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

List of Issues online

November 2000 Issue

Contents of the online version:

The Mackintosh Centre
Monthly reports from Canna, Eigg, Muck, Knoydart, Arisaig, Mallaig
New Fuel Tanks on Mallaig Pier
Dimh in Cape Breton
Local artist Andrew Fairbairn
Visit to Applecross
Chernobyl children
Mallaig & District Canoe Club

Backcopies: June - July - August - September - October


Mrs. Hazel Price, Care Manager, outside the new Centre.

No one is being sent official invitations to attend the opening of the new Day Care Facility for West Lochaber on 27th. November - because it is open to any who wish to attend. Councillor King wants to do away with a set list of invited dignitaries because the people of West Lochaber are all welcome to the ceremony. The official opening will come after an Open Week when everyone is urged to go and have a look round.

The Mackintosh Centre, Ionad Mhic an Toisich, has been named after impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, who gave considerable help to the project. The Daycare and Residential Units names of Island View and An Cala respectively were chosen by the older residents of Mallaig.

Councillor Charles King is delighted with the project. He told West Word: 'This fine building will bring care for the elderly back into the community. The Council is fully committed to the principles of Care in the Community and we in this area will have one of the finest facilities in the Highlands.

'It is important that the communities of Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles take advantage of the Open Week to view the Centre and hear what can be provided. The official opening on the 27th. November by Sir Cameron will not be by invitation but is open to everyone who wishes to attend.'


Well, it's been a very long time since we last had a report in West Word. Where to start? I think we have all recovered from the Wedding which we had on the 30th. September in what we call the rocket church (the one just up from the pier). The service was done by Father Michael. What a perfect day it was for bride Eilidh MacLeod and groom Geoff MacKenzie Soe Paing, they could not have asked for it to go any better.


The Bridal Party arrived on Friday 29th. to finalise all the flowers and to check there was plenty of Booze (there certainly was). All the rest of the guests arrived on the Shearwater which was specially hired for the day. Everyone on the island rallied round to help make the food and to get the barn ready for the buffet and dance. The Band which arrived to play didn't have a name as such but they called themselves 'The Suspect Tractors' for the night. There was plenty of dancing, Irish, Scottish, even a Welly Dance (sorry Kathryn). The Dance went on until 5.30 in the morning, the last eight people had an eightsome reel to round the morning off. The Shearwater stayed overnight in Canna and took everyone back on Sunday morning.

Father Michael had mass on Sunday in Canna House before returning to Mallaig on the Lifeboat which had called in on an exercise.

Other news update on the churches. St. Edwards is on the final snagging list, what a difference. It looks great inside and out. It has been fully furnished and equipped and tidied up. Horizontal Hilton had an early Bonfire Night, what a glow.

St. Columba's Chapel has been lined, plasterboarded and all power has been supplied, lights and heating installed. A new front door has been donated by Ross MacKenlich and his men.


This has been hand made and is carved with St. Columbas down one side. We hope to get the new windows in Spring of next year, then hopefully sometime soon after that an Opening Funday. Watch this space for details.

The farm has been very busy, all the usual work and of course the Sales, lamb prices showing a vast improvement on last year's.

The Primary School has had a visit from Kenny Munro, who has been doing a workshop of making lanterns and using plankton and phosphorescence. He has visited various other schools and is holding a Parade in Portree on the 4th. November to show all the work.

Well, what a horrible thought, but it's only another month or so until Christmas, so Winter is fast approaching us. Hope the weather is not too bad. I think that is enough for now. But just one final thing. The people of Canna would like to say a big Thank You to Michael Currie for the Tabernacle which he has donated to St Columba's. It is beautiful.

Wendy MacKinnon


Eigg, it seems is becoming the 'IN' place for weddings, has Gretna acquired some competition? On the 14th October, Eigg was the chosen venue for Becky Morgan and Paul Smith. Becky teaches in Elgol and has filled in at Eigg school several times, on one occasion she gave us lessons in Line Dancing. Becky and Paul wished to be transported from the pier to Kildonan by tractor and trailer and for hay bales to be used for seating in the traditional way. Colin obliged, but the party returned to the pier after the ceremony in a warmer and more comfortable manner (Davy's Bus and the Kildonan Land Rover)!! The reception, a three course sit-down meal was held in the tea-room for sixteen guests, including the bridal couple, all of whom sailed from Elgol in a fishing boat. Unfortunately they had to leave Eigg rather earlier than had been intended because a gale was threatened, but we trust that their wedding day was really memorable and everything they had hoped for, and we also wish them all possible happiness in their future life together.

