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

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November 2012 Issue

Happy birthday to us - 18 years old this issue!

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Rum, Eigg, Canna
Railway and crofting news

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Golden Girl Heather visits Arisaig
It wasn't just a red letter day in Arisaig on 13 October, but a shining gold medal day, when Olympic gold medallist, Heather Stanning, paid a welcome visit to the Land, Sea & Islands Centre. As a youngster, Heather spent many summers in Arisaig, and although latterly her duties as a Captain in the Royal Artillery, and more recently, her Olympic training schedule have kept her away from the area, when time allows she still loves to come to north-west Scotland.
In July 2012, Heather and her rowing partner, Helen Glover, stormed to an historic victory in the Olympic women's coxless rowing pairs; they were not only the first members of Team GB to win gold, but the only British female rowers to win gold in the history of the Games.


The community here came out in force to greet Heather, and were rewarded by her generosity with both her time and her medal! Local children who crowded round to catch a glimpse of Heather's medal were thrilled to be allowed to try it on for size, and were able to share a tiny bit of the Olympic gold medallist's justifiable pride and overwhelming sense of achievement.

Lochaber Provost, Cllr Allan Henderson, presented Heather with a commemorative silver pin featuring the Lochaber Axes in recognition of her inspirational achievement. All in all, it was a very happy day, and our thanks go to Heather for finding time to come to the area. During her visit Heather voiced her support for the Arisaig Community Trust's plans to upgrade the local playing field. She said that improving access to good sporting facilities plays a really important part in encouraging youngsters to participate in sport, and rural areas are often less well-provided for in terms of quality facilities. Plans for the field include an upgraded pitch, an adventure play area with fitness trail, and an amenity area for the whole community. Highlands & Islands Enterprise have recently provided funding which has allowed ACT to employ a specialist consultancy firm to carry out an inspection of the site, and to produce a report detailing their findings.

Right: Provost Allan Henderson holds up the Lochaber Axes pin while Heather displays her gold medal.
Photo Steve Roberts


The sale of the former Fishermen's Mission building in Mallaig to the Mrs K G Morrison Discretionary Trust has been completed - and what happens there now is largely up to the community.
The profit making trust invests in ethical projects and its Trustees, who have other interests in the area, hope that the building will give business opportunities to local residents.
Although the café has closed, it's not all change. Staying is the Credit Union, Kenneth MacKenzie's second hand book shop, and of course the Fishermen's Mission itself in the shape of Manager Karen Calder and Superintendent Matthew Ramsey, who have the use of two offices. Accommodation for fishermen will still be provided, with the added possibility of back packers also being welcome.

The new team at the 'Mission':
Charlie Mills and Karen Calder

Karen Calder and Superintendent Matthew Ramsey
The Trust is investing in new machines for the laundrette so that a laundry service can still be offered to boats and local residents who may need to use it. This is a business opportunity for someone who might be interested in running it.
The former café is being divided into two rooms, which will offer further business opportunities and Mr Mills is looking for people to come forward with ideas. There is a tentative hope that the dentist will re-locate there but NHS have not made any decisions. Although the café is closed and the Trustees have no intention on opening one, the possibility is there if anyone wants to take that on.
We are in the fortunate position in that, not only has the building has been saved from being shuttered and abandoned, but there is also ample opportunity for Mallaig residents to have a say in what will happen there.
Anyone interested in renting a space or running the laundrette, contact Charlie Mills on 07765 917229, or email charlimills@btinternet.com (yes, that's right - charli).
Meanwhile the Mission staff continue to offer its services from the same offices it occupied before. A leaflet is going out to skippers and crews explaining how support can be accessed. Karen Calder will continue to manage the support services on a day to day basis, assisted by Superintendent Matthew Ramsey who is based in Kintyre.
The Christmas parties will be in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre.

