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

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November 2001 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Eigg & Muck
Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe
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Happy Birthday to West Word!
Seven years old this issue!

To mark our anniversary we've made a few changes to our masthead. Crisper lettering for the title, and a change of logos. Out go the ones which acknowledged the start up help we had from Lochaber Enterprise and the LEADER programme, in come our own compass, and the Lochaber brand logo - both incidentally designed in competitions. But West Word is still the same low price - excellent value for money!

Many Happy Returns to Us!


Once again Mallaig High school is amongst the top secondary schools in Scotland, named by The Sunday Times as the twelfth best school in Scotland. Previously, it was eighteenth in the top 50 list. Congratulations to staff and pupils on their achievement! Mallaig was the only Lochaber school listed.


A new ferry for the Mallaig - Armadale run has been given the thumbs up by Scottish Transport Minister Sarah Boyack. She has ordered two ferries for west coast routes, at a cost of £12.6 million, one of which will be operating out of Mallaig on the Skye route.

David Stewart MP and Councillor Charlie King are among those who have welcomed the boost for the area's tourism industry. David Stewart said 'The Mallaig to Armadale ferry is an important lifeline for the West Highlands, and is a valuable resource to the tourist industry. The new service will give better service for passengers, and should help foster further economic growth in the area.'

Councillor King said 'I'm very pleased that the Scottish Executive acknowledge the importance of this area in their plans to upgrade transport - so it only makes sense for them to complete the job by upgrading the last section of the A830. Harbour developments and good ferry services demand better road links.'

100th Lochaber Investment in People Award

Hugh Allen, far left, and staff Mairi Henderson and Lorraine Edgar receive their award
from Ian Robertson of the Old Forge, Knoydart, recently appointed a Director of Lochaber Enterprise.

Mallaig & North West Fishermens Association have achieved the Investors in People Award - the 100th business in Lochaber to do so. To congratulate the achievement of eight local organisations in this, the tenth year of the Awards, Lochaber Enterprise held a presentation ceremony in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre on Friday 2nd November. More photographs will be in the next month's West Word.


This month I am enclosing the Knoydart Foundation news circular whioch gives some indication of what has been happening work-wise in Knoydart recently.

On the social and recreational front Eda Frandsen sailed from Doune at the end of September, bound eventually for the Caribbean via various ports of call. She should have arrived at or be approaching the Canaries now. Along with Alan and Mary Robinson the crew on this leg include Ian Wilson of Inverguserein and Mark Rodgers. They should be returning home soon with many a tale to tell no doubt.

There has been a group of divers (friends and colleagues of Angela and Mark) here this past week, diving in Loch Nevis throughout the raging storms. I wonder whether they found any evidence of Hamish Smith's mythological submarine?

I think there was more water coming off the hill this week than I have ever seen before, creating its own new courses. Jo Wilson was unable to get back home to Inverguserein one night and had to stay in Inverie. That was the third and I hope last drama for Jo whose generator and Land Rover have both 'gone on the blink', now rectified I'm happy to report for her.

Anne Trussell

Extracts from the Knoydart Foundation news:

Hydro update- a meeting was held with CCG, the Consultants and Charlie King. The whole timetable was looked at and the latest news is that - subject to weather - the work should be completed by mid December. However, if the rain we have been having recently continues, this could cause a delay, but obviously, is out of everyone's control. So - keep fingers crossed for some good dry weather.

The New Pier - at the last community association meeting. The office agreed to do a ring round everyone to try and get some feeling of preferred option for the proposed Pier to be able to forward to the Highland Council.

At the moment the main items they would like to comment on are the overall height, the overall length and fenders. There will still be plenty of scope for discussion on other details. The photomontages are displayed in the village hall and in the office.

Housing - the first draft of the Housing Association's policy is nearly complete and we will be sending out the forms to those who have expressed an interest in the new Temporary Housing. This is our first stab at this and it is very likely that we will have to change it once we see how it works in reality.

We will shortly be starting discussions on developing a policy on the sale and lease of Foundation land! This is going to take a while to develop as it is an issue that a lot of people have very strong feelings about. A number of people have expressed aninterest in being on the group and we hope to have the first meeting in November.

