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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
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Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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May 2022 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Kirsty has gone on hiatus from writing the Editor's Letter for this month because, well, she's been incredibly busy and it isn't her particular favourite part of the editing job. Anyway, you're stuck with me instead - her teenage daughter. It's looking to be a great issue this month, with coverage of the first Road to the Isles marathon since 2019. I was also excited to see the wooden Cutters in Mallaig harbour at the end of last month. You can read about them in the harbour news. Kirsty very kindly has printed one of my photographs of them. I'd also like to say good luck to everyone else sitting exams this month. You'll do great :)
My mother would like to add that we may have to raise the price of subscriptions soon because of increasing postage rates - more on this next month.
And once again, thanks to Morag and Ewen for their help with the printing, and to Anne and Jane for labelling the envelopes.
Here are the three wooden Gaff Cutters together in Mallaig Harbour at the beginning of May - Eda Frandsen (front), Pellew and Edith Gray behind. The Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust's research vessel, Silurian, is also tucked away (back right) beside Pellew!
Photo by Lily Bloom
And just like that we are into May! Everything is fresh and green, bursting with life. Flowers are blooming, and the sun has (generally) been shining for the last couple weeks. It's that perfect time of year when it's warm and dry, and there's not a midgie in sight. And, now, with the Old Forge back open for business there's a sort of buzz about the village, a liveliness that's not been present for a good few years. The pub opened on Easter Friday, with a crowd of locals eagerly awaiting the beer arrival on the Spanish John, and at 9pm the doors were unlocked. It was truly a night for celebrating and since then business has been booming - beers flowing, people coming together, tunes being played. Fras played for the Easter Ceilidh - the first proper ceilidh in the new hall, and one I am sorry I missed. We also had another music event this month, on the 30th April, with talented musicians Ali Levack, Andrew Waite, Beth Malcolm and Luc McNally.
In other news, Knoydart Foundation has two new Rangers; Finlay (whose been here a year already, doing various things) and newcomer Drew McNaughton (who previously worked in Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and is a medicinal herb specialist) who have taken over from Lachie. We also welcome more newcomers, Jenny and Ben with their children Bronwyn and Marlin, who have moved here to take on the roles of accommodation manager and assistant for the season. The Wilder Ways horse trekking gang have also arrived, for their first stay since covid; another sign of getting back to normal. Looking forward to getting the chance to explore on horseback once more!
The tree planting out at Croulin has finished for the time being, and hats off to the planters who had to be shipped round the coast with everything they would need to live (camp) on site as it wasn't feasible to travel to the site daily. Luckily they were quite blessed with good weather but it was hard graft none the less so well done to the team.
Coming up in May, Flook are playing on the 21st. Tickets can be booked online.
That's all for now,
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
The SCIO have, as usual, been extremely busy in the new community car park. A dedicated group of individuals joined the members for a car park tidy and what a super job they did. The new picnic tables will be a fantastic addition along with a third car park Ambassador who is to start shortly and will help to keep the car park running efficiently.
Planting will also be taking place soon to encourage the Chequered Skipper Butterfly and we hope to see this wee beastie in the Glen very soon.
There is to be some new signage in one area of the village, provided by homeowners, to show the names of houses and businesses. This we hope will mitigate the influx of cars who unfortunately get lost and there is a hope that other houses will also consider some signage of their own in the future.
We may have to see some more cones in and around the village. Unfortunately, Easter holidays solidified the need for more parking deterrents. These will only be put out in the busy summer and stored safely in the off-peak months. The community is trying to come up with solutions to unwanted cars parked on the verges. With a little brainstorming we hope to ensure the beauty of the village is maintained whilst keeping the residents and visitors safe.
This is an ongoing challenge so please if you are driving through the 40mph zone, just always be extra cautious and keep on the lookout for the 'oblivious reverser', and my personal favourite, 'I thought my car could easily drive through this bog'!
We had a couple of celebrations in the Glen last month! A very happy birthday to our long-standing resident Joan Robertson, also her neighbour, Dougie Hunter, who both celebrated big birthdays! I shall of course never divulge ages, but I can relay that both parties were filled with music, song, fun and laughter! How lovely it is to be able to get together with family and friends in what seems like a wee piece of normality . . . let the good times continue.
Far am bi ceòl, Cha bhi miothlachd
(Where there is music, there is no unpleasantness)
Thanks to Charlie for this month's Gaelic proverb!
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well howdy neighbours and friends. Hasn't that just been the most extraordinary sun-filled month? The skies have been on fire most evenings . . . so much so when it did rain it was met with an out of character pet lip. Still it has been a slow burn start to visitor numbers, and we're wondering if the uncertainty of fuel and energy costs will have an effect on decisions surrounding distances travelled . . . but still good to see returning regulars managing under their own steam to pop by for lunch and chat.
The Lambing is pretty much all over and all out on the hills enjoying life . . . Dogs on leads please people!! On top of this are the welcome sight of playful Calves with watchful mothers ever present. Easter Bunny was up to its mischievous best hiding eggs and treats all round Port Wood and even the drizzle couldn't deter the young (and not so young) hunters from doing the rounds with baskets in hand. The Farm is extremely busy at the moment, with multiple projects on the go, so we may see Colin around Halloween ??
The Island is looking really pretty just now with all the Cherry Blossoms and Bluebells out and Bees in abundance doing their thing. The Green Shed (our community handmade crafts) has had a wee uplift and some interesting additions on the shelves and is always open and new products will appear over the next week or so. No CalMac shots this time round, still getting used to this timetable whilst wading through the winter additional sailings memorandums . . .