A raft of improvements to a stretch of the A830 was outlined at the public Meeting in the Astley Hall on Friday 26th October, called by MSP Dave Thompson,
The measures include speed limit changes, resurfacing and friction enhancement, road widening and the replacement of bridge parapets, all intended to improve the safety of the stretch of the A830 which has become notorious.
John and Jan Bryden, of Craiglea, Lochailort have spearheaded a campaign, supported by Mr Thompson, to upgrade the Glenfinnan-Lochailort stretch of the road, after their daughter Kirsty and her friend Roddy MacInnes died in an unexplained accident when their car went into the loch a few miles from their home in September 2010. Since then, the Brydens have recorded 309 accidents on a four mile stretch between their home in Lochailort and the Muidhe on the way to Glenfinnan.
A barrier was erected along the edge where the fatal accident occurred and, following a Public Meeting held in the Hall last November, resurfacing and the application of high friction surfacing were carried out along beside Loch Eilt. However the Brydens continued to campaign, claiming the 'wrong corners' had been resurfaced.
Variable Message Signs (VMS) have also been in use from Glenfinnan to Lochailort, advising of severe road bends.
The public meeting, chaired by Mr Thompson, brought together officials from Transerve Scotland, community councillors and local residents, including ambulance, lorry and bus drivers.
The measures proposed by Transport Scotland include:

Surveys into speeding on the road, blamed at the previous meeting for the accidents, proved that this is not the case, with average top speeds being just over 50mph, but, combined with the challenging road, inappropriate speed may be a factor.
The proposed works will not be carried out immediately but are part of a five year programme, and priorities for works on the length in question will continue to be assessed. After the meeting, a delighted John Bryden said 'We are pleased that they have acknowledged that there is a fault with the road surface on the four bends where all the accidents have been occurring. It is disappointing that the police failed to properly record injury accidents and it has taken this number of accidents - 309 - and two years of hard work. We appeal to people using the road to take care until the defects have been rectified.'
Dave Thompson MSP said 'I welcome Transport Scotland's comprehensive programme of improvements for the A830, which will improve the safety of the A830 for all drivers in both the short and long term. The two public meetings held in the last year have enabled Transport Scotland to get the views of the local community who rely on this road every day, and I welcome the commitment to continue this engagement through additional speed surveys. These improvements are good news for Lochaber, and I look forward to further progress being made.'
The change to the speed limit is in fact part of the Scotland-wide speed review being undertaken by Transport Scotland.
As well as the 50mph limit proposed for Glenfinnan to Lochailort, under the proposals the speed limit at the east and west entrances to Arisaig would increase from 40 to 60, and the by-pass from 30mph to 40mph. The speed limit from Arisaig to Mallaig will remain at 60mph. Contentiously the speed limit through Glenfinnan will stay as it is in spite of calls for it to be extended to include the Visitor Centre and the crossing to the Monument. The review, which can be seen on the Transport Scotland website, details all the roads involved, the review process and the next steps. For a speed limit to change, a Traffic Regulation Order must be promoted, which leads to a statutory process which advertises the proposed changes and looks at objections.