Welcome to Winston! - Co-op customers will welcome a friendly face in the office - Winston Mathieson has joined us as accounts assistant. Winston will be in the office on boat days as he will be travelling over on the Western Isles - however, if anyone is going back to Mallaig around 3 pm please offer him a lift to save the trip via Tarbert! Amanda will still come over occasionally to do some training and to go through the systems she has set up.

Traffic order for Knoydart - we have just received copies of the proposed traffic order for Knoydart and the Small Isles. Comments need to back with the Highland Council by 23rd November.

Welcome back Louise! If you haven't heard, Louise's operation went well and she should be out of hospital shortly and back home. However, it will be a while before she is able to be back in the office so please be patient if things don't run quite as smoothly as normal.


With apparently the mildest October on record and surely one of the wettest, at least in these parts, our wildlife warden tells us that plant life at least, did appreciate the warm wet conditions with much late growth and many species flowering well beyond their usual dates. Mild or not autumn is definitely passing with winter bird visitors beginning to flock in from the north. The first great Northern Divers, Woodcocks and Jack Snipes put in appearances along with a fairly large passage of Fieldfares Redwings plus a few Bramblings.

Small numbers of Whooper Swans and White Fronted Geese were recorded on passage while two Pale Bellied Geese dropped in for a couple of days' feeding before completing their long journey to their winter grounds in Ireland. The last Minke whales were seen early in the month but it has been an excellent spell for Otter sightings with swimmers recorded at many coastal sites around the island. Good numbers of rabbits too especially around the north of the island where the potential feast encouraged a couple of sea-eagles to join the resident "Goldies" for some easy pickings.

On the human front, everybody is getting ready for a season of dry-stane dyking. fencing, and skills training, particularly on the IT side. There is also much interest in developing crafts on the island such as soap and candle making as well as knitting and felting. (Anyone interested can get in touch as we are planning a weekend skill-sharing workshop sometimes in January at the Glebe Barn )

Hallow'een this year took the novel form of a karaoke night which encouraged local rock talent Joe Cormack to give us some of his best! Much fun was had by all, even though world events are on our minds. Work on the Eigg causeway and pier is scheduled to start soon with European funds confirmed, so that we are now finally resigning ourselves to witness the destruction of Galmisdale bay in the name of progress. Still, John Wood, the Highland Council archaeologist, has assured us that the site of the wreck exposed last month and potentially threatened by the causeway will be protected and that a watching brief will cover the area of land where sheds and car park are scheduled as it is likely to yield more interesting finds.

In any case, we are looking forward to a talk by Dr Raymond Lamb from Thurso College on Thursday 8 November. He will be discussing the way communities can use their local archaeological resources to boost their economy and will also focus on equestrian tourism as well as lecturing on Pictish Kingdoms. Food for thoughts as a lottery bid for a West Lochaber archaeology development post has now been put forward.

Last and not least the community on Eigg would like to congratulate islanders in Gigha on their successful buy-out! The trust has pledged £250 and a bottle of our special Millennium Talisker for auctioning in their fundraising effort. The willingness of their owner to consider the islanders' offer may usher a new period of co-operation between the people who own the land and those who live on it! Great news indeed.

Camille Dressler.


Glenuig Shop Fund-Raising Concert

This concert was held in Glenuig Hall on 13th October and raised about £900 for the new shop funds while the Prize Draw made during the night raised a further £1090. A great many people contributed to the success of the evening. The concert began with spots by local musicians and this was followed by the great sound of Dàimh and finally there was dancing until late in the night to music provided by Dougie Hunter, Colm, Ross, Hamish, Donald MacAuley and others.

It was good to see so many young musicians playing in Glenuig - like Iain MacMaster, Robert Nairn, Kirsten MacLeod and Eoghan and Megan Henderson and friends who gave us a fine selection of tunes, songs and even some step dancing. Other locals who played included Jim Michie and Elaine, Donald and Gordon and Dave Foggo. George Clark did a great job as Fear an Taighe again and Eoghan and Pod organised the PA system. Thanks.

