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

List of Issues online

November 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Rum, Eigg, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago
Off the Rails - Crofting Roundup - Birdwatch

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
Sign our Guestbook

All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

Happy 15th Birthday to us!

This month marks West Word's fifteenth anniversary, and we are taking this opportunity to launch an appeal for funds to purchase a new printing machine.
The present machine was purchased in February 2004, with grants from Lochaber Enterprise, the Community Economic Development Programme and the Gower Trust. It not only prints but folds and staples too, and is a vast improvement on the old days of grainy, hard to see photos and print, and having our team of 'folders' doing them all by hand.
However, barely a month goes by when we do not have to call out the technicians! It is now obsolete and there are much better, faster and cheaper to run machines on the market now. Funding streams are not so easily accessible five years on, and we will have to find new ways of raising the money. As a community newspaper, we cannot apply for charitable status, which shuts us off from more funders.
We are intending to buy a colour printer, but we must emphasise this would not mean we could produce West Word in full colour. That would cost six times more than it does now! But we could print colour covers, if sponsored, which could carry lots of photos, and other publications in colour and we could use better quality paper. We welcome any donations, large or small and any fund-raising ideas. If any readers would like to do some fund-raising for us, we would be delighted. We are looking for around £10,000 during the coming year.
Wish us luck!

Canon Gillies Place
The new housing estate in Arisaig has been named Canon Gillies Place in memory of the late Canon Iain Gillies who was parish priest in St. Mary's Church, Kilmory, Arisaig from 1964 - 1983.
Born in Bracara in June 1923, the son of Sandy Gillies, Bracara and his wife, Catherine MacMillan from Torlum, Benbecula, he studied for the priesthood in Blairs College, Aberdeenshire, followed by further study in Bearsden, London and Cardross and was ordained on 22nd May 1948.

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His first post was as assistant to Monsgr. Ewen MacInnes in Castlebay where he worked for four years before moving to Knoydart as parish priest at St. Agatha's and from where he also served the Small Isles and Skye. He remained in Knoydart for twelve years until he moved to Arisaig in 1964 and he remained there until his death.
Known as Father Iain, he was a prime mover in bringing T.V. to Arisaig using pipe relayed systems and with a great band of helpers, put T.V. into the village houses.
During the "winter of discontent" (1978-79) he sought the landowner's permission and organised teams to go into the surrounding forests harvesting firewood to distribute to every house in the area, helped by anyone in the community who was able to do so. When he arrived in Arisaig, St. Mary's was in urgent need of refurbishment and he set about the task with his usual good cheer, convincing the congregation that it could be done. With fundraising and planning, he oversaw the whole operation to its completion. He was an excellent carpenter, as was his father before him and he built church furniture in his workshop, in his spare time. His beautifully designed pieces can be found all over the Diocese.
Another of his successful projects was to utilise a Job Creation Scheme in the 1970s with which the Crùisle (the old church) was prevented from further collapse and the condition of the monument which you see today, is as a result of this.
Diligent in his priestly duties, he was cheerful, courteous and generous, always sympathetic and understanding to all around him and to all he met.
On a lighter note, he was in the habit of opening the door of the house he was visiting and just breezing in calling out a greeting then progressing into the living room to await the occupants who may be upstairs or elsewhere. On one occasion, he came to our house, as per usual. He was friendly with our, then, dog, Heidi, an English bull terrier to whom he was a well-kent figure. We were out somewhere and Heidi was in alone. The nature of the bull terrier is, they either keep you out of the house or, they let you in and won't let you leave. So it was with Fr. Iain. He sat in the chair, reading the paper for ten minutes or so and, when nobody appeared, he got up to go. No chance! Heidi would not allow him to depart and he was stuck in the chair for two hours until someone came home and liberated him! Father Iain was a native Gaelic speaker and had a great love of all things Highland, its language, culture and traditions. He loved Arisaig and Arisaig loved him.
He is fondly remembered by the people of Arisaig parish and the name of the new housing scheme is a fitting memorial in this, the twenty sixth anniversary of his death.
Allan MacDonald