We've gone from one extreme to the next: after a quiet last month this one feels like it's bursting at the seams!
The biggest item of the month has to be the Old Forge changing hands. Congratulations to Ian and Jackie, a well earned rest and a cold pint awaits. And congratulations to the new owner, Jean-Pierre, we wish you well!
I must report on the very successful charity event at the end of September: the Tearoom's Macmillan Coffee Morning. A huge thank you to all who came and donated their time and money and made the day so fun. You managed to raise a fantastic £350!!! Steven Wood was the snowball champion, with Rene coming in a close second, and everyone who took part winners at heart. Steven also managed to bag the star raffle prize, dinner at Doune, while Davie brought up the rear, winning a packet of ready salted crisps. Mark Harris was the lucky draw in the (questionable) 'doctors squares' game, winning lunch at the tearoom. A special mention to Dave Marriot who supplied the mega pineapple sponge cake and bramble pie. Yum! Check out the photos on the Tearoom facebook page.
The beginning of the month saw the somewhat diminished Knoydartians making their way back from the Feis, slightly worse for wear, only to have a week of recovery before it was off to Doune! I think it's safe to say Matty and Kelly went out in style. Friday night was filled with good food, great company, fantastic dancing, talented music playing, little electricity and a bonfire. Saturday night was filled with… madness. Haste ye back!
We'll also be losing Fiona soon as she heads off to France, and nearly lost Becky but have managed to snag her for the winter.
I'm also sad to report we'll be unexpectedly, but hopefully only temporarily, losing Jack. His little scare back in August revealed a health issue (contrary to popular belief at the time) which is forcing Jack to take time off work, go home to Skye and get better. He should be good as new by the end of the year.
A great night in the pub was had on the 20th as guys and gals alike got dolled up and attended the Cocktail party. Everyone looked absolutely stunning, even Mark who took the instruction "put on your penguin suit" quite literally, winning best dressed male in fact! I somehow managed to bag best dressed female and, while retrieving my prize, unfortunately managed to whack my male counterpart on the back of the neck as I swung for the piñata. Sorry Mark! Luckily it wasn't serious and after some medicinal popping candy the penguin was back in business. From what I can tell from pictures and stories, the penguin stayed in business for most of the next day as well, achieving some serious planking.
The same night also saw the end of the stag season: a strange combination in the pub for sure. At the beginning of the evening the stalkers and cocktail goers remained separate, eating at their respective tables, and only mingling when ordering at the bar. But as the night went on divides grew murky and soon stalkers were up dancing and gorgeous ladies in their LBDs were roaring the loudest of all!
And I'm afraid I'll have to leave it at that as a certain pointy hat is calling. I'm sure the spookanigans (see what I did there) will make it into next month's column. Ta ta for now!
Amy Connolly

Another month full of calm days and autumn sunshine. Great for everyone travelling with not a single missed call by Loch Nevis and her replacements Orion and Loch Brusda covering for the annual overhaul. While on the subject of overhauls surely it would be more sensible if Cal-Mac waited till the start of the Winter Timetable before sending Loch Nevis to the Clyde. Then only one relief vessel would be needed and everyone would know when she was likely to arrive.
Great weather too for KDL hard at work on the roof of Gallanach Lodge much of which is ready for the slaters.
There are also signs at last that our Power Scheme is underway. No one from the mainland on the ground yet but two loads of sand and gravel have arrived on Spanish John. In many respects our scheme will be similar to the very successful Eigg Electric with one important difference - there is no hydro on Muck and wind will be much more important. Gordon MacKenzie carried out the civils on Eigg and will be responsible for the battery house and turbine bases on Muck. We are looking forward to Angus Kirk who should be at the controls of the excavator.
Lawrence MacEwen

Beavers and Cubs have descended on the Isle of Muck in the form of a new Scout Pack! Children from the Island together with 2 adult leaders, Julie MacFazdean and Gareth Moffat were invested during a recent visit from the Regional Commissioner, Jenny Steven. The new Scout members will be meeting weekly and enjoying working towards gaining their activity badges. There are 5 Cubs and 1 Beaver!
The Lochaber District is very pleased to welcome them into the wider scouting community and will be keen to organise outdoor adventures with them in future months. Here they are after the Investiture Ceremony!