We had a return visit of the Archaeological group who were here in the summer to investigate the site where the standing stone, erected a few years ago opposite the Church of Scotland, was found, and to see if there was evidence to show that it had originally been standing in that position. No socket was found on that occasion so they came back to seek further. Unfortunately the weather was diabolical for most of the time they were here, heavy rain and very windy which meant a wet and uncomfortable 'dig', and still the socket did not come to light!

Peggy Kirk's 70th Birthday was celebrated in great style by almost all of us at a surprise buffet party organised for her by her family. Included among the guests were several whose arrival was an even bigger surprise to Peggy!! Because the party was held midweek sadly only six of her fourteen grandchildren were able to be there, the eldest was unable to come because he was on a plane to Los Angeles, the first leg of a year long visit to a number of locations including New Zealand. Eigg school children sang a song specially written in Peggy's honour by Liz Lyon, who accompanied them on the Recorder and once again, Kay produced a beautifully decorated birthday cake.

The first of a series of short courses, intended to familiarise any member of the community with computer skills, was headed by Sheryl Binnie and attended by nine people each of whom had the use of a lap top, on loan to Eigg by the Lochaber Communications Network Ltd through Niki Robertson. This successful course related to basic computing, in other words, an introduction for the uninitiated.

The Glebe Barn was recently occupied by a group of 15 young people, led by Hilary Parks, (SWT Training Officer) on a course for Youth Leaders, training mainly in Conservation and Team management. While here they carried out a variety of activities such as tree planting and dry stane dyking all for the benefit of Eigg and co-ordinated by John Chester. On Friday Camille accompanied the older Eigg children on a walk to Ben Buidhe with the visitors and on their last evening, after a good dinner, provided by the tea-room staff, the bar was opened and of course, a ceilidh followed.

Several people have visited Eigg recently with a view to buying Galmisdale House, which as many will already know, has been advertised for sale in the Property supplements of several newspapers. We hope that someone will shortly take the plunge, it has been standing empty for much too long and its condition is not improving.

Monday and Tuesday October 16th and 17th saw Maggie representing Eigg for part of the 'International Small Islands Study Association' conference at Portree. As Secretary of the Trust. she gave a presentation about the Eigg buyout and our subsequent Community Development Programmes, explaining also how it had been possible for these things to come about. The delegates at the conference came from islands all over the world, from Japan and the Pacific, Cape Breton, Chile and Ireland, and many more and it was clear that all islands are faced with much the same problems. There was a suggestions that it would be useful for an Association of European Islands to be inaugurated, also that there should be closer contact between the Scottish and Irish Islands. It is highly likely that Scotland could learn a thing or two regarding this subject from Ireland, true, we have an MSP for the Highlands and Islands but the Irish Government includes a Minister totally dedicated to the Economy and Welfare of their Islands and the residents of these islands appear to benefit greatly from this.

Joy Williams


During October Inverie Village Hall was enlivened by an exhibition entitle 'HARMONY' which displayed artwork echoing aspects of the environment. The colourful and ingenious artefacts, in the form of suspended woven tapestries, were created by Inverie Primary School pupils under the instruction of Clare Aldington. The raw materials were found all around, in the woods, on the beach and from the sky, colours the result of contact with the elements. Those involved with this project were Stephanie, Calum, Lara, Mark, Anna and Tom.

The bar at the Old Forge is under new management. Rhona has moved sideways from the Knoydart Foundation office to the pub, to help Iain and Jackie. There was a get-together of locals last Friday evening to mark this occasion, when Isla read out (after closely vetting it) a long and hilarious facsimile from John Thynne, covering a string of events which had involved Rhona during her thirteen years in Knoydart.