October saw the end of our run of K10 events with our 10k run. There was also a 3k fun run and a 22k trail run which unfortunately had to be cancelled due to the bad weather. No one was deterred, least of all the runners and 48 people took part in the races. Tom Harris - who took part in both and lived to tell the tale won the 3k in 17.51 minutes. I should mention wee Callum (Woombs) who came second in 18.25 minutes - lucky for Tom he wasnae thrashed by a primary 4. The hardy runners that were going to take part in the trail run, ran in the 10k from Airor to Inverie. First in that category was Simon Axon who completed it in 40.55 minutes, first woman was Louise Proven in 45 minutes. First of the 10k runners was Sandy's wee brother Graham Sutherland in 44.25 and our very own Pavla in 44.25 minutes. You'll also be pleased to know that your regular correspondents Tommy and Davie also completed it in very respectable times which I won't bore you with!
Thanks to Angela and Lorna for organising such a great day, fingers crossed it happens next year. I've also been asked to thank the runners for taking part in what was horrible weather, the local businesses for sponsoring the event, the medic rescue service for first aid and everyone who cheered and clapped on the finish line…not forgetting Dave Marriott for his gallons of tasty soup to heat everyone up.
If you are a regular reader of the Knoydart column you'll know we don't do things by halves - the day ended with a ceilidh in the evening with Gary Innes and band, which went on til 6, I didn't even run and ran out of steam by 1. It was a great atmosphere and a fitting fairwell to Sandy. It was his last night and lots of crazy shirts, grass skirts and Dolly Parton made sure the night was one Sandy won't forget in a hurry (wink, wink). Hopefully we'll be seeing Garry Innes back here soon as he won the star prize of the Foundation prize draw - a week's accommodation on Knoydart: He didnae read the small print, though. It's only redeemable at the games - p.s we need a band!
Last month Calum Wilson headed off to London to take part in a charity cycle ride from London to Paris, for the Fire Fighters Charity. He was cycling about 80 miles a day but I've not seen him for a full update on how he got on but Jo tells me he loved it. Well done the Hoff! With the end of the season upon us we are saying farewell to a few friends; If you read last months column you'll know that after 10 years Sandy's away to Canada. We've since heard from him and he canny believe how cold it is and is already shooting bears, with his camera. Lauren, Rachael and Pavla are all leaving too, as is Phil the Chef. Andrew is heading up the loch to Camusrory - we all knew he wasnae right in the head. Good luck guys and hope to see you all back soon. Over for the winter, we welcome Nat and Meagan from Australia. Congratulations to Mark Harris who is moving to the A frame. Incidently Mark has a lovely recipe for "Mark's Tuna Thing" in the wee cook book from Knoydart if you are stuck for a Christmas pressie...
See when you're talking about that, well done to Doune who won the Scottish Thistle Awards, Taste of Scotland. Jane tells me it was a bit like the Oscars without the red carpet. Not only was the award for the food but where it comes from and Midge Ure handed over the trophy. It just goes to show when you want a nice meal or night out you don't have to travel far, the Old Forge was commended for the best pub in Scotland by the Scottish Licencing Trade News. Congratulations Ian and Jackie and the team.
It was a Doune wedding for Jamie Robinson and his bride Penny. Congratulations to you both. Apparently there was a new dance "invented" at the do, it's called the up and Doune and was the cause of a lot of Fay's bruising.
What a month for accidents. Get well soon and wishing a speedy recovery to Galen who had a fall and has broken both wrists and Ina, Shag and Butcher's pal who has also broken her wrist. Jeezo.
Next month it's the Christmas bazaar in the hall on the 21st, the pub is selling calendars at £10 each and the proceeds are going to Combat Stress. And finally Happy 35th wedding anniversary to Stewart and Rhona on the 9th.
That's all folks - well nearly but the rest couldnae be printed.
Isla Miller

Hwe have at last finally come to the end of a busy and hectic season here on Rum and can all now breathe a sigh of relief. The BBC Autumn Watch team were over for almost 3 weeks at the start of the month to film the annual deer rut and the stags up at Kilmory provided the usual spectacular display. There was lots of roaring and fighting and one gruesome disembowelling. Still that's the BBC for you....!
All the usual migrant birds have been sighted coming through the reserve along with a couple of oddities. One visitor reported a rare Turtle Dove and there was a first recorded sighting of a Red Backed Shrike. Our Manx Shearwater colony is now empty as the birds are off over wintering in South America and hopefully we shall see them all safely return next Spring. There has been a lot of work done up on the hill this year led by Andrew Ramsay and Co. They are all doing a great job to ensure the colony succeeds and whisky distillers are kept busy. We had to say a sad goodbye to Daryl our student who left the island for a new post near Aberdeen. Saturday night will not be the same.
The revised plans for the new shop and tearoom have been finalised and are looking terrific. It will be an added bonus to get the area around the old pier tidied up as well.
Restoration of the castle tower is due to start in November and there is also a new building to be built for the new battery inverters so perhaps the winter is not looking that quiet after all
David Birks