Well that's all folks!!
ISLE OF CANNA
Spring is well underway here on Canna. The woods are full of Bluebells, Yellow Anemones, Primrose and Wild Garlic and the fields are steadily filling up with lambs and calves daily. Gerry and the farm hands have been putting in long hours and hard graft welcoming the new lambs to the flock. The lambs are adding much needed vigour to the island after what felt like a long winter. They are starting to go around in gangs causing a ruckus and are a welcome addition to the spring soundscape of Canna along with the fussy, old lady Eider Ducks and the Canna Geese, and today there was a Cuckoo at the east end of the wood.
We are looking forward to welcoming our new Ranger, Catriona Patience, who starts at the beginning of May. Catriona will be a welcome asset to the island and she tells me she cannot wait to get started.
The Elgol Ribs have started making regular visits to Canna again with the familiar orange and blue jumpsuits striding down the road. We have it on good authority that no Oompa-Loompas were harmed during the making of those suits.
Our Puffins are rafting off shore and are coming in to roost on the sea stack at night, so we are looking forward to them starting to nest soon and the new Ranger will be charged with setting out our Puffin Trail which guides visitors over Sanday to see them.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
April is a great month for all beasties who want to get out and about and do a bit of exploring - especially if they live on an island . . . But in 1943, the little Cairn Terrier belonging to John and Margaret Campbell, 'Mr Smith', went exploring just a bit too enthusiastically. In April of that year, Mr Smith was declared missing for the last time: probably over the cliff chasing rabbits, or down a ribbit hole, on Canna. He was certainly a character, who was much missed.
John's diary reads, 'Smith has been missing since April 9th, searches carried out by myself, Tommy Campbell, D Macpherson, John MacIsaac & Roddy in the hill, cliff & woods have been fruitless. They were made difficult by wet & misty weather. Smith, New Year 1936 - April 1943. A very pleasant and cheerful dog & a great enemy to rats & rabbits, he probably met disaster in a rabbit hole owing to the softness of the soil this spring at the time of the young rabbits.' The picture shows John with Smith on Barra 1935.
And if anyone has the remnants of this horrible cold that's going around, leaving you with a sore throat, why not try this traditional cure from Annie Macdonald, Anna Nighean Raghnaill 'ic Iain 'ic Lachlainn of South Uist, but who ended up living on Canna, for a sore throat:
'Eat dry sugar. A cup of hot water with a spoonful of treacle on going to bed . . .' A bit more palatable perhaps than the cure given for heartburn - 'Drink hot sea water . . .'
And an early note for your diaries: there'll be a great ceilidh dance on Canna in the Shearing Shed on Saturday June 25th, part of the 'Solas Story' week of cultural events. Brilliant young piper and composer from Lewis, James Duncan Mackenzie, has invited some of his musician pals to form a new band for the evening: 'The Canna Ceilidhers'. The event will feature some of the films of Margaret Fay Shaw and promises to be a real opportunity to let down your midsummer hair! Stovies by Cafe Canna! Watch for more details next month.
ISLE OF RUM
A quiet April this year but we are now waking to the dulcet tones of Cuckoos and Eider Ducks, so you can't really go wrong.
The delightful folk singer Iona Lane came to Rum to perform her album 'Hallival' at Rum bunkhouse this month. It was a blowy day but a good turnout. Jim did a BBQ lunch and the lads from Askival Rum were there to hand out tasty samples of their Rum from Rùm. Any more products or albums wanting a name, we have plenty more mountains with fantastic names . . .
Easter proved popular at the campsite, with lots of tents and happy people. The campsite won an award for being great, mostly thanks to Derek's mowing and groundskeeping.
Unusual bird sighting this month is a Hawfinch, seen by Sean Morris on 17th April in his garden which seems to be a haven for unusual birdlife, though Sean correctly pointed out that they may be in other places but he's the only one who can identify them. Sean also recorded the following sightings:
First Swallow seen on the 11th April, and the first Willow Warbler the following day.
Iceland Gull spotted in Kinloch on the 1st and Kilmory on the 12th, and also a Little Gull (my first ever on Rum) at Kilmory on 12th. First Common Sandpiper seen on the 22nd, first Grasshopper Warbler on the 27th. Also on the 27th a Long-eared Owl at Kilmory and a male Ring Ouzel in Kinloch 27th.
Two Canada Geese seen at Kinloch on 21st April and one at Kilmory on the 27th. Two Goosander spotted at Kilmory on the 29th, plus a Whimbrel and the first Whinchat.
The first House Martins and Sand Martins were seen on the 30th.
He also picked up the calls of Barn Owls and Water Rails on his sound recording gear on various nights throughout the month.
The Cafe and craft shop are open for the season with plenty of tasty treats and wonderful creations to buy.
Accommodation for school teachers and nursery staff is still ongoing. I'm out of the loop now that Joss is at High School but I gather that HC have promised to build a lovely cabin on the site of the old schoolhouse, after it is knocked down, and also to build two new houses for the school teacher and other staff.
April birthdays are Dylan who is 10 and Sarry who is thirty something.
ISLE OF EIGG
Signs of spring are all around now, with the lambing season in full swing! Here is a wildlife update from our SWT warden Norah:
Some Spring arrivals have appeared - the first Cuckoo was heard by Colm (aged seven) and the woodlands are filled with singing Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs. Cherry blossom and spring flowers such as Primrose, Wood Anemone and Cuckoo Flower have all bloomed and are brightening up the roadside. Scottish Wildlife Trust volunteers have also arrived to help with surveys, conservation work and wildlife walks, which we are looking forward to starting again from mid-May.