A big thanks goes also to the local businesses and individuals who donated prizes for the Draw (such as Jimmy Gillies, John and Fergie MacDonald, Dougie Hunter, Eoghan Carmichael, Jim Hunter, Mairi MacAuley, Jim Michie and Izzy and Richard Winter) and also thanks go to all those who bought tickets. Kirsten Conacher and Kate Foggo did a great job on the night selling more tickets at the door.

So far around £7000 has been raised towards the new shop and although we still have a long way to go, the project will get there in the end and it is heartening to the Shop Steering Group to have so much support from local people and regular visitors to the area. Meanwhile the old shop remains open thanks entirely to the volunteers who run it and we are managing to increase gradually the range of stock which is kept. It was a good night and we hope everyone enjoyed it. We did.

Gordon C Barr


October has been a quiet month particularly during the school holidays when more than half the islanders headed for the sun and other parts of Scotland!

Notable among the absentees was Simon Graves, crew aboard the Eda Frandsen bound for the Indies, though Simon is only aboard as far as the Canaries. And the weather has been none too kind with the gales and head winds for much of the voyage.

Congratulations to Eileen Henderson on passing her driving test after all these years!

And the Snow Goose, which spent the month of September among the numerous Greylags. Having watched 'Landward' on television it appears that Muck's first Snow Goose is a visitor from Coll.

On the farm two Suffolk tups have been out with the ewes already and it wasn't that they had escaped.

It is all part of the Mull Meat Project. The aim is to have a number of 19 kilo lambs ready by 1st July. They will be slaughtered on Mull and the meat sold to hotels and restaurants or through the community owned butcher's shop in Tobermory. But there is a long way to go before that. I will keep you up to date on progress in future West Words.

The calves have gone - what a relief! On the 22nd. October MV Raasay came inside the old pier at Port Mor and they were driven aboard without difficulty. Raasay took them the whole way to Oban where prices were higher than expected. Many of the bullocks (and they were nearly one year old and had received the first subsidy) made £1.20 per kilo.

Lawrence MacEwen


Recently, Rum has been very pleased to welcome two new families to the island. The first to arrive were the Blunts who came to us from the Stirling area where Mick was a countryside ranger. Mick and Alayne have two children, Aphra and Joe. Aphra is a very welcome addition to our nursery being a playmate for Sorcha.

The position of Reserve Manager (being temporarily and admirably filled by George Polwarth) has been taken up by Rhodri Evans who is accompanied by his partner, Judith, and daughter, Catrin. Catrin will join Zoe in P1. The Evans family come to us from Wales where Rhodri was Director of the Snowdonia Society (a charitable organisation). Judith, herself, is a native of Fife. Now we have two native Welsh speakers on Rum, have we got the beginnings of a male voice choir? Will Rhodri and Rhys be filling the glens with Cwm Rhonda? Keep listening! Judith is an artist and we look forward to seeing her work.

We all hope that our new friends will soon feel at home here. It is very good news for the school since the roll fell so dramatically last year. We now have four in school and two in the nursery.

At the beginning of the month we had our Harvest Festival, led by the Rev. Alan Lamb. I cannot thank enough, everyone who rallied round, decorating the school and producing a wonderful harvest supper. This was my last harvest festival on Rum. As I am sure most of the West Word readers know, I have resigned my position here on Rum, due to health problems, and will be retiring at Christmas. It will be a sad occasion as I have grown to love the island and the people very much.

The candidates for my job (12 of them) will be coming over to Rum on the 7th November, weather permitting. Elsewhere on Rum we are gearing up for the hind cull, stalkers, ghillies and ponies have a lot of hard work in front of them. Our new pier is almost finished now and this week we have some conservation volunteers here who are making a connecting path from the pier to the southside nature trail. From being out on a limb, the Schoolhouse will now be the nearest dwelling to the new pier and everyone will pass the door!

This week will also see the departure of our temporary manager. Good luck for the future, George and keep in touch!

Chrissie MacDougall

by Angus Macintyre

Time flies, "Conscience" has just been on the phone, to tell me that my words are late - as usual! I suppose I should really make an effort towards the end of each month to have something ready, but then, who's perfect!