According to our SWT warden, the fount of all bird knowledge, October is a month of high expectations for the birder, with migrants moving south in large numbers and a real chance of something unexpected. Although Eigg is hardly the epicentre of the rare bird world, admits John, it did at least provide the odd moment of some excitement (we are so pleased for you), with a Pomarine Skua off the east coast on the 1st followed by the islands first Little Grebe for 15 years on the 7th. The real star of the month (year?) though appeared on the 12th, a Yellow Browed Warbler flitting around a birch copse beside the Kildonan Road.
Other reasonably interesting sightings included Whooper Swan - passage of small numbers from 20th; Great Northern Diver - 1st return on 20th; Arctic Skua - late bird on 21st; Redwing & Fieldfare - from 8th & 17th respectively; Blackcap - several records of 1-2 birds; Spotted Flycatcher - very late individual on 8th & Common Crossbill - 18 over Sandavore on 18th. Now that the tourist season is over, Otters decided to put on a show & regular sightings were reported throughout the month! The only other mammal record of any note was a group of 10 Bottle-nosed Dolphins off the north of the island on the 1st. Very few interesting records in the 'other animals' category though a wreck of several thousand Mauve Stinger jellyfish at Laig Bay early in the month was of some note & Red Admiral butterflies continued to show on sunny days right up until the month's end.
If wildlife did provide some spice in the life of some us, our community life was also gladdened by the registration of wee Maggie Carr at Kildonnan by her grannie Marie on 7th October, an occasion of joy and merriment for all. Of a more prosaic nature, celebrations were also in order for the good price fetched by Eigg farmers and crofters' cattle this year, a welcome trend as agriculture in our part of the world needs every encouragement for the all the efforts that goes into making wholesome food!
On Thursday 4th October, Eigg residents and Community councillors discussed the future nature of ferries for the Small Isles with Judith Aisnley of the Ferry division, Phil Preston and David Taylor from Cal Mac as part of the current ferry review. With the new, efficient, economical and privately owned catamaran operating in the Pentland Firth, the government and Caledonian MacBrayne are obviously doing some hard thinking: in the Peak oil context, the type of ferry design currently in use that guzzles an average of 500l per hour might be a thing of the past in10years time… In any case, the vision for the future as far as we are concerned is a greener ferry that can take our children home for the week-end. (anyone interested in the topic can found more information on www.scottish-islands-federation.co.uk).
After their autumn break, the island children have enjoyed an unnaturally fine guising night (no gales, no lashings of rain either!) a fine moonlit night for 17 witches, cats, skeletons and assorted scary creatures, the best of which was in my humble opinion, the two headed monster impersonated by Logan and Murray Wallace. Best pumpkin definitely went to Struan Robertson who grew that whooper - at least 4 times your average pumpkin - in his dad's polytunnel (use of mutant seaweed, we are asking ourselves?). A sprinkling of famous faces also graced our Hallow'een night at the pier where wonderful food was on offer courtesy of Saira Rennie - Russell Brand, Captain Jack and Marcel Marceau - with the prize going to Ye Braw Vikinge Woman straight from Valhalla via Norway, ie Megan Frey! Katie Mackinnon who will be 92 on 15th November certainly enjoyed the visit of the guisers who always start at her house and remembered her own guising days, when children went out as soon as night fell, and got a few nuts and an apple at each house, but woe betide the ones that stayed on too late, for adults were also on the guising rounds, and would think nothing of tearing their guising gear off to find out who the wearer was! Adults on Eigg were great at making little comic sketches and she well remembers her husband's older brother Hugh - as broad as he was tall, and Alastair Campbell, the estate joiner, who was half his size, playing at being husband and wife and arguing like hell...
Sadly this month which started with the celebration of a new life also brought sorrow to our island communities: we joined the islanders of Muck in their farewell to little Izzy, whose family give us all an example of great dignity, courage and faith. Our hearts are with them.
Camille Dressler