What a glorious month, not the usual gales and heavy rain, however we did have the usual disruption to the boat service whilst Loch Nevis was away for her annual refit. Chaos Ruled for a while, a few folk missed the boat with its amended timetable but at least the sun was shining!
Mackenzie's are back again, this time to build the SNH agricultural shed. It looks like a warehouse so far and given that Gordon's 'boys' work almost every hour god sends, it shouldn't be too long till it's finished. Still find time for a laugh and a joke at the end of the day at the shop and a wee (this is Gordon we're talking about) dram to warm them up! On the crofts, Neil and Lesley have a handful of Soay sheep which caused a small flurry of press activity this month and on croft 3, the static caravan has a skirt (kilt?) and a veranda, they are battening down the hatches in case hurricane Sandy heads this way and are glad of the recent spell of dry weather which means ankle deep mud rather than donning the waders...
The Rum laydees have started up a crochet afternoon and there is interest in making a 'Rum Quilt' which tells everyone's story. They may sound like dangerously calm activities but I'm told they can do some damage with a crochet hook and a sewing machine. Watch this space; it's a long time till spring!
The school hosted the hallowe'en party this year - with a witch, a spider, autumn leaves and 2 zombies a scary time was had and between various small children deciding to go and play with the other toys, the parents all bobbed for apples and had a grand time, then it was off to the shop to judge the pumpkin growing competition…yes, there was a clear winner and despite rumours of illegal performance enhancing substance being used (baby bio?) the giant pumpkin I grew, was declared champion!!
And if that wasn't enough excitement, there will a mince pie competition (homemade, thanks Jinty) at our very own Christmas fayre in the hall on Saturday December 1st - lots of yummy Christmas stuff and homemade delights to get us into the xmas spirit. All welcome. And finally baby Andrew was one this month and got his first boiler suit!!
Fliss Fraser

An interesting month by all accounts on Eigg: weatherwise, it was the opposite of the proverbial April lion with October coming like a lamb and going away like a lion! Everyone certainly commented on how long our beautiful display of autumn leaves lasted, a rare treat, as usually they are blasted away by equinoxial gales. Nice anyway for the holiday period which saw record level of sunshine for that time of year, and provided great fun for baby Innes' many young cousins and relatives from the mainland who came over for his naming ceremony at Lageorna: a lovely night was had by all, Yasmin and Ruaridh's thai curries going down very well indeed with everyone!
In the last of the sunny days, there were last minute efforts to gather in the bramble bounty and turn the last of the greenhouses tomatoes into tasty chutneys so that it is now a pleasure to see the glistening jars in the stock cupboard. Certainly, from the 15th onwards, migrating Redwings and Fieldfares have had been able to gorge themselves on the abundance of rowan berries that have made branches bend under their weight, although according to our birdman, the generally easterly airflow for much of the month did not help with migration stopovers on Eigg. Some of the more noteworthy migrants were three separate Bramblings and Common Scoter at Kildonan Bay from the 19th - 23rd which was a good record for Eigg, as well as the first Stock Dove since 2003 and the second ever Woodlark! The later being a national rarity, this sighting immediately sent twitchers to Eigg who were very pleased indeed to have captured it on film! Other passage sightings included a couple of records of single Whooper Swans, a Pink Footed Goose associating with the resident Greylags, an Iceland Gull on the 20th, a late Wheatear on the 13th, two Blackcaps on the 16th, single Chiffchaffs on the 7th & 24th and a couple of Redpolls showing characteristics suggesting Common Redpolls appeared briefly on the 16th. Other odds and ends included several records of a wandering juvenile White Tailed Eagle, a flock of 25 Golden Plovers on the moorlands, at least three Barn Owls present throughout, a Great Spotted Woodpecker which frequented the woodlands from the 9th on & a major influx of Long Tailed Tits with flocks totalling at least 33 birds occurred from the 11th on. A late Minke Whale was seen on the 16th but that apart the offshore waters were very quiet. Winter has come....
...a bit too early for the poor Eigg guisers last Saturday, who swooped over Cleadale in their assortment of ghoulish costumes, all very fine indeed. The Hallow'een party that followed at the pier gave first prize to Erin for her carved pumpkin, and to Kathleen Millar for her special nun outfit! The teeth did it, we think, although good runners up were Audra and Ben in their double act as cow and cowpat, guess who was what...
Meanwhile, the community has been busy looking at pier area improvements, starting work in the woods, sending stock to the sales - very satisfactory prices indeed for crofters' cattle were reported - improving waste collection with our new and enthusiast waste collector - working out new and exciting art projects with Eigg Box, and thinking about thinking new ways of lowering our carbon footprint: a new initiative is that Eigg has joined the Eco-island scheme pioneered by the isle of Wight. Watch this space, or read the Green Islands newsletter on the Eigg website. Another green initiative has been the replacement of the ground source heat pump for Eigg Primary school which really never worked efficiently with our green grid by a log burner boiler, which we hope will make a big difference to the school and the green grid!
Anxieties remain about the future of the medical service for the Small Isles and we have been thankful for our locum's input in clarifying the options facing us: we would still prefer our own Small Isles based solution, but one factor is how to continue providing boat transport.
More thinking needs to be done and we now await meeting with NHS Highland to hear the answers to all the questions that have been asked.
In the meantime, we have been contacted by the Lochaber college based tourism research initiative, and we look forward to join forces for a project which like Iscape, has the potential to put the Small Isles more obviously on the map: tourism is the one resource that we all hope to capitalise on and joined-up thinking is what is all about.
Congratulations to Feis na Mara for being nominated as Event of the Year in the Scots Trad Music Awards, well deserved as the large contingent who attended from Eigg can verify.
Camille Dressler