Toby towed THE ARK over by sea before storms lashed the coast and settled it above the long beach. It is now inhabited by Davy and young Rhona completely unphased by the gales of last week-end. Meanwhile Toby's house at Joiners is taking shape by leaps and bounds under his expert construction. Throughout the recent excessively rainy season, Davy and Mark have stalwartly pressed on re-roofing the front of Pier House, a choice outdoor job in such weather!

Last week-end's gales pounded the pier, causing some structural damage; gas bottles and beer barrels were swept into the sea and blown ashore onto the beach. If we come through Hallowe'en unscathed we look forward to a talk given by Elizabeth Sutherland entitled 'Second Sight' on Wednesday 1st November in the village hall.

Anne Trussell


All is quiet on the island, CCG is gone, and so is more than half the island's population - away for the Autumn holiday. But a departure of a more permanent nature is soon to take place, that of the Smith family. The Smiths arrived from Wakefiled seven years ago, when our new school was in need of new pupils and would have been in danger of closing had Thomas, Patrick and Luke not enrolled. Their arrival was recorded by Yorkshire TV, in the best of many films made about the island. Later shown on network news, it resulted in nearly 100 people enquiring about coming to live on Muck. Recently, with more of the family at High School and the lack of a school hostel in Mallaig, it has become increasingly difficult for Ann and Ian to remain on the island, and their departure was not entirely unexpected. We are very sorry to see them go and we hope that things will go well in Mallaig. Ann's departure leaves the school's nursery class without a leader, but by December's West Word I should be able to announce a successor.

Whilst on the subject of official positions, I must also mention that Sandra Mathers, who has served for many years as head of Muck Coastguard, has handed over this responsibility to Simon Graves. The change has coincided with the arrival of a new Coastguard hut and lots of equipment to go in it. On the farm, the calves departed on MV Raasay on 1st. October. Despite a horrendous forecast it was the best journey for many years - and what a contrast to all the hassle last year! Raasay took them all the way to Oban instead of transhipping them at Tobermory.

At the sale, prices had dropped away from the higher levels of June to those of the last four years; but the calves were heavy and , much more important, there were 23 bullocks against only six heifers. As bullocks average nearly twice the price of heifers, the total sale return was well above last year.

Lawrence MacEwen.


I had hoped to be able to advertise the Grand Opening of the Astley Hall in this issue, but we're still a tad uncertain of the exact date. It will be at the end of this month, so keep an eye out for posters because we want everyone to come to the opening ceremony and ceilidh concert! In the evening will be a dance with Dimh playing. Work is coming on fine with landscaping being done now and the dry stane dyke is halfway round the grounds - which is about as far as we have stones and money to take it as we were unable to get a grant from SNH for the work. A fence will suffice for the rest and the front hedge will be improved in due time with some new plants and some invasive ones cut out.

Please do try to find time to sign a tile for the entrance hall. We trying to make a record of everyone in the community in this millennium year and this seemed an attractive way of doing it. Families can sign one tile, either as e.g. 'The Martin Family', or each member can put their name. Babies could put handprints. Finished tiles will be coloured and baked and inserted in a frieze. Jack McColl and John Westwood will be at the Land, Sea & Island Centre from 10 am. on Saturday 4th. and Sunday 5th. November so don't let them feel lonely, pop in and sign! There'll also be a chance if you're coming to the Village Bonfire on the 4th. (weather permitting!). Whilst on the subject of the bonfire, the Community Council have put out collection jars in the shop and the bar for contributions to the Fireworks Fund. It costs a considerable amount to put on even a modest display so we hope that is you enjoy the result, you will give a donation. Sunday 12th. November is Remembrance Sunday. It was wonderful to see so many at the Memorial last year and it is hoped there will be a good turn out this year.
Ann Martin


Sradagan Mhorair have been awarded 600 by Mod Lochabair, towards paying a leader. Sradagan Mhorair is a Gaelic Youth Club, open to children with a reasonable understanding of the Gaelic language. It is hoped now that the money is in place, that the group will be able to identify a fluent Gaelic speaker to run weekly or fortnightly clubs. A committee is being sought to help[ run the Senior Citizens' Christmas Party. Anyone interested in helping is invited to a meeting in Morar Hall on 8th November at 8pm.