We've had an eventful time leading up to the unveiling of the Czech Monument scheduled for the 11th November, with the memorial arriving by lorry from the Czech Republic and being erected in not the best of weathers. Plans are still being finalised for the ceremony, which we hope will be well attended - please be there in advance because it will start with the national two minute silence at 11am and you need to allow time to find a parking spot. We have Fr Barrett's permission to use the cemetery car park and there will be stewards to help. We're expecting a number of Czech veterans, in uniform, and a couple of Czech pipers as well as all the dignitaries.
The unveiling will be followed by a reception in the Hall, which will feature a song from the Primary School, and a buffet, along with Czech beer and wine. In the evening there is a family ceilidh featuring Eilidh Martin and friends, with a licensed bar.
The whole of Arisaig Primary School came down to the Land, Sea & Islands Centre one morning to have a look at the SOE exhibits, and I gave them a wee talk on what it was all about. They seemed very interested and asked some intelligent questions.
I often get telephone enquiries about booking the Hall for wedding receptions, and in fact a few weeks ago I got two within five minutes of each other. So when I received a third and the folk said they could they come round in the evening to have a look, I wasn't surprised - although I did think the caller mentioned Tesco's but I thought I'd misheard.
At 5.30 the phone rang again - 'We're in Chorley now - where's the hall?' So they had mentioned Tesco's! Regular readers may remember that earlier this year some paranormal investigators got our Astley Hall mixed up with the haunted ex-stately-home-turned-venue in Lancashire of the same name - well, it had happened again!
A cracking concert by the local youngsters' band, Fuaim, as part of the Homecoming celebrations, was a sell-out in the Hall. Circumstanced beyond my control caused me to miss it, but I've heard the rave reviews. Now they are cutting their first CD, which will be eagerly awaited.
After 20 years, Ewen and Elspeth MacMillan are retiring from holding the video club on alternate Fridays for the village youngsters. It has been immensely popular for all those years and they must have raised a great deal of money for charity from the collections of 5ps. Before the video club, when they lived at Borrodale, for a number of years they held a Sunday School there, and there were annual outings to the beach for races and picnics. Grateful thanks from many, many people to you both -and that includes the Mums and Dads! Wonderful weather for Bonfire Night - how can it change so fast! - and one of the best firework displays I can remember. Well done, Gerry, Gordon and Graham. If any of you haven't donated anything towards the cost yet, you can still do so - the tin is still in the shop I believe!
A few nights earlier there was a very successful Hallowe'en party in the spookily decorated Hall for the kids, and there were some great costumes.
A number of us went from Arisaig to Muck for the funeral of little Izzy last month. It was a perfect day weatherwise. Her family showed inspiring dignity and courage during a very moving and poignant ceremony. At one point during the prayers and readings at the graveside, a lone horse over on the hill, which has been watching us, whinnied across as if sending its own message.
Ann Lamont

Generally, the Czech monument erected on the village waterfront has met with approval, but there has been the odd comment, such as 'it will look better when the bag is taken off the top'.
So maybe it will help to know what it depicts!
If you stand with your back to the water, you have to imagine a parachutist has just landed and is pulling his parachute in towards him. The parachute is spilling out air and this is what gives the shape at the top. The 'chute is in matt polished granite and has the look and even the feel of silk.
The matt finish cords come down the gloss polished plinth towards the imaginary man and are set into it.
A granite rose finishes off the base of the plinth.
During the war, the Czech agents were parachuted behind enemy lines and most died in the cause of fighting the secret war.
It has taken considerable skill to carve the parachute's silken folds and cords out of a block of granite and sculptor Josef Vajce has produced an imaginative piece of modern sculpture to honour his fellow countrymen.



News in Brief

Congratulations to Martin and Jane Davies and their team in Doune, Knoydart - the Doune Dining Room has won the 2009 Visit Scotland Thistle Award for the 'Taste of Scotland' category.
The Scottish Thistle Awards have been created to showcase business excellence and quality, and competition is fierce. The winners were announced at a prestigious Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner on the 24th October in the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Of Doune Dining Room, they had this to say:

'Getting to Doune Stone Lodges is an adventure in itself; a three quarter mile walk from the nearest vehicle track or a sail from Mallaig aboard the owners' own launch boat.
However, the greatest discovery of all is the stunning food served at the Doune Dining Room: fish, shellfish and crustaceans straight out of the water; venison off the hillside; eggs from their own hens; fruit and vegetables from the garden; home-made bread, rolls, pancakes, jam, marmalade and local honey - all as fresh, local and seasonal as they could possibly be. The remote location is an inspiration to quality and a challenge that Martin, Jane and their staff have risen to with relish, allowing Doune to truly provide a unique visitor experience.'