This month brought about another very successful retreat organised again by Katrin. This time it was running that took centre stage as fifteen women came from all over Scotland and England for three days of running, biking, and kayaking. I don't know how Katrin does it, but she must have managed to have a wee word with the weather gods as conditions were perfect; we were treated to beautiful warm days with a nice wee cool breeze every so often to cool us down. Everyone who came along absolutely loved the experience, which was very much enriched by Gabe's amazing catering and Camille's old Eigg photography presentation. Congratulations to all involved.
After a disappointing Easter, when our ceilidh musicians were on board the CalMac that failed to berth, we have an exciting few months ahead. Here are some dates for your diaries!
20th May sees the mighty Flook return to Eigg soil. We are all so buzzing for that! And then on the 12th June we are delighted to be celebrating our 25th Buyout Anniversary with the brilliant Shooglenifty headlining the night, supported by the Ciaran Ryan Band. Fèis Eige has been announced and will take place on 6th-8th July.
Our new pier development, An Laimhrig, is coming close to finishing and the new shop and tearoom will be open within a matter of weeks. It's great to see visitors returning and there is a real buzz about the place as we look forward to an exciting summer season.
Local Runners and Walkers Triumph at Road to the Isles Running Festival
Not widely known, but humans have the endurance to out-run any other animal species, not in speed, but in distance. We've evolved over two million years and have shorter toes than other animals to be able to run for longer. And you don't need a fancy gym to run, you just need to start walking, build to a run, do it regularly and by 6th May 2023 you'll be joining us at our next Festival of Running. During Covid lock-down, new runners took to the roads to find a bit of normality and to help their mental health. There's nothing more normal than running. We're naturally built to do it. So, on Saturday 7th May it was great to see over 250 runners come together, from Cornwall to Sutherland, for the welcome return of the Road to the Isles Running Festival. Starting and finishing in beautiful Arisaig, and after an absence of three years, the sun shone for the return of this calendar event that's getting national recognition for its challenging route, elevations and spectacular views.
Amongst a national field of runners, it was fantastic to see local runners from Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig and Acharacle as well as Fort William's Lochaber Athletics Club putting in some great winning performances.
The full marathon, half marathon and walking half-marathon strikes out along the coastal road from Arisaig to Morar, and the 10k and 5k route hugs the foreshore from Arisaig along the Rhu Peninsula. Runners were supported by family, friends, the community and an army of volunteers and marshals without whom days like this would simply not be possible.
Liam Hutson from Lochaber AC flew around the distance smashing his 2019 record with a time of 2:48:54 to take first place in the Marathon, 35:30 minutes faster than the next runner. Fastest female over the route - which has an elevation of 700 metres - was Jennifer Urquhart from Forres Harriers with 4:10:36. With 21 runners entered for this gruelling 26.1 mile race, seven were women, all running in the 50-60+ age category, except for Jennie Freer in the 40-44yrs category who ran the entire route with a buggy. They're an inspiration and proof that there is no barrier to running. Particular mention to Michael Grant who travelled from Edinburgh to complete his 70th marathon.
Lochaber AC put in another strong showing in the Half Marathon with Alfie Bentley once again taking first place from a field of 131 runners, beating his 2019-time with 1:24:42. Formidable runner and GB Triathlete Sarah Attwood from Skye and Lochalsh Skye Running and AC came in for the ladies hot on Alfie's heels with a time of 1:27:51. Bill MacGregor from Blairgowrie took first place in the Walking Half Marathon with 2:40:55 followed by the familiar faces of Mallaig's own Kenny Merrilees and brothers Duncan and Alex Kennedy.
Winners of the 10k were separated by just 2:13 min with Alasdair MacDonald from Carnethy Hill Racing Club pipping Morar's Harry Tulloch by just 18 seconds into first place with a time of 48:13 minutes. Newcomer to road running and the 10k distance Jenny Benfield from Arisaig came in a very respectable third place with 50:26mins. Having taken up running during Covid lock-down she's clearly one to watch. Peter MacPherson made the trip home to represent Morar in the 10k where he took 3rd place for the men and a time of 50:51. Mention also to late joiner Dana Griffin who just tipped one hour by seconds to come in 5th for the ladies. Katherine Hylands of Bellahouston Harriers took first place in the 5k distance with a magnanimous time of 24:14, followed by Lewis Ridley from Pontefract in second with 25:13 and Mallaig's own Seth Hamilton with 26:27 third.
Fiona Baker, Event Director said; "We're delighted to have been able to stage the Road the Isles Running Festival after so long away. The day was great, the weather was on our side, and the community pulled together to create a slick and entertaining event. We're grateful to all our runners for supporting the race, our volunteers, and the community spirit that brings it all together".
Thanks to Rachel Crawley for organising the amazing MAaD Pipe Band to play in the field, and arranging the post-race family Ceilidh in the Astley Hall. And to Josh and Sophie Kingswood for a great night in the Arisaig Hotel with Funkustick and another highlight of the day, the launch of new local business Grey Dog Rum and cocktails at the Outside Inn.
A fantastic addition to the line-up this year was the Under 5s 400 metre "Wee Run". It was lovely to see our local children supporting the day accompanied by family and friends joining the fun and running with Olaf, Minnie Mouse and Minion. Thanks to Mary MacDairmid who helped to organise the race and to talented artists from Mallaig High School, Catherine Sharples and Mia White, who gave up their day for some glittery face-painting. We're hoping to inspire the runners of the future.