The Lochailort Gun Club, a newly constituted group with the aim to promote clay pigeon shooting in the area, held their first shoot on 29th. October. The venture has been formed with plans for an annual Fair at Lochailort and two sites have already been offered for the marquee for this proposed international event, which will include a big raffle and an Auction at the end of the night. A committee has been formed to take forward these ideas. Angus MacDonald of Lochailort is the Chair, John Keenan the Treasurer and PC John Bryden the Equipment Secretary. The Club costs 10 a year to join and anyone interested is asked to contact a member of the committee.

New Fuel Tanks Operational on Mallaig Pier

A new tank facility is opening on Mallaig Pier which will make re-fuelling easier for fishing vessels. Each tank holds 850 tons of fuel, which is approximately one month's supply. At present the supply is coming in by road, but hopefully in the future it will come in by sea tanker. The total cost was over 700,000 to build, which included a donation of 100,00 from Lochaber Limited.

There are three discharge points which are fully automated, where boats can come on a self-service basis at their own convenience. Each boat will have their own key with a personal identification PIN number. Until Christmas, a member of Johnston Bros. will be on hand to ensure all is running well and people are confident with the new system. This system is of the highest standard of its kind and we look forward to opening the first weekend in November.
David Johnston


Mosaic Project

The first of two workshops took place in the old Village Hall on Thursday 12 October at 7pm. The workshop was very well attended by representatives from various community groups from the Mallaig and Morar areas and everybody who joined in really enjoyed the evening. 20 tiles have been distributed to the groups, and instruction was given by Alan Potter regarding designs etc for the tiles. The groups will work on their tiles and will then bring them back to the secondary workshops in December to cast them. (Hope they are being kept moist without too much hassle!!!) The finished tiles will then make up the border of the main central mosaic. Alan Potter has already sent us draft copies of a design for our perusal and it looks like we will have a very impressive piece of artwork at the finish. Many thanks to all the group representatives who took an interest in this project and we look forward to seeing all your efforts in early December.

Arts Steering Group sought

The Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Association are looking for people who would like to become involved in an Arts steering group. The group will guide the arts programme for the new community centre - ensuring that as wide a range of events as possible take place, and that opportunities for education and outreach work are developed. We would like to encourage people with a background in art, craft, music, dance, film and drama to join the group, but if you have an interest in the arts and are keen to be involved we would still like to hear from you. We hope that all age groups will be represented. Please contact Niki Robertson, or one of the committee members below if you would like to find out more. (Jill de Fresnes, Jacqueline McDonell, Avril Trotter.)

Dimh in Cape Breton


Alastair and Mairi MacLeod Morar Hotel have just returned from the Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton Island and both were delighted with the achievements of the local band Dimh: Gabe MacVarish and James Bremner from Morar, Colm O'Ruaidh, Angus MacKenzie, both students at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, and Ross Martin from Arisaig. Alastair has given us this report -

Dimh ('Kinship') had brought along their own 'roadie' to keep them on the straight and narrow - James' wife Ishbel.

On Sunday 8th. They performed at the local Mabou concert. This concert was purely for natives of Mabou - which is Angus' home town - and it was a great honour for them to be asked to perform on the stage.

On Tuesday 10th. they had the privilege to be the first group to play at the new Mabou School, only opened the Thursday before. They were supported by international artistes, Howie MacDonald, Dawn and Margie Beaton, Scottish Gaelic singer Ishbel MacAskill, Dave MacIsaac, Tracey Dares and John Ferguson. When Dimh had finished, they got as standing ovation from 500 people.

On Friday 13th. they were once again the main act, at The Creamery, Port Hawkesbury. Their supporting act was internationally known fiddler Glen Graham. 400 people attended this venue. On Saturday 14th. They shared the stage for the World's Biggest Square Dance, in Baddeck. The line up included J. P. Cormier & Hilda Chiasson, Jerry Holland, Buddy MacMaster, Paul MacNeil, Jamie MacInnes, Tracey Dares, and others. This was a marvellous achievement for a group which has only been formed for the last two years.