West Word - ten years ago - October 1999
This 32 page, price 75p issue marked our fifth birthday.
Our headline read 'Arisaig By-pass To Go Ahead - but it's still not enough'. The news was announced on 4th November 1999 that the Arisaig to Kinsadel section of the A839 was to be upgraded. We were lucky to get that commitment - out of 17 routes considered foir funding from the Strategic Roads development plan, ours was one of only five, and the only one to be promised full funding of £12 million form the Scottish Executive.
The news was welcomed but there were concerns about when the remaining stretch from Arisaig to Loch nan Uamh might be considered. There was also fears in Arisaig that the by-pass would be detrimental to the local economy - which we now know to have been groundless.
The front page also a photograph of work starting on Mallaig Health Centre.
Once again we see parallels with today's stories. In November 1999 there was about to be a second attempt to form a Community Council for Mallaig, only then the problem was too many nominations! The first attempt had received 11 nominations for the ten seats, then four withdrew, leaving one short of the minimum required to form a council. The second attempt resulted in seventeen nominations and an election was being organised.
Mallaig & Morar Community Association were continuing to raise money for the proposed Community Centre, tender documents were going out and a contractor had to be appointed by the end of December for work to begin in January 2000. in Arisaig work on renovating the Astley Hall was scheduled to begin in the middle of November.
Barbra Streisand had been visiting Mallaig! The third Mallaig Music Festival, Feis na Mara 1999, had been a resounding if waterlogged success. And an evening of Hallowe'en Parades in Mallaig produced the usual excellent turnout of funny and topical costumes.
The Guild in Arisaig had been busy producing a beautiful banner, as part of a nationwide Millennium project. Every Presbytery in Scotland was given a book of the Bible on which to base their banner and Lochaber had been given Paul's letter to Titus. Seven Guilds in Lochaber submitted designs and Arisaig's was chosen as the national representative of the Book of Titus. In all 66 banners from Guilds all over Scotland, each representing an different book of the Bible, were hung in Dunblane and the following year, 2000, they embarked on a tour of Scotland. The banner depicts a fishing boat with nets full of fish, with Eigg in the background and hangs in the Church in Arisaig today.
Regular contributors included Camille, Lawrence, Angus the ranger and Auntie Mary - all still writing away for us!

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Another fantastic world tour this month. We've a bit of space this month so we're printing the two sent in by Charlie and the MacKellaigs as we can't decide which we like best!
Charlie MacFarlane took his copy from Glenfinnan to read it 12,000 feet up on the Mont de Lans Glacier in the French Alps!
Fiona and Alistair MacKellaig of Mallaig took theirs on a cruise and browsed through it in Kusadasi in Turkey. I hope you weren't planning to wrap fish in it Alistair!

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Mallaig's Michael Currie read his West Word at the bottom of the Potemkin Staircase, which leads up 139 metres to the Primorsky Boulevard, a beautiful sea front promenade in Odessa, Ukraine.
To prove you don't need to go too far for a good photo, the three amigos visited Stanley and Carol Ross in Thurso - the 'Baltic tundra of the north' - and while there took us to John O'Groats - Arisaig's Julie Gordon and daughter, and Grace Coull from Mallaig.

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9 year old Jonathan and 7 year old Ellie Tevendale, Morar, obviously took the chance to catch up with their reading while perched on Oony Krishna ('Small God'), an elephant they 'looked after' for the day at Evergreen Estate Bungalow, a homestay near Kuttikanam in Kerala, Southern India. The Mahoot was so amused, he broke off from texting his girlfriend to laugh at them!! photo

International Arts and Music Partnership to flood Glenfinnan
There will be pandemonium in Glenfinnan in May next year, as the Loch Shiel Spring Festival intends to let loose an all-consuming flood with only Noye (yes, that's Noah) to save us all from total destruction. Make sure you're aboard his Ark in time!
Benjamin Britten's spectacular musical drama Noye's Fludde will feature eye-popping sets and costumes designed by Room 13's teenage Lochaber artists as well as amazing animal masks provided by their network of studios all around the world. The unusual orchestra will combine the very best professional forces with local amateurs and students, ranging in age from 7 to 70 and involving Lochaber Music School, Lochaber Youth Choir, Lochaber School's Wind Band and Lochaber Fiddle Orchestra -to mention but a few!
To hold this all together, the Festival has enlisted comedian Sue Perkins, whose natural talent for conducting came to light on BBC2 last year, when she won the channel's popular Maestro series. And to keep everyone in line - the "Voice of God" - Radio 4's James Naughtie.
Many of the roles for the production have already been allocated, but there are still parts to be filled and help of all kinds to be enlisted. To make sure that everyone has a chance to become involved, the Loch Shiel Festival will be holding a series of Ark Info Shows around the various Lochaber communities throughout November.
'We'll be visiting Kinlochleven, Ballachulish, Fort William, Strontian, Acharacle, Arisaig, Mallaig and Glenfinnan', says the Stage Director for the production, Lochaber's very own vocal instructor, Christopher Josey. 'We want to give people a chance to ask questions and hear all the details before deciding whether to become involved in this exciting project, which already has attracted considerable BBC interest. All Info Shows will give young singers between the ages of 11 and 18 a chance to audition for solo parts, but will also give a presentation of the project to anyone who wants to know more.'
The Festival's Artistic Director since 2006 is violinist Charles Mutter, who is Associate Leader of the BBC Concert Orchestra. He says: 'Throughout the many years that I've been working with the young music-makers of Lochaber I've never ceased to be amazed at the wealth of talent that exists in a community as spread out and dispersed as this. It's about time we showed it to the rest of the nation!'
Noye's Fludde is a 50-minute musical drama and was written in such a way as to combine professional and amateur performers. Most of the main vocal parts are written for children and the orchestral forces comprise strings, recorders, bugles, handbells and a large assortment of percussion. The Loch Shiel Spring Festival's production will be staged in Glenfinnan on 14th and 15th May 2010. The Ark Info Show will come to the Astley Hall at 4.15 pm and the Mallaig Community Centre at 6pm, both on 25th November.