The Community shop has closed for the winter and it has been a great success, better than any of us imagined. A big thanks to Julie who pushed the idea and got us all on board. Canna calendars are still for sale.
The weather has been a real treat for the end of the year and all the animals on the farm are looking really well, sheep sales are all over and once again the farm has had a good year. Time to start all over again!
We said goodbye to Graham and Olivia Uney who are off to Shetland and we wish them well with their new ventures.
The rabbits on Canna are around 2000 less as we had two fantastic volunteers Davy and John over for a few weeks doing control work. We look forward to them coming back in January.
Murdo caused a bit of a stir last week as he arrived home with a bomb/missile (most men bring flowers!). It had been fired during the Navy exercise but had not ignited; a Navy bomb disposal team arrive and did a controlled explosion. Visitors to the island thought the whole event was very exiting. Murdo's hens however did not lay for two days!!
Congratulations to Sinead and Kathryn on passing their driving tests, well done girls.
Geraldine MacKinnon

Feis na Mara was a huge success, wonderful atmosphere, sold out both nights, lots of extra people around for the weekend and no trouble at all. Roll on next year! See some great photos on Rupert Shanks website and for a video of the weekend go to www.feis-na-mara.com
And now the accolade of being nominated as Event of the Year in the MG Alba Trad Music Awards. Also nominated are Megan Henderson and Ross Ainslie competing for Best Instrumentalist, Treacherous Orchestra for Best Band, Breabach for Best Folk Band and Niteworks for Best Newcomers. Go to www.handsupfortrad.co.uk/tradmusicawards to cast your votes.

Congratulations to Gillian Cameron (left) from Mallaig Village Pharmacy
on winning the Scottish Pharmacist of the Year
at the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow, supported by Margaret MacPhee.

On and Off the Rails

Jacobite Steam Train Season ends in Snow and Rain!
Friday October 26th 2012 saw the last Jacobite Steam Train of the season on the Fort William/Mallaig extension. Right on time at 12.20 K162005, driven by West Coast Railways Traction Inspector Peter Walker, pulled into Mallaig to a welcome of bunting, balloons, pink ribbon large rosettes - even a purple Tinky Winky made an appearance!
As the 'Team' lined up (huddled!) for group photographs, the heavens opened up with a flurry of snow and sleet, making a perfect photograph nearly impossible. However, the pictures were taken and the engine proceeded to run round its stock, and set-back into the 'up' platform where a celebration of individual cup cakes were presented to the 'team' on behalf of the cafés and restaurants, who contributed to their cost. The cakes were made by Jackie Ross of Arisaig and spelt out 'Team Jacobite 2012'. Further photographs were taken inside the Buffet Car by our own Moe Mathieson.