Also appearing at the Celtic Colours Festival was Blazin' Fiddles, who had the great honour of opening the Festival at the Savoy Theatre, Glace Bay. As one would expect, all of Blazin' Fiddles' concerts were sold out well in advance.

Because of their popularity, I'm quite sure that Blazin' Fiddles and Dimh will be invited back to Cape Breton. They'll be appearing in Celtic Connections in Glasgow in January. It was the fourth year of Celtic Colours International Festival and it is recognised as being the main international festival of Celtic music.
Alastair MacLeod.

Alastair is so proud of the boys that he is going to get them to sign the poster
from the school concert and frame it to hang in Morar Hotel's bar.

Andrew's Exhibition

Local artist Andrew Fairbairn held his first art exhibition in the Fish Market Restaurant, Mallaig, on 29th September to 1st October. A large selection of his paintings were on view - local scenes mainly in water colours. His PR stunt before his exhibition opened was a bit extreme to say the least!!


His talent has not gone unnoticed with many of his paintings being snapped up by admirers locally and elsewhere. A selection of quotes from over the three days:
'Congratulations Andrew! What a fantastic job you've done. Can't wait to put it up in Oz - what a great memory.'
'Magic! Today Mallaig/Morar, tomorrow the Tate Gallery.'
'What a talented chap. Wish I had been here yesterday to get 'Sleat Point'.
'Absolutely brilliant! You'll go far.'

Andrew would like to thank Sandra and Thomas McLean, all those who attended and contributed to the 121.87 raised for the MacMillan Cancer Appeal.

Visit to Applecross and the proposed Maelrubha Centre

Attending a short course on Heritage and Interpretation as part of the Highland Archaeology week this October was a real eye opener. Organised by Dr Raymond Lamb from Thurso College in Applecross where the community is building their Maelrubha Centre, it brought a new perspective on our common west coast heritage. Far from the hairy hermit image which seems to cling romantically to our Early Christian saints, the picture emerged of Columba, Maelrubha and Donnan as high-ranking ambassadors of Irish culture and desirable knowledge to a neighbouring Pictish kingdom in awe of Dal Riada's superior skills in writing and metalwork. Maelrubha appeared very much as the successor of Donnan, who was killed on Eigg and became the first martyr of the Celtic Church after evangelising much of the north west. Seeing the exquisite carving of Maelrubha's great cross - or what's left of it after it was hammered into a lintel for the MacKenzie lairds' burial aisle in the 16th century - brought home the sophistication of religious art in the 8th century.

Presentations by already established and fledgling heritage centres led to a better understanding of our common Pictish and Early Christian heritage and the means and ways to turn it into a useful resource for our communities: Tarbat, Groam House Museum, and Burghead seem fascinating places to visit for a new interpretation of the Pictish way of life. We all left with a resolve to create links between all the various initiatives via the internet to foster and spread visitor interest from one site to another.

It is maybe time for Lochaber to get its own archaeological map like the one produced for Ross-shire by Highland Council's archaeology department, or work on our own Lochaber Columban sites to make them more interesting to the visitor. In any case, the Isle of Eigg History Society's second annual lecture next May will feature Dr Raymond Lamb talking about Pictish Kingdoms in the West and shedding some light on this still quite obscure period of Highland history!

Camille Dressler


At approximately 1.30 a.m. on April 26th 1986, reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl power plant exploded.

Chernobyl is situated in northern Ukraine. The prevailing wind at that time was blowing northwards so that the radio active cloud was carried north over Belarus. This continued for a further two weeks. The world was not aware that the most deadly and dangerous nuclear catastrophe ever had taken place.

Over the ensuing years this accident has taken its toll and continues to do so. Radio activity cannot be seen so it is like a silent killer. Many thousands of people, especially children, have been affected. It is difficult to quantify the scale and repercussions of this activity.