On and Off the Rails

The West Highland Weekend Steam Special Train
Saturday 10th October saw the last steam train into Mallaig for 2009. After another successful season operating the Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig, West Coast Railway, West Coast Railway, in conjunction with Statesman Rail Tours from Cornwall, ran a three-day land cruise train from Leicester to Mallaig and return. Using a pair of vintage 'Brush' class 47 Locomotives, the train departed Leicester on Friday 9th October, picking up passengers along the way. Arriving in Fort William on Friday evening, the passengers were transported to three different hotels in the Lochaber area. On Saturday morning, the passengers boarded the Jacobite and travelled behind 'Black 5' 45407 using the Jacobite rolling stock, leaving the Pullman and Premier dining cars at Fort William along with the class 47 locomotives. Most of the passengers had never been to Mallaig before, and enjoyed a pleasant two hours exploring the various shops, pubs and restaurants. On Saturday evening, they returned to their hotels, and departed Fort William early on Sunday morning.

First ScotRail's Club 55 offer continues
This offer of reduced price travel anywhere in Scotland (drawing an imaginary line across the country from Carlisle to Berwick-on-Tweed) is a one price £15 return using any rail company's stock for anyone aged 55 or over and, if you hold a senior citizen's rail card or a disabled person's card the price comes down to £13 return. Full details have been covered previously by me, and forms detailing any small print etc are readily available at Mallaig and Fort William Rail Stations, plus Mallaig's two tourist outlets. The offer is on until late December. Even if you only go to Glasgow for a day, you save money by buying this ticket over a regular one - provided you are 55 years of age or over.

The return home of the Jacobite
Early on the morning of October 12th, the two locomotives used during the Jacobite season returned home to Carnforth along with a train load of nine coaches. It made a grand spectacle running past Monessie Gorge, then climbing the steep gradient from Tulloch to Corrour. Next came the wide curve past Beinn Dorain and up to County March summit and onwards towards Tyndrum. Once again we must thank West Coast Railway for their continued loyalty to our area. Without their continued support, our tourist industry would not benefit from such rewards. We look forward to welcoming West Coast Railway Company back in May 2010 with the Jacobite, and also to them providing the locomotive power and staff for the Orient Express owned Royal Scotsman touring train.

Popular Fort William train driver moves on
For the past three years, ScotRail train driver 'Baz' Horsfield has traversed the line between Crianlarich and Mallaig. But Saturday 31st October will see his last turn on the 8.30am Fort William - Mallaig ScotRail service. As Baz pulls into Mallaig at 9.52am, it will be his very last trip to the village, at the controls of a Class 156 Super Sprinter. Baz moved to Fort William about three years ago, having previously driven trains out of Manchester Piccadilly, but his original intention was a move to Inverness after buying a house in Drumnadrochit. His plans were somewhat altered by a sudden vacancy occurring at Fort William, so Baz agreed to 'fill in' on a temporary basis. Three years on and he's still there! But on Monday 3rd November his original plans come to fruition. He starts route learning out of Inverness which will take him as far north as Wick and Thurso, east to Aberdeen and west to Kyle of Lochalsh.
After receiving the news of his imminent move, he said he was having second thoughts about it, and was really going to miss all his friends and colleagues at Fort William and Mallaig - but after three years of daily travel on the A82 back and forth to Fort William using various modes of transport in all weathers, he has finally made the decision to move closer to his work.
Those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting him will know that his enthusiasm and wicked sense of humour has brought many a smile to weary travellers. He always that the Fort William to Mallaig line is probably the most beautiful line in Britain, and to have the job of driving a train on it is a pleasure whatever the weather. It's this part of his job that he is really going to miss.
We all wish Baz good luck in his new position, and send him and his family our best wishes for the future. If you ever have to travel out of Inverness by train, look out for Baz. He won't be hard to find, just listen out for the laughter and he'll probably be there!