Photo by Moe Mathieson

A presentation was made to the two recently 'passed out' West Coast Railways Steam Drivers by Operations Manager for WCR, the Hon James Shuttleworth. The new drivers are Ian Riley, the present owner of the two Black Five locomotives used on The Jacobite this year, and John Hunt, Chairman on NELPG, who owns the K1 locomotive, also employed on Jacobite duties this year. Both Ian and John have been previously passed Fireman and during the 2012 Jacobite season have been driving under the watchful eyes of experienced Drivers Alex Iain MacDonald and Bobby Duncan. A final assessment was undertaken by Traction Inspector Peter Walker on October 26th and they were both duly awarded their Driver certificates and badges in Mallaig. The appointment of two additional Steam Train Drivers will help secure future operations of steam service on the Fort William/Mallaig line by West Coast Railways. We wish Ian and John all the very best on their achievements and look forward to welcoming them on The Jacobite in 2013.

Black 5 owner Ian Riley received his Driver's Certificate on Mallaig Platform.
Photo Steve Roberts

It is understood that The Jacobite operations for 2013 will be much the same as 2012, with two trains a day for three months of the season, with the morning train running seven days a week for part of the mid-summer operation. A big thank-you to all at West Coast Railways for their continued support, and for bringing much needed passengers and tourists to our area. When both Jacobites operate, they bring six hundred people to Mallaig every day, a very big input to our local businesses and a huge boost to our economy. Should any local business wish to send a personal letter of thanks to West Coast Railways, I am sure it would be appreciated.

SRPS Rail tours and WCR (Jacobite operators)
For some years now, at the end of The Jacobite Steam Train season, the locomotives and rolling stock have to return to their various bases. This usually involves several locomotive and rolling stock moves in order to place everything back to its home, workshop or preserved railway. However, on Saturday October 27th, the day after the final Jacobite, a 'Special Train' was organised by SRPS and WCR to run with paying passengers from Fort William to Polmont. In order to get passengers to Fort William, a WCR Class 47 left Polmont with nine SRPS carriages at 6.45am. On arrival at Fort William, Ian Riley's two Black Five locomotives were attached, along with two support coaches to the stock, and at 12.34 the train departed Fort William for Polmont along with happy passengers who were promised fine premier wining and dining as they travelled.
During the journey, poor rail conditions were encountered south of Spean Bridge, so the Class 47 diesel (used to bring the train from Polmont) was despatched from Fort William so that rear assistance could be provided if necessary. However, despite wet leaves on the line which then froze, the two Black Five made good progress and left Rannoch only a few minutes late. A water stop was to be taken at Crianlarich, so a decision to attach the diesel was made then. Monday October 29th and Tuesday October 30th were allocated for removal of remaining engines and coaches from the Fort William depot. On Monday 29th, Alex Iain MacDonald drove the K1 locomotive away with rolling stock en route for Carnforth. It departed at 12.17, train length 325 feet, using headcode no. 5Z66. Tuesday saw the second rake of Jacobite stock, made up of Mark 2 carriages, hauled back to Carnforth by Ian Riley's beautifully restored Class 37 named Fort William. Even the ash and coal clinker from the yard is being removed by lorry to Glenfinnan Railway Station to build a track-bed for a planned miniature steam railway - more news as we know it.

Friends of West Highland Lines Plus Magazine
The winter edition of this very popular magazine is now on sale. As usual, it is packed with interesting news and features, along with some brilliant photography. Priced at only £2.99, it is excellent value for money. It can be obtained directly from me, or at 'Bill's Place', Fort William Railway Station.

Last month's competition
In my column last month, I set a simple competition to win a copy of a new book called Old Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig (why not Bracara also, wails Malcolm Poole!). Either the competition was too easy (which it was) or the book is proving to be very popular (which it is) because I have been inundated with correct entries. Unfortunately there can only be two lucky winners, the first one out of the hat being Mrs L M Byrne, Locheilside, Fort William. The second winner drawn is Mrs B Barker, Halifax, W, Yorkshire. Well done and thank you for entering the competition all of you. Commiserations to the unlucky entrants. My thanks go to Mallaig Heritage Centre and Mallaig Book Shop for kindly donating the prizes.

