020 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly cold and unsettled start to the month, but a bit more movement on the bird front as spring got underway.
The first of our summer visitors to arrive were Wheatears, with a single at Traigh on the 22nd, singles on the Rhue peninsula from the 25th and four at Bourblach, Morar on the 28th.
The first Sand Martins reported were three seen feeding over Loch nan Eala, Arisaig on the 31st.
The first migrant Golden Plover reported were four birds with Lapwings at Back of Keppoch, on the 14th. The wintering Greenshank remined on the Morar Estuary throughout, but migrant birds were seen at Back of Keppoch and Loch Ailort during the last week. Redshank were back at their breeding territories around Back of Keppoch from mid-month. A single Bar-tailed Godwit was seen on the Morar Estuary on the 29th. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen till the month end at West Bay, Mallaig.
Several pairs of Canada Geese were seen in the area, plus a group of nine birds that frequented Back of Keppoch and the fields at Traigh Farm. The male Mandarin remained on the Morar Estuary.
Breeding plumaged Black and Red-throated Divers were seen close inshore around Loch nan Ceall and Loch Ailort from mid-month. Wintering Great Northern Divers were seen offshore from Camusdarroch to Loch Ailort, with many of them in breeding plumage.
The immature Glaucous Gull was still around Loch nan Ceall until the 5th at least. Unusually a single Kittiwake was seen at the head of Loch Ailort on the 11th.
A few more sea birds appearing from mid-month with Common and Black Guillemots and Razorbills seen close inshore.
Barn Owls were again seen on several occasions at the usual Mallaig site. Territorial Tawny Owls were heard calling in the Morar and Arisaig areas.
Nuthatches were seen on several occasions in the vicinity of their previous nest site in Arisaig.
Lesser Redpolls were seen at the garden feeders in Arisaig from the 1st and by the month end were reported from several gardens in Morar and Mallaig.
Long-tailed Tits continued to visit feeders in a Woodside, Morar garden. Bullfinches were widely reported this month, as usual feeding on budding fruit trees. The first Twite reported were seen at Traigh Farm on the 24th.
During the last week some substantial flocks of Redwings were seen around the area, mostly feeding in grassy fields, probably Icelandic birds moving north.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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