Proceeds from the day go to Mallaig Pool and Leisure, a community run social enterprise. With leisure centres up and down the country struggling to attract people back after the pandemic, and with heating costs spiralling dramatically, fund raising is more than ever vital for the Pool and Fitness Centre to be operational.
This year the Running Festival was supported by the Mowi Salmon Wagon who created delicious salmon noodles and burgers throughout the day raising £630 for the Pool. The Friends of Mallaig Pool and Leisure turned out some fantastic home-baking for the tea tent and raised £423. Special thanks go to Hana McNeil who spent a lot of time in her kitchen to provide all our runners with complimentary tablet.
There are so many people to thank, which we will do personally over the coming weeks, but to name a few key players: Brian and his team at the Pool, Ben Gunn without whom we would struggle, backbone of the day Gavin Johnstone, Peter Sinclair and Arthur Whittaker from the Coastguard, Anne Widdop who provided a quite unexpected but highly valued courier service from Glasgow, Frasier MacDougal for the loan of the Arisaig Games Tent, Joan Smith, Jane Rushton, Michelle MacDonald, Juliette Blackie, Edith McLean, Alison O'Rourke from the Arisaig Eco-Project for advising on sustainability, Nick Murray, Peter Jackson, Arthur Campbell for his amazing photography, Gavin Davies, Toby Stuart-Orchard, Matt and Andy Baker, Lucy Johnson, Lucy and Josie Bloom, Jane Foster, Lorna Colston, Stuart Griffin, Jane Gunn, Eileen and Neil Cameron, Lesley Benfield, Liz Baldwin, Jill and Arthur Whittaker, Sheila Kingswood, Trevor and Kirsty for their water supply, Graham Moss for the loan of his fencing, as well as Rescue Medics for providing vital medical cover.
It was an amazing day and we've been overwhelmed by the feedback. None of it would happen without the generosity of our marshals and volunteers who make the day possible - a massive thank you to all of you.
From the Team at Mallaig Pool and Leisure
The next local running event is Skyevents Half Marathon on 11th June. The Road to the Isles Running Festival returns on Saturday 6th May 2023 with early bird tickets available now via Entry Central. The Traigh Triathlon is now taking sign-ups and will take place on Saturday 10th September. With a distance to suit everyone from novice to experienced triathlete, individual and team entries welcome via Entry Central.
Interactive Activity Table for the Mackintosh Centre
The staff of the Mackintosh Centre are very keen to buy an Interactive Table for the residents as there are so many advantages for the residents in having one. A growing number of care establishments across the country are investing in one. It functions in many ways like a giant tablet, and each resident can have apps downloaded and stored for their use and it can also be used for group activities, something which are now taking place again.
While iPads and Android tablets have their part to play in a care environment, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Those with visual or hearing impairment are not always able to see a small screen or hear the lower power speakers. With an activity table, everything becomes life-size, and that makes reading, seeing and listening much better.
Apps like WhatsApp, Messenger etc. means that the residents can stay connected with family and friends on a life-size screen. There are major health benefits of the elderly using computers, which include keeping their minds active.
Scientists have found that playing online games improves memory and helps maintain other cognitive skills. Just a simple thing like being able to see the crossword can be stimulating.
Staff are so committed to the purchase of this piece of equipment that they have undertaken a sponsored walk on their day off. It also happened to be the only rainy day of the month! The table is a very expensive piece of kit. The sponsored walk was the first event to raise the money needed to buy the table. Other sources of funding are being investigated.
Although the Mackintosh Centre is part of the NHS, the table is not considered an essential item and there are no funds available within the service to fund such a stimulating and useful item. If you would like to help us to purchase this superb item of equipment, we have set up a Crowdfunder account - click here.
We would all be very grateful for any amount that you feel you can donate.
News in Brief
Highland Games will return this summer! Morvern Games (Lochaline) are on Saturday 16th July, Arisaig Games will be held at Traigh on Wednesday 27th July, Knoydart Games on Saturday 6th August, Mallaig & Morar Highland Games on Sunday 7th August and the Glenfinnan Highland Gathering on Saturday 20th August!
LUXURY LAUNDRY SERVICE OPENS IN MALLAIG
Mallaig Luxury Laundry Service, situated in the Highland Council's West Bay Industrial Estate, officially opened for business on the 15th March and proprietor Karen Johnston has been encouraged by the initial uptake of business.
Karen outside her laundry
With the nearest laundry service being in Fort William, Karen saw a gap in the market, setting up business working from home but she soon realised that for her to provide the type of laundry service that she wanted to, premises would need to be found. Although it took much longer to obtain premises than originally envisaged - covid being the main cause of the delay - business plans were accepted by the Highland Council and the unit on West Bay was eventually procured.
'Covid turned the proposed start-up into a bit of a nightmare,' said Karen, 'as the pandemic coupled with Brexit issues hindered the importation of the environmentally friendly washing and drying appliances from Spain, but I am just so pleased to finally have the business up and running, providing a much-needed service to the community.'
Karen (far right) and laundry employee Kaitlyn Curley putting a sheet through the ironer
The purchase of all the appliances required to set up the laundry has resulted in major investment, but it will pay dividends in the future, says Karen, who is confident of increasing her work force as business develops.
The laundry unit hosts: four washing machines (2 x 17kgs; 2 x 14 kgs); two conventional driers, plus a four metre drier/ironer manufactured by Girbau in Spain, which allows for King size sheets/bedding to be dried and ironed - a facility unique to the area.