West Word Rail Book Competition
As promised, we have another rail-related book competition this month. The book is entitled Eleven Minutes Late by Matthew Engel, and is in hardback, retailing at £14.99. Matthew Engel, having spent many years travelling and commuting by train, finally flipped! After years of getting cross at the vagaries of Britain's railways, he decided he had had enough. He wanted to know why? Why did the British invent railways and then go on to run them so badly? After watching the television programme The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, he thought it was time to find out more about British Rail. Those of you familiar with that TV programme will know that Reginald Perrin, having travelled by train always arrived at the office 11 minutes late with various excuses given by British Rail staff. Reggie decided to write to the Controller, British Rail (Southern Region) and to put it to him that if he re-timed all his trains to arrive 11 minutes earlier then they would arrive on time! Hence the title of the book was born.
Matthew's vacation journey takes him from Penzance to Thurso, taking in all the experiences encountered along the way. One chapter covers his journey from Mallaig to Glasgow, after spending - as he says - a very pleasant evening at a Mallaig B & B, with an excellent fish sand chip restaurant meal. His journey in our area met with his approval and he describes his observations in a rather amusing way.
If you would like the chance to win a copy of the book, I have on to give away. Just answer the following question and send it on a postcard to me: Sonia Cameron, Fasgadth, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD, to arrive no later than November 25th 2009.

Question: How many miles is the train journey from London to Edinburgh?
Is it: A: 293 miles B: 393 miles C: 493 miles
Good luck!

If you wish to order the book, it can be obtained by telephoning Telegraph Books on 0844 871 1514 or visiting www.books.telegraph.co.uk Postage of £1.25 requires to be added to the purchase price of £14.99. it really is an amusing portrait of our British love-hate relationship with the rail ways - a good read.

West Highland News plus magazine
The three times a year edition of the Friends of the West Highland Line (Autumn/Winter edition) magazine is now out. Priced at £2.25, it's full of articles, photographs and travel information, and well worth buying. It can be obtained by contacting Doug Carmichael (Editor) on 01631 562915 or at 'Bill's Place' Newsagent, Fort William Railway Station. Unfortunately, to date there is no outlet for the magazine in Mallaig, but by the next issue (Spring 2010), they hope to find one. Any shop in Mallaig interested in selling the magazine can either contact Doug at the above telephone number, or speak to me and I'll arrange a regular delivery for you.
See you on the train!
Sonia Cameron

Crofting roundup by Joyce Wilkinson, SCF Area Representative

Changes brought about by the Crofting Reform Act 2007
These changes came into force in June 2007 and Jan 2008 but have only started to be integrated and replace existing law during 2009, due to the difficulty of changing the systems within the Commission. There will be bigger changes again with the new Reform bill but they will take some time, years maybe , to be implemented so it is worthwhile to take note of the changes taking place at the moment and how they effect everyone in the Crofting community

Forestry Grants
The Crofter Forestry scheme has a large pot of money available for grants to plant trees. This pot becomes even more accessible when the grant is applied for as a Community body. There are 90% grants available and the remainder can be match funded. Please come and talk to me if you have any interest in a forestry project of broad leafed trees and incorporating an access track.

Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Association (MMCCA) have now submitted their application for planning permission to install a maximum of two wind turbines for the centre. The way planning applications work, it made sense for us to apply to install two turbines, although we are still hopeful that one will be sufficient for our needs.
We owe a big 'thank you' to those who have helped make it happen, by providing us with site plans and a financial contribution towards the cost of planning. Thank you - you know who you are!
We know that there are still some concerns about the proposal, but overall feeling is positive. As part of our planning submission, we had to show what consultation we had done on the proposal, and I have included extracts from this document, to show the overall feeling. We placed A4 sheets, with two questions, 'Would you support a local wind turbine project? (for the Community Centre), and 'Would you be happy with the site location at West Bay car park?' and a space for comments, in local shops and in the library. From these, 65 people were supportive of the project, with 12 not supportive. 48 were happy with the proposed site, and 40 weren't. (Of these 40, 15 were ticks on one sheet, which either had no corresponding answer to the first question, or on a line saying yes and no to the proposed site.)
In May we held a 'Soup and Sandwiches' at the hall, at which a further presentation was played on a loop, and copies of a 'frequently asked questions' document were available. We had a short questionnaire available on the day and in the hall for the next three weeks. Of the 13 questionnaires, all were completed by locals to the area, 12 agreed with the principle, and 10 were happy with the proposed site.
As well as moving forward with the planning permission, we are also having a concerted fundraising effort, with various events taking place and a giant raffle to be drawn at the end of November. The prizes have been kindly donated by local businesses, and tickets are on sale in local shops, and from committee members.
We have also appointed a new cleaner, and hope to get the hall back up to its normal standard of cleanliness. Thanks for your patience over the summer while the committee have been cleaning themselves.
Jacqueline McDonell, Chair