October, it's been a funny month, most would say it's been wet and miserable, but honestly, the "great outdoors" hasn't been too bad. For a start it has been amazingly mild for this time of year, with all kinds of fresh flowers appearing, and the geese none too sure of whether to migrate or just stay put! With Rhododendrons, Primroses and Violets bursting out all over, just what season are we actually experiencing? Even the trees don't seem to be entirely sure of whether to display their wonderful Autumn colours, or just join with the conifers and stick to a vibrant green! Just look back, you cut your grass just a short time ago, and it could really do with another cut now! What, in November?

My month has been busy. With my walks programme reduced to "request only", my time has been consumed with different projects, most of which are fairly long term "drags", but important all the same.

Top of the bill just now has been the "Paths for the Disabled" access project. This, as you can imagine, is a high priority Scotland wide, but is a very difficult hurdle for us in this comparatively remote and wild area. The specification for these paths is very high, and at the end of the day will require a great deal of funding - by, or from whom, goodness only knows! When we talk of disabled, the mind immediately pictures some poor soul in a wheelchair, being pushed by a caring nurse or relative. But whoa! What about partially sighted/blind, missing/damaged limbs, deaf, seriously traumatised, post heart ops. etc. the list is endless. Thus we have to think about good surfaces, gradients, cross gradients, obstructions, overhanging branches, wet/boggy bits, rest areas, colour of signs, size of print etc. - get the idea???

However, as I say, I've been spending a great deal of time on an old path network in Kinlochmoidart - a beautiful part of Lochaber I may say - and have just submitted an extensive report to my bosses as the first step in a three phase programme, so I eagerly await developments. By the way, my immediate boss as was, my Senior Ranger, John Hutcheson, has moved on, after 21 years as a Ranger, to become the Access Officer for Lochaber and Skye (nice to see Lochaber first for a change, or am I just being parochial), and I would just like to put on record my thanks to him for his unstinting help and understanding during this last two and a half years that I have worked with him, wish him all the best for his new job, and look forward to presenting him with a few access problems to sort out!

Other work? This might surprise you, but, apart from the schools, I still have one old iron in the fire, the Loch an Nostarie path. Yes this is still alive! And, as recently as the 4th.October, I had another representative, Mr. Sandison of S.N.H. on site. This gentleman has taken over the case from "Aunty Mary" and has been furnished with revised/renewed working drawings (if I can call my scribbles that!) to see if progress can be made with funding. My thanks to Mary for all the ground work, and it's nice to see too that her new career seems to be swinging along nicely.

O.K. that's enough, I could ramble on about various courses in the offing, but who wants to know, and in any case I am going to have to use up some holiday time anyway, and that's much more interesting, even if it looks like it's "work round the house" now that you have time! I'm fed up giving you the magic number, 'cos you never speak to the nice man on the answering machine on 01687 462 983. Remember, walks still by request.

A Little Genealogy
by Allan MacDonald

It has always been difficult to follow the activities and the inter-relationships in the Clan system of families, but a listing in Revs. A. & A. Macdonalds' Clan Donald gives a listing of the Cadet families of Clan Ranald and a chapter or two on all of them, and may be viewed at the West Highland Museum in Fort William on request. This listing does not include powerbrokers of Clanranald, i.e. the 'Glenalladales', MacDonald of Morar and their Cadet families, more of whom in a later issue.

Some of the families listed (there are 38 in total) are as follows:

MacDonald of Antrim, Keppoch, Bohuntin, Tulloch, Dalchosnie, Aberarder, Cranachan, Tullochcrom, Gellovie, Fersit, Murlaggan, Achnancoiechean, Clianaig, Tirandrish, Inch, Killichonate, Lochalsh, Sleat, Harris, Balranald, Heisker and Skeabost, Castle Camus, Cuidreach, Ostaig and Capstill, Rigg and Balviguean , Camuscross and Castleton, Glenmore, Totscor, Bernisdale and Scalpay, Sartle, Totamurich and Knock, Balishare, Aird and Vallay, East Sheen. There were also the MacLavertys, MacKiens of elgin, Dorrochs, Martins of Beallach and Duntulm and the Martins of Marishodder.