Mallaig Luxury Laundry is working towards gaining Scottish Vocational Qualification accreditation and once successful, will be one of only a few in the Highlands to have that endorsement.
N.B. SVQ is a work based qualification, a guarantee that someone can do their job well and to national standards for their sector.
The Spirit of the Grey Dog lives on in Morar
A new family-run distillery has been established in Morar producing small batches of hand-crafted 'Grey Dog' rum. Gareth, Rachel and Paula have named their new enterprise after the legendary 'Grey Dog of Meoble' (a chilling tale of canine devotion - see their website for the full story if you don't already know it!)
The team say, "The Grey Dog journey began back in December 2017 when we were having a pre-Christmas drink with our Auntie Car. Upon passing her a G&T she said something that unbeknownst to her started a five year long rum-making mission! Auntie Car simply said the words "apparently rum is the new gin". Almost immediately the wheels began turning in our heads!"
Grey Dog is made from scratch, using top quality molasses and British sugar to create the rum wash, which is distilled in a copper pot over an open flame to achieve the best flavour.
Grey Dog had its launch at the Shellfish Shack and Crofters Rest in Arisaig on 7th May where lots of people enjoyed cocktails and mojito cupcakes in the sunshine! The rum can be sampled at the Arisaig Hotel or Old Library, or you can buy a bottle from the Shellfish Shack or via their website: www.grey-dog.uk
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
4th April 2022
Launched at 18:45 by Stornoway Coastguard to search and locate two hillwalkers in the vicinity of Sourlies Bothy, Loch Nevis. The Coastguard had received a distorted phone call from the couple in the Glen Dessary area, saying that they were struggling in the weather conditions to make their destination of Sourlies Bothy. Weather in area was drizzle and low cloud and very wet underfoot. Unable to don dry clothing, cold was starting to have its effect on their stamina. The Coastguard also made contact with Camusrory Estate on which Sourlies Bothy is located. An estate worker headed of on a quad bike to Sourlies to try and locate the walkers. On scene at 19:30, the estate worker called the Lifeboat to say he had located the couple and had got them to the bothy. The Y-Boat was launched, and two crew sped ashore to pick up the two walkers. Two trips later everyone was back on board along with the couples' Chocolate Labrador dog. The couple were treated to warm blankets and a hot drink on the way back to Mallaig. Alongside at 20:45, the couple were taken to a local Backpackers for a hot shower, a change of clothing and a warm bed. Lifeboat ready for service at 21:00.
9th April 2022
Requested to launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 09:15 to the assistance of a wild swimmer found unconscious at Tokavaig shoreline, Isle of Skye. Rescue 948 from Stornoway also tasked. Stornoway Coastguard received a request from Ambulance control who had received a 999 call to notify them that a female swimmer had been found unconscious and in need of urgent medical attention. Because a definite location had been given, the Lifeboat was launched to assist in locating the casualty. As the lifeboat rounded Sleat Point the crew were informed that a local ambulance crew had managed to locate the casualty and she was being attended by the crew. With the Coastguard happy that the situation was in hand the Lifeboat was stood down along with Rescue 948 and both assets returned to base. Lifeboat alongside and ready for service at 10:15.
14th April 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a local fishing vessel that had lost power off Mallaig at 03:45. In benign conditions the Lifeboat was alongside 04:05 and soon had the casualty under tow alongside. Casualty safely moored at the fish pier at 04:50 to await repair. Lifeboat ready for service 04:55.
16th April 2022
Stornoway Coastguard requested the launch of Mallaig Lifeboat at 15:17 to the assistance of a male walker who had fallen at a beach on Sleat Point. Camusdarrach Beach lies at the end of Sleat Point and is a popular destination via a track to a small settlement and then onwards to the beach from the village of Aird. Whilst negotiating over rocks next to the beach the casualty fell and sustained a suspected broken ankle. On-scene at 15:45, three crew members transferred ashore in the Y-Boat to assess the casualty. Luckily there were some other walkers with the casualty who willingly assisted the crew firstly to carry the casualty from the water's edge to the head of the beach where he could be better seen to. As the wind was onshore, a transfer would have to be undertaken in as quiet a sea condition as could be achieved. With that aim the anchor was shot and the Lifeboat veered down abreast of a small inlet. Once in position the anchor rope was rigged abreast of the Lifeboat allowing it to pivot into the inlet and quieter water under the control of the engines. With this goal achieved the crew ashore who had by now immobilized the casualty with frac straps and administered Entonox were ready to transfer the casualty. Again, with the willing assistance of the others on the beach the casualty was lifted onboard the Y-Boat and brought out to the Lifeboat. Once alongside the casualty was lifted onboard via the A Frame. With the crew now back onboard, the anchor was retrieved and course set for the ferry terminal at Armadale to awaiting Coastguards and an Ambulance. Arriving at Armadale at 17:40 the casualty was transferred ashore to the Ambulance at the link span for onward travel to Skye's MacKinnon Hospital in Broadford for further treatment. Lifeboat berthed and ready for service in Mallaig at 18:10.
18th April 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 12:35 to assist Police and Coastguards in the search for a missing teenager in the Ardvasar area of Skye. On-scene at 12:55 a shoreline search was commenced from Armadale pier towards the township of Aird on the Sleat Peninsula. Overhead the Lifeboat was accompanied by the Police helicopter. At 13:20 the Lifeboat and Coastguard units were stood down and requested to return to base. The Helicopter had located a body on the shoreline and Police were attending at the scene. Lifeboat fuelled and back at the pontoon by 14:05.