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
This month saw the arrival of migrant thrushes from Scandinavia. Redwings were the first to be reported, with small numbers heard flying overhead on the night of the 8th. Small groups were seen the next day in both Morar and Arisaig. Fieldfares were seen a few days later and numbers built up as the month progressed. By the end of the month there were some impressive flocks around. On the 28th, there was a large flock at Mallaig Bheag, feeding on rowan berries. There were between 800 - 1000 Fieldfares, 200 + Redwing and 30 + Blackbirds in the group. On the same day there were big numbers in Arisaig, with over 1000 Fieldfare and 300 Redwing between Roshven View and Larrach Mhor.
On the morning of the 9th, there was an interesting sighting of 3 Red Kites drifting eastwards over Arisaig village. It coincided with other sightings on Skye and the Kyle area and most probably involved wandering birds from the Black Isle. Mid-month 15 Crossbills were seen feeding in the plantation at Millburn, Rhue, and a migrant Chiffchaff was seen at Rhubana View on the 29th.
Groups of Whooper Swans were seen flying over on several occasions during the month; 17 flying east over Morar on the 30th were the last reported. There were 2 adult Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala from the 3rd week. Up to 60 Wigeon were counted there mid-month, along with smaller numbers of Teal and Mallard. A female Goldeneye was there on the 28th and a Moorhen was seen on the 31st. Up to 6 Little Grebes were seen on the south side of Loch nan Ceall during the month.
Wader passage dried up during the month, only a few Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Curlew reported from Traigh along with scattered reports of Redshank from Arisaig, Back of Keppoch and the Morar Estuary. There was a group of Lapwings feeding in the fields at Back of Keppoch throughout the month. There were a few sightings of Woodcock from Arisaig and Morar from mid-month.
A Sea Eagle was seen at Carnoch, Arisaig, on the 12th and there were regular sightings of Golden Eagles on Arisaig Estate by stalking groups throughout the month. After the big numbers of Manx Shearwaters grounded in September, only one bird was ringed in October, bringing the total ringed and released this year to 255.

Regular readers will remember that some months ago we carried a photo of TV star John Sergeant who had travelled to Mallaig to film part of his new series. It's called John Sergeant on the Tourist Trail and is a 3 part travelogue, starting on ITV1at 8pm on Tuesdays, 10th to 24th November.
A company called Fflic TV is filming on Traigh Golf Course as West Word goes to press (9th November). They have been commissioned by the Welsh TV channel Sc4 to produce a travel series around the Celtic nations and regions and two of the programmes are about Scotland. They were hoping to have fine weather to show off the country to its best advantage and they certainly got it. Angus Macintyre and Hamish Smith have been asked to give an informal golf lesson to the novice presenters. The programme will be aired early next year, going out in prime time.
BBC Alba will be present at the Czech SOE Memorial ceremony and their coverage may find its way to Reporting Scotland.
Radio 4 is sending a presenter up soon to look at locations used by the SOE. This is unconnected to the memorial but a researcher may be attending the ceremony.

UFO's - an explanation and a further mystery
Last month's West Wood carried the story of strange lights seen over Mallaig and Arisaig, described as moving swiftly and silently out at sea.
A likely explanation of these lights comes from Lynne in Newcastle on Tyne, who wrote to West Word to say that she thinks they may have been Chinese lanterns!
Lynne, who with Ian has been holidaying here twice a year for the last 13 years. tells us: 'During our 2 weeks in early September 2008 we set a few of these lanterns away near Traigh beach, and they were still visible from a great distance. From a distance these certainly can look like lights flying in the sky and they make no sound. When they are far enough away the flame inside the lantern can not be seen flickering so it is understandable to wonder what they could be, especially as they can move around in all directions and at various speeds depending on the strength of the breeze/wind.'
Lynne sent a couple of photos showing a pinpoint of light in the dark sky.
So - did anyone set free some Chinese lanterns in September this year we wonder?
Meanwhile, we received information from Richard who works at Morar Hotel and says he has often seen non-flashing lights in the sky.
He writes: 'The most recent was only last Saturday 24th October and this was a piercing blue light which started off at very close to ground level - across from the slip near the underpass in Morar - it went straight up at tremendous speed then stopped. The light then carried on to the left towards the Silver Sands and was very erratic in movement as it was stopping, going back on itself, spinning in an anti-clockwise direction, then it dropped, circled around, then carried on in the Arisaig direction.
'I have seen many more than this one. At times I have seen three bright white lights flying in a triangulated pattern towards Mallaig. This was around the time the lights were seen around Mallaig.'
Richard says the one thing they have in common is - no noise! The best time to look for them in between 11pm and 1am.

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Reports from the coastal ranger, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

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