Another Competition!
Yes, I must be creditable this month as I have persuaded Panamint Cinema to part with a copy of their latest DVD West Highland - a Line for All Seasons. The DVD is divided into four sections: 1) West Highland (1960 b & w); 2) A Line for All Seasons (1980 colour); 3) West of Inverness (1939 b & w) and 4) The Line to Skye - (1973 colour).
Priced at £20.41 including p & p, the DVD can be obtained by post from Panamint Cinema, Dept. WHL, Abercorn Schoolhouse, by Newton, West Lothian EH52 6PZ, or go to www.panamint.co.uk or telephone 0844 310 9394, 10am - 5pm weekdays.
In order to win a copy of this first class DVD, just answer the following question: In what year did steam hand over to diesels on the West Highland Lines? Was it a) 1960s; b) 1970s; or c) 1980s?
Send your entries to me, Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD, no later than November 24th 2012. Good luck!

ScotRail News
Remember Club 55, bargain return tickets for 55 years of age or over, is still on anywhere in Scotland until November 30th (for the outward journey) for £19 return.
Now is the time to heap praise onto our hard working ScotRail staff who cope with (from Mallaig) 5.30am starts on the morning shift and 11.45pm finishes on the afternoon shift. All Drivers, Conductors, Station Staff, Maintenance Workers and Network Rail staff will be on duty to keep us safe throughout the winter months - along with the carriage cleaners and catering staff. Sometimes I don't think we give them the pat-on-the-back they deserve for our safety. Thank you one and all.
See you on the train.
Sonia Cameron

by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative

BVD Testing
Scotland has a scheme in place to eradicate BVD and it is mandatory for herds to be tested before Feb 2013. After that date it will be harder to sell calves and heifers, especially heifers for breeding, that have not been tested and some marts will stop accepting them. The vets make a charge for testing but it has to be done

New Convenor for the Crofting Commission
Susan Walker has been appointed to convenor and is the first woman to hold this position. Mrs Walker is strongly in favour of active crofting and making use of croft land and it is hoped that the Crofting Commission will be more functional in this direction now.
With rising feed costs and prices for calves and lambs staying the same or dropping by up to 40% this season along with little support yet from EU there seems little incentive to work crofts properly as in the past. However most crofters that have been in it for generations take a pride in keeping their crofts in good condition and getting the most they can from them. Its worth looking back to see the crop that could be taken from local crofts that are now under rushes and ragwort, three of these pictures were from up to 30 years ago but land responds to care and feeding and it can be restored if the will is there. The use of lime and phosphate plus intensive grazing and drainage gets rid of rushes. Financial aid from EU now is targeted to environmental benefits and cost saving and away from production and at the moment everything is in limbo until future support is decided by 2015 in Europe. By then breeding cow numbers could have dropped by so many that it would be hard to get back into crofting if it proved profitable again. Hill cows that can live out are particularly scarce and there is not much market for them.

Arisaig crofts - there are still some crofts worked nowadays as well.

There will be at least 2 ton of small bales out of an acre of ground.
At today's prices that amounts to £380 and would feed a cow and heifer for the winter.