20th April 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 16:15 to the assistance of a 15 year old boy stranded on an island in the Kentra Bay area of Ardnamurchan. Whilst visiting one of the beaches in Kentra Bay the boy and the rest of his family were caught out by the falling tide which left their RIB high and dry on the beach. The boy volunteered to take their small tender back to Glenuig where they were holidaying to get assistance for his stranded family, a journey of five miles. About a mile into his passage the outboard sputtered to a stop. On inspection of the fuel tank it was found to be empty. Fortunately, he was just off a small island and managed to row to it and climb ashore and make the tender secure. On informing his parents via mobile phone of his predicament there was no option but to phone the Coastguard and request the assistance of the Lifeboat. On-scene at 17:00, the boy was easily located on the island and brought back to the Lifeboat via the Y-Boat. The Y-boat carried on over to the beach to gauge the situation with the rest of the family and their intentions. As the tide was some hours away it was decided to return the mother and younger children to Glenuig and leave the father and one other to await the tide later on. So with Mum, the twins and two other brothers along with Fennel the five month old Cocker Spaniel onboard, the Lifeboat proceeded to Glenuig and landed the party ashore. The RIB safely refloated later and also returned to Glenuig later on. Lifeboat departed Glenuig at 18:45, berthed in Mallaig at 19:20 and was made ready for service.
20th April 2022
Requested to launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 20:49 to convey Paramedics to Inverie to the assistance of an 85 year old female who had fallen at home and possibly sustained a broken hip. Departed Mallaig at 21:40 and arrived on-scene at 22:30. A local conveyed the Medics and some crew the short distance to the casualty's location. After assessment it was decided that the casualty should be transferred to Hospital for further assessments. Medics and crew stretchered casualty into the back of a Land Rover and then onboard Lifeboat. Departed Inverie at 22:30 and berthed at the Lifeboat pontoon at 22:50. Once the gangway was attached to Lifeboat the casualty was taken to the Ambulance for onward travel to Fort William's Belford Hospital. Lifeboat ready for service at 23:00.
News from Mallaig Harbour
It's been another settled month of weather, and for the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, fishing landings looked more positive in March this year. Landings for the year to March 2022 totalled £2.4million, which is up 45% on last year's figure of £1.66million, but still well below pre-pandemic and Brexit levels (£4.48million y/e March 2020). Hopefully the positive trend will continue, and we have had a few visiting boats landing throughout April, including the Tonn Ruairi, Northern Star, Ocean Way and the Reliance. Thanks to William Simpson for the photo (below) of the Tonn Ruairi landing in the Outer Harbour.
We are back up to a full complement of ferries, with the Loch Bhrusda arriving back in time for Easter weekend. This does require a bit of juggling for overnight berthing, but it's really positive to see so much activity on the ferries again. The new Lochboisdale timetable also means that you can do a day trip to Uist on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and I've seen some great pictures from people doing just that! The line marking to create the new marshalling lanes has been completed, and there are now barriers at either end of these lanes to control access. We have also created a walkway to the new shelter at the passenger access pontoon, and have introduced a 20mph limit on the West Bay road and double yellow lines in front of the net stores to try and maintain safe access for the fishermen using these.
The Marina is back open for the season, and while it has been a relatively quiet start, the Eda Frandsen is due back this weekend (29th April), with the Pellew not far behind to start their summer season of cruising.
We are also expecting the Blue Clipper back in June and July, and Selkie, as well as the Fleur De Lys, so it's gearing up to be a busy season. This does mean that the hammerheads at the pontoon are booked out for a lot of the season, so we are asking vessels over 20m to contact us in advance if they are looking for a berth. We're glad to have been able to lift all the other restrictions associated with the marina, so there is no need for visiting yachts to book showers etc. this year. The full ferry timetable does mean that visiting yachts do have to be extra careful of the red lights when entering and exiting the Harbour - there are some times when one ferry departs as another arrives, which means the lights might be lit, and ferry traffic has right of way, for longer than in previous years.
Our AGM is to be held on 10th June, and this meeting is open to the public to come along. The last two years we have had to host the AGM virtually, so our hope is to host it in person this year. As a Board, we have been doing quite a bit of work recently on our future strategy, including revisiting the Masterplan which was published in 2016. We invited representatives from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The Highland Council and Knoydart and the Small Isles to a session at the beginning of April to talk through the Masterplan, and the potential to update this. We're conscious of the volume of freight that goes through the Harbour every week, both on CalMac and private operators as each of the communities served by Mallaig Harbour is seeing growth of both population and new businesses. We're aware that any major new development such as that proposed in the Masterplan will take several years to achieve, and will cost a significant amount of money, so we want to be able to incorporate as much space to meet the requirements of our commercial customers, but also the communities we serve, as possible. We also want to try and incorporate infrastructure to make the Harbour more 'green', whether generating our own electricity in some form, or providing the next generation of fuels to our users. We're at an early stage at the moment, so we are happy to hear from anyone who uses the Harbour, or would like to use the Harbour in the future, about anything you would like to see incorporated. Not everything will be feasible to include (it's unlikely we can create 400 parking spaces!) but we are happy to look at all the options.
You can email me at email@example.com with any suggestions, and more details on the AGM will be available nearer to the time, if anyone would like to come along and hear in person about the works we are doing at the moment.