In April of this year the Fort William Link of the Chernobyl Children Lifeline was set up. After a lot of hard work and thanks to the generosity of many people the first ten children together with their interpreter were able to visit the Western Highlands for a one month health break. Chernobyl Children Lifeline is a national charity and its primary aim is to help the children who have been so badly affected by this disaster. Every year many children visit different areas of Britain. Before they leave Belarus they are measured for the contents of radio active Caesium 137 in their bodies. Most children show high readings. They are then given a small tub of special formula which they have to take twice a day whilst in Britain. This powder together with the month away from the contamination that is present in their homeland benefits their health and strengthens their immune system. Caesium 137 is one of the radio active heavy metals that was discharged into the atmosphere at the time of the explosion. It has many adverse effects on the health system. These include heart trouble, kidney disease, leukaemia, cancer, and severe birth defects. It is predicted that ultimately Chernobyl will claim more lives than World War II.

It is easy to overlook Belarus.

Chernobyl children: 'a happy and relaxed bunch of kids',
in The Old Forge on their day out to Knoydart.

The ten children who visited the West Highlands had a wonderful time throughout their stay. It was amazing to witness first hand the improvements in their energy levels and general well-being. Their trips included visits to Ardnamurchan, Kingussie Wildlife Park and Mallaig, with a trip to Knoydart . They loved the day out spent at Knoydart. Photos taken of them on that day show a happy relaxed bunch of kids.

The children have now returned home to Belarus. We received some extremely good news. When measured on their return, six of the children showed zero readings! This means that their immune systems are now stronger and this increases their resistance to infections and other health problems.

As an extension of this work that is being done with children visiting us in Britain, we are now collecting multivitamins, pain killers and other assorted first aid and healthy items to deliver to Belarus orphanages in the Spring. We will accompany the delivery to ensure that it reaches its destination safely. All the items mentioned are extremely expensive over there and the orphanages are always in great need of them.

I make this appeal to anyone who wishes to help - we need donations of all the items mentioned above. Monetary gifts are also very gratefully received. And could anyone offer the loan of a transit van to take the delivery to Belarus? The collection point for health products in Mallaig is the Fishermen's Mission. For other enquiries or offers of help, please contact me on 01397 700784 - THANK YOU.
Elizabeth Kniaz, Fort William Link

Thanks to Lochaber News for a big article on West Word and the steam train. Yes, the office really does shake when the train passes but there is a feeling of great excitement hearing the whistle and its approach. I miss it during the winter. Well done to Iain Ferguson of Write Image for capturing the moment the train passes - it only took one shot folks, honest! Iain as usual has been generous in supplying West Word with photos and we thank him this month for this one and the one of the Chernobyl children in Inverie.
Ann Martin


Mallaig & District Canoe Club

September and October have delivered the usual equinoctial Hebridean gales and, as readers familiar with small boats will recognise, strong winds are the principal 'enemy' of any manually propelled vessel. Be that as it may, club members were fortunately able to paddle on two week end dates when there were suitable lulls and conditions were ideal for sea paddling.

On Sunday, 10th. September, ten members met at Rhu for a proposed gentle paddle around the Arisaig islands. It was a day of 'firsts': MARTIN Eastwood, out for his first proper sea paddle, was accompanied by Roger Barnes in the club's double kayak; Nancy Campbell was conducting sea trials in her brand new Romany Explorer and Roger Lanyon was christening his home made, hand carved, East Greenland paddle. Once through the North Channel, past the seals and to seaward of Luinga Bheag the sun came out and produced Indian Summer conditions. Then one of the more alert of the party spotted the Shearwater way of course, meandering in a northerly direction, well to the west of Eigg. 'She'll have seen some whales and will have detoured for the tourists,' surmised the intrepid one. 'So who is up for it and wants to go see what we can find?' questioned another. A quick committee meeting split the party into two and after checking that safety equipment was adequately distributed between the groups and a lunch rendezvous arranged, Jon Watt, John MacKenzie, Alex Turner and Tony and Liz Laidler set off in hot pursuit. Forty minutes later and several sea miles further out, our party were amongst cetaceans. Being a powerful paddler and canny at deducting where they were going to surface, Jon manoeuvred himself close to a lone minke. It travelled under his kayak, surfaced and blew alongside within paddle touching distance. Jon(ah) felt the vapour and the others in the party could smell and hear the beast's escaping breath. Such excitement! Meanwhile the other group progressed in a more stately fashion and worked themselves round Rubh' Arisaig, first to play among the skerries, and then to venture south west past Eilean an t-Snidhe to the vicinity of the infamous 'Bellows'. The state of the tide and the degree of Atlantic swell was just right to produce some spectacular effects, with four to five foot tubes of surf collapsing onto the bald dome of the just submerged sgeir every sixth or seventh wave. All four delicate craft kept a respectful distance from this salutary reminder of the power of the sea. Somewhat subdued by this display the party turned north and headed for the delightful, secluded bay of Port nam Murrach to eat lunch and await the whale hunters before returning to the pierhead at Rhu.