Where did they all come from? What happened to them?

As there could only be one chief, who may have had say, ten sons, the eldest son inherited the empire, whilst his brothers were given large portions for themselves on return of an annual rent of cash, crop and fighting men. As the family expanded through the generations, they became dispersed around the lands and got swallowed up amongst all the other families, and relationships became weaker, and got forgotten about the 3rd cousin. Clan feuds, wars and, ultimately, the emigrations and evictions of the 1800's saw the demise of most of them. Onto their lands came the Dukes, Earls, and Lords. Hard on their heels came the Ship owners, Collier owners, Textile magnates and the other wealthy landowners who brought with them wire fences, iron gates and Keep Out signs. Strange as it may seem, there was never famine or want of food in the Highlands before 1745, all of the land being used for the production of food, and such was the production of oats that the whisky industry, in the form of local stills, boomed to become the user of surplus crops.

A Bracora Family

A lady, writing in the Daily Mail in October wrote about a unique event in her family. Inasmuch as her mother had one child, then twins, then twins again, then twins again, then one other child, and asking if any other family existed with this combination of births.

In the 1841Census, in No.11 Bracora, there lived Neil MacVarish and his wife Mary and their children - Mary, aged 30 years, Dougald and Margaret, twins aged 25, Anne, Isabella and George. Triplets aged 20 years, Catherine and her sister Christian, twins aged 15 years, and Alexander aged 14 years.

George married Janet MacDonald from Kylesmoidart in1850, is there a known connection to the local MacVarish families from Bracora? Answers please to West Word.

The Last Laird of Morar

Alasdair Roberts writes in last month's West Word (Oct 2001) that Eneas MacDonell went bankrupt 'paying wages to evicted crofters'.

Mmm, sounds fishy and not in keeping with oral traditions. Eneas MacDonell had lofty and grandiose ideas, but paying wages to evicted crofters was not one of them.

Certainly he paid wages, to a huge retinue of coachmen, Farm Managers, housemaids, dairymaids and gardeners, whom he needed to run his farms. Achateilisaig was specifically built to accommodate his gardeners for the walled gardens beside the main road. He also employed an army of masons, joiners, plasterers, plumbers and other trades, all imported from Inverness to build his grand houses, and quite simply overstretched himself, and the Foundry Company from whom he purchased miles of wrought-iron railing, posts and gates wasn't paid and was forcing him into liquidation and the Astley-Nicholsons bailed him out by purchasing the grounds and leaving him with 60 acres and Camusdarach. Any incidental work 'evicted' crofters got was digging drains at the back of Traigh. To boot, he was an absentee landlord, preferring Edinburgh to South Morar as his residence.

Now, his mother, Anne, daughter of 'Old Rhue', when the Rhu Peninsula was cleared of some 40 families (300 people) and the crofters, through no fault of their own, found themselves with nowhere to go and nowhere to grow crops to feed themselves, she (Anne) housed as many as she could at Traigh Farm and acquired tents for the rest of them, and fed them from her own stores and pocket for a whole year, until she was very near bankrupt.

Undeterred, when she could no longer look after them, she found room for them in Moidart, among her own people, who cared for them.

Contrast this to Lord Cranstoun, with barns bursting at the seams and Arisaig Village crammed with some 400 people, cleared off other parts of his Estate, and nowhere to grow crops, couldn't feed themselves and starving to death. Only the pleadings of the Parish Priest, Fr Wm MacIntosh, made him open his barns and feed the people.

'The Lotties' - An Ardnish family.

Earlier in the year I wrote about 'Muntir Shimé' in West Word, and connected a Canadian family to this family.

Shime (Simon) had an uncle, Lewis or Ludovick, from where come the 'Lotties' and descendants living in Arisaig and elsewhere. Charlie MacFarlane is doing a family research on them and would like the modern day Lotties ancestry to make up the picture. Anyone in Arisaig is welcome to come into the Café and tell me what they know, or contact Charlie at Glenfinnan House.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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