On and Off the Rails
Great British Rail Sale launched
Shortly after I submitted my April column copy to West Word the Government Transport Secretary Grant Shapps offered 50% off more than 1 million fares for journeys across England, Wales and parts of Scotland on journeys taken between 25th April and 27th May. Problem for my column was that tickets could only be booked in advance up until 11.59pm on Monday 2nd May! So I couldn't let you know in time! Sorry.
However, on 24th April the Scottish Parliament announced that ScotRail were to have a 'half price seat sale' which is currently still open to benefit from. I immediately arranged for the West Word editor to put the details up on the West Word Facebook page which I hope you have all seen and made use of! However I will just remind you briefly of it: ScotRail has announced that during May it will 'slash' 50% off all off peak rail tickets between any two stations in Scotland, Monday to Friday, to encourage people across the country to return to Scotland's railways. Tickets must be booked by Sunday 15th May. The cost of an off-peak (they all are) day return from Mallaig - Glasgow, for example, will be reduced from £43 to £21.50! Customers can book journeys departing between 9th and 31st May 2022 inclusive and all return travel must be completed by 30th June 2022.
If you are reading this before the offer closes, book through the ScotRail website or go and visit your local ScotRail booking office. Remember this is not just on selected journeys, it is on all ScotRail services, Monday to Friday. It seems like Scotland's Railway has shown British Rail how to do a 'sale'. Good luck! Maybe next time the lead-in time could be longer. A lot of people I have talked to would take advantage of it, but cannot because all their many travel arrangements have already been made!
Network Rail vital tree and vegetation management work
Last week a 'Dear Neighbour' letter arrived in my post informing me of Network Rail's intention to carry out work clearing vegetation on the railway between Arisaig and Mallaig stations each night from Sunday 8th May until Friday 20th May, from 10pm until 6am. Trees and plants plus vegetation between the tracks can all present problems. At this time of year fleshy heavy growth on the end of tree boughs can alter the weight of dead branches causing them to crack and fall. The 'weedkiller' two tank train entered our area very quickly last week. The driver changed ends to be forward facing at Mallaig station and - with a cheery wave (I was pulling out bindweed roots at the time!) - departed. At no time was any weedkiller deposited on the track or either side. Maybe he had run out of weedkiller!! He went back to Fort William depot NR yard so maybe that was the case. He has not yet returned!
Rail Magazine 6th - 19th April 2022
I was sent the front cover of this magazine recently - a wonderful iconic Scottish railway scene, overlaid in huge print with 'ScotRail goes public - MSPs and Unions hail a new era as train operations transferred to Government'. Two weeks on and Unions are now biting back!!
ASLEF, the train drivers' Union, has said that 'It is possible that this year will see drivers take industrial action in Scotland over pay - the first time drivers have been on strike in the country in 20 years'. It comes after ASLEF said it was not satisfied with a pay offer from ScotRail, describing it as 'derisory'. ASLEF Scotland organiser, Kevin Lindsay said, 'Scotland's train drivers did not take the decision to consider industrial action lightly - indeed we have not had a single pay dispute with Scotland's railway operators for 21 years. Yet, just one month into the Scottish Government's stewardship of ScotRail we are being left with no option but to consider action in response.' He went on, 'ScotRail and the Scottish Government must recognise that these key workers deserve a decent pay rise. They should return to the negotiating table with a much fairer deal that recognises the vital work our members do.' To be continued.
Meanwhile, the RMT Union (but not yet in Scotland) has balloted more than 40,000 railway workers and 15 train operating companies (TOC's) on what RMT has labelled, 'potentially the biggest rail strike in modern history'. The ballot closes on 24th May. If members vote yes then a national railway strike could begin as early as June, says the RMT. Their issues concern pay freezes and job losses at Network Rail. To be continued.
As if this isn't enough the union Unite are also balloting members. This ballot closes on 26th May and involves a dispute over pensions. Finally hot on their heels the union TSSA have stated through their general secretary Manuel Cortes, 'Make no mistake, if we ballot we will be looking to coordinate our industrial action with sister unions over compulsory redundancies.' - Crucially TOC control room staff, without whom trains cannot run.
It feels like a summer of discontent is looming. I really hope not. Membership in a union is not compulsory, or indeed a closed shop for employment. I'm only saying! Surely persuasive negotiation between employer and employee can still work. Am I right - or am I wrong?
Friends of the West Highland Lines AGM
The AGM is planned to take place at the Alexandra Hotel, Fort William on Thursday 19th May at 12:30pm. The lead speaker will be transport Scotland Director of Rail, Bill Reeve. The second speaker will be Frank Roach, Partnership Manager for Hi-Trans. Nearer the time members will receive a letter with full information. Contact the Secretary for further enquiries - Fraser McDonald firstname.lastname@example.org
The Railway Children Return
Jenny Agutter is back as Bobbie Waterbury in the long-awaited (not just by me, surely?) film sequel to the Railway Children. Stills from the film are now being shown in the press. Sheridan Smith plays her daughter Annie. A release date for cinemas has been given as 15th July. Filming took place at some of their original locations including Oakworth Station in Haworth, West Yorkshire, as well as the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
Can it really be five decades ago since the screen classic based on E. Nesbit's Edwardian story came out? Jenny was a teenager in the 1970 original and also appeared in a TV movie remake in 2000. It will be wonderful to see it on a cinema screen. Let's hope the Screen Machine brings it to Mallaig. The new film is set during World War II. Bring it on I say!
Definitely more 'Off' the Rails than On!
Unless you will be able to take them on trains eventually! We are talking about e-scooters actually. On 10th May Grant Shapps has indicated that legislation to permit e-scooters will be in the next Queen's speech for Parliamentary discussion and legislation.
'Trials have been taking place' - I know not where - says Huw Merriman MP, Chairman of Parliament's Transport Committee, and are set to continue until 30th November this year. I guess it would make sense to have to hold insurance and wear a helmet, but as an ex-biker for many, many years it excites me to think that I may get to use one!! Tee hee!!
ScotRail Alliance and MND Scotland
Five years ago the ScotRail Alliance - a partnership between ScotRail and Network Rail -announced that for one year they were making MND Scotland their 'Charity of the Year'. I was part of the programme of fundraising in the first two years, handing out packets of Cornflower seeds at railway stations to encourage customers to plant them and send photos (with a donation) which were turned into posters at railway stations. The Cornflower logo was branded on to trains, and the aim was to raise £150,000 in three years. The target was smashed in the first year!!
Little did I know then about the terminal disease, or how in its third year of fundraising the ScotRail Alliance would make me personally fundraise for MND.
Alex Hynes, Scotland's Railways Managing Director, has proudly carried the fundraising on now for five years and MND Scotland has benefited to the tune of £280,000. Over the course of the partnership, railway staff took place in a range of activities including sponsored skydives, a trek across the Great Wall of China, abseils from the Forth Road Bridge, ascents of Ben Nevis, etc. etc.
The famous clock in Glasgow Central station was lit up blue with the MND Cornflower logo. Donation cans were at railway stations and if you claimed a refund on a ticket online you could donate your refund to the charity. I knew an Inverness Hospice nurse who did that each time she claimed a delayed train payment. How humbling is that. On behalf of the ScotRail Charity Alliance fundraising, Thank You for helping. With the change of ownership the fundraising partnership has now come to an end, but the fight to eradicate MND goes on.
From diagnosis to prognosis MND is terminal. Its presence is like the sky; spread over everything. It completely changes and alters your life in a heartbeat. It will be possible, eventually, to eradicate it at source, which is the only way to treat it as it eradicates your whole being - in some cases quickly, in others slowly. MND Scotland is a wonderful organisation that wraps you in its very being. I will continue to help them fundraise and thank ScotRail for their five years of fundraising.
Great British Railways HQ: 42 locations in the running
Forty-two towns and cities from across the UK have applied to become the new HQ of Great British Railways including six Scottish contenders! The new UK Government body leader of the GBR Transition Team and Network Rail Chief Executive Andrew Haines said, 'We are going to make the railway simpler and better for everyone in Great Britain, and to do that we must get closer to the communities we serve.' The closing date for applicants has now passed and a shortlist is predicted to be available by the end of May. The shortlist will be chosen using criteria such as the UK Government's 'levelling up' agenda, transport links and railway heritage. The 'winner' will be chosen in an online public vote (wow!!) Watch this column for more news!
No room for other news - so until next month stay safe, travel wisely and 'see you on the train'.
BIRDWATCH April 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
April was fairly cool for the first ten days or so, then there was a long settled period of dry and at times warm weather with no rain until the month end.
Many more summer visitors started to arrive, with the first Swallows seen on the 15th: one in Morar and two in Arisaig. Blackcaps were seen and heard from the 12th near Woodside, Morar. On the 15th one was singing by the Morar Hotel. Willow Warblers seemed to arrive en masse on the night of the 14th - 15th, with birds reported from Morar, Woodside, Camusdarroch and Loch Ailort. On the 28th both Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers were reported from the Arisaig area.
Cuckoos were first seen and heard on the 26th, with widespread reports from Arisaig, Invercaimbe and Loch Ailort. A few waders appeared as the month progressed. The first Whimbrel were reported on the 25th, when three were seen near Millburn, Rhue. Two were seen at Traigh on the 26th and 12 were at Millburn on the 28th. Golden Plovers were seen at Back of Keppoch on several occasions. Small numbers of summer plumaged Dunlin and Turnstone were seen at Traigh from mid month. Both Redshank and Lapwing were back on breeding territory around Invercaimbe from mid-month, with several birds on eggs by the month end. 'Drumming' Snipe were reported from Rhubana, Glenan Cross and Back of Keppoch throughout the month. Two Greenshank were on the Morar Estuary on the 16th. The first Common Sandpiper of the year was seen at Loch Ailort on the 26th.
Groups of Great Northern Divers were seen offshore from Camusdarroch and Rhue, with many now in summer plumage. Several reports of Whooper Swans flying north, the largest group comprising 40 birds heading up the Sound of Sleat on the evening of the 2nd. There was still a lone adult Whooper on Loch nan Eala on the 24th. Several skeins of Pink-footed Geese were reported flying north during the first fortnight.
The first Arctic Terns were a group of five or six birds seen offshore from Traigh golf course on the 30th. There was a big increase in the numbers of Redpolls, Siskins, Linnets and Twite in the area as birds returned to their breeding areas. Reed Buntings were reported from Rhubana and Loch nan Eala. Yellowhammers were back on breeding territory in several locations around Arisaig.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Catriona Davies and family have been on their travels again - here she is with her two children in Jandia, Fuerteventura at Easter. Catriona says, 'We were with my mum and dad - Shona and Kenneth Morison, who are annual visitors to Arisaig - have been for decades! Next stop Arisaig for five glorious weeks in the summer! Can't wait!'
Here's Sue and Pete Barrett with their West Word in Kingswear, Devon on 13th April, having travelled down from Wolverhampton on the Midland Pullman which visited Mallaig last October. They had a great day out in Devon!!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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