Birdwatch - October report by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly quiet start to the month, most of the migrant waders having passed through by the end of September. Only a few Redshanks, Ringed Plover and Golden Plover to be seen around Traigh, and presumably the same 2 Greenshanks were on Morar Estuary throughout the month. Small groups of Geese were seen flying over on several occasions early in the month, including 60 Pink-footed Geese over Morar on the 3rd.
Whooper Swans were also reported heading south on various dates throughout the month, including 4 off Mallaig on the 9th, 26 south over Loch nan Uamh on the 18th, 30 over Morar and 22 over Arisaig on the 31st. A single Whooper was on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig, for most of the month and was joined by up to 6 birds mid-month, but only 3 remained by the end. Wigeon were seen on Loch nan Eala throughout, while small numbers were also seen on the Morar Estuary and at Morroch, Arisaig.
The first Goldeneye of the winter was a lone female at the west end of Loch Morar from the 17th. a male Goosander was also there from the 29th.
Great Northern Divers started to appear early in the month. On the nice, calm morning of the 9th at least 19 were counted on the sea, offshore from Gorten.
Manx Shearwater sightings had virtually dried up by the end of September, so it was a bit of a surprise when 2 newly fledged birds were recovered in Mallaig on the night of the 5th - 6th. maybe they had come to check out the Feis!!
A few reports of Great Skuas early in the month and a single Pomarine Skua was seen between Eigg and Mallaig on the 31st.
Migrant thrushes were a bit later than usual, the first Redwings were seen at Gorten and Back of Keppoch on the 16th and the first Fieldfares were seen in Arisaig on the 21st. Although late in arriving, numbers of both thrushes built up rapidly during the last week, with thousands of both Redwings and Fieldfares gorging on rowan berries throughoaut the area. The first Waxwing was seen at Rhubana on the morning of the 29th, associating with Redwing and Fieldfare. The next report was a flock of approximately 20 seen at Bracara on the 31st. During the snow showers on the 26th, a lone Swallow over Morar was an unexpected sight, although it did not hang about and disappeared south.
Jays were seen at several different locations around Morar, Arisaig and also Camusdarach as they foraged for acorns.
There were several sightings of Barn Owls at Fank Brae, Mallaig, Morar village and aBeoraid during the month, and a Barn Owl had taken up residence at the usual cliff site in Mallaig during the last week of the month.
Numerous reports again of Sea Eagles, mainly around the coast, including 3 together on the 25th at the Morar Estuary.
Also several reports of Golden Eagles with 3 seen together at Glen Borrodale on the 5th.

A Woodlark seen on Eigg during October caused a stir among the bird watching community,
and twitchers made their way to the island from near and far to see this rarity.
Photo courtesy of Bob McMillan, www.skye-birds.com


Another whirlwind trip round the world...

Blair and Julie Martin took their copy to Miss Haversham's Wedding party on Hallowe'en. Blair is from Arisaig but he and Julie now live in Musselburgh.

Jim Morton doesn't stay home in Mallaig for long! This time he went to the Titanic Experience in Belfast, which he says was worth the visit. Glad you're home safe and dry Jim!

Dougie Weake is the chocolatier at 'Chocolate - York's Sweet Story', the new attraction in York. Ann (aka The Ed) and Richard Lamont from Arisaig met him when they went there and lent him their copy - he's pictured here with the box of chocolates made for and presented to the Queen for her Golden Jubilee when she visited York to distribute Maundy money in April. The chocolate houses of York all contributed; moulds were made of the civic chains of office and the chocs were made to an 120 year old recipe. 'Chocolate' is well worth a visit too - not only very interesting but you get free samples too!

Arisaig's Steve Brown took his copy to Canada and showed it to his Canadian buddy Paul Beaulieu in the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto. Keen fan Steve flew to Canada to see his favourite band Rush play two gigs in their home town. See how the issue is cunningly showing the advert for the Songs for Dawn Charity Night Steve is organising on the 16th November in the Astley Hall!

Mallaig's Jean Duncan was snapped by daughter Alison reading her copy at her 80th birthday celebrations at Balinikill in Argyll. Happy birthday Jean!

Gold medallist Heather Stanning looked through the August copy, provided by Alison Stewart, which featured herself and fellow rower Helen Glover after they won the first Gold medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Not only the first Gold medal of the Games but the first Gold medal ever won by British female rowers.

Linda Alexander from MacDuff is pictured here at the Port Aventura Park in Salou, Spain. Her mum is Marion Hepburn in Mallaig.

Bob Burt took his copy from Mallaig to Budapest to visit his son Stephen, who is Production Manager for the third series of The Borgias, an international production screened on TV. Stephen was a founder member of West Word and still receives a monthly copy wherever he is. Bob raves about Budapest as a most beautiful, unspoilt