Two weeks later, again finding a pocket of calm between gales, four kayakists set out from Glen Borrodale Bay on Loch Sunart to cross the Sound of Mull and lunch in Tobermory. The sea was like a mirror and the morning sun hot enough for us to dispense with paddling jackets. One hour and four miles later, we stood off Alliston Point and could survey the west coast of Mull and make out the twin peaks of Ben More. We tried to emulate the achievements of the previous trip's whale hunters, but were unable to close on a large pod of bottle nosed dolphins which was systematically feeding on a shoal of surface fish about 400 yards to the west. Not wishing to inconvenience the Kilchoan-Tobermory ferry or the two or three coasters we could see steaming along the Sound, we estimated closing distances and relative courses and concluded we could paddle direct for Tobermory. For Alex Turner, Roger Lanyon and Joan Smith, this was their first trip to the capital of Mull and a fine sense of achievement was gained by arriving under paddle power.

But Tobermory is no ordinary landfall: it hides its multi-hued, shoreline Victorian hotels and shops behind a wooded point and motor launches before the panorama opens and yes, it looks just like the illustration in the calendar back home. During our lunch break the cloud cover advanced from the south and we became conscious of the distance from our departure point. Fresh winds were forecast for later, so it seemed expedient to get on our way. Joan and Roger boldly set off and then were disturbed that they could see nothing of Alex and John MacKenzie even though all had launched together. It transpired that the two tyros had decided that discretion was the better part of valour when arguing with a Caledonian MacBrayne car ferry which seemed inexplicably determined to head towards the two kayaks wherever they tried to hide. Once together again, a good pace was set to the Big and Little Stirks, two hump backed rocks off Alliston Point. Just round the point we pulled in to pay our respects to the voyageurs from two large, multi-person, open Canadian canoes. Earlier in the day we had agreed it would be fun to circumnavigate Oronsay, a much indented island about a mile and a half long, adjacent to the south coast of Loch Sunart. With a stiffening westerly breeze, we surfed between Oronsay and Moidart, through Loch na Droma Buidhe, only to come to a dead end. Oronsay may be an island at high tide, it unfortunately wasn't at the bottom of a spring tide! Alex braved the mud to determine whether a portage was feasible. But it was 'no go', so back into the teeth of the wind to 'unwind' the failed circumnavigation and so across Loch Sunart to Glen Borrodale to end a day paddle worthy of the height of summer.

There was no such luck with the weather on the day of the AGM paddle. Twelve stalwarts gathered at Rhu on the afternoon of Saturday, October 7th., forewarned by the forecasts that winds would be south, force 5 to 6, veering south west, force 6 to 7. It was a day for caution and discretion. The group fared well whilst in the shelter of the South Channel, but as they progressed across Loch nan Ceall towards Keppoch, the wind's fetch generated waves which had a number of intermediate paddlers in some discomfort and half the party consequently returned to Rhu. The more powerful and experienced paddlers ventured out beyond the islands and enjoyed playing in some distinctly lumpy water before also returning to Rhu, and then repairing to Arisaig Hotel for solid and liquid refreshment.

Unlike the AGMs of most organisations, Mallaig & District Canoe Club had a majority of its members in attendance. Decisions were made about the purchase of new equipment and the Winter's programme of pool sessions. However, a vigorous debate about future policy regarding junior paddlers remained unresolved and was deferred to a coaching sub-committee. Officers were elected en bloc and the evening ended with a slide show of kayaking venues both local and exotic, presented by Rory Stewart.

Officers for 2000-2001:
Chairman: Tony Laidler
Vice Chairman and Equipment Officer: Roger Lanyon
Secretary: Joan Smith
Treasurer: Willie MacDonald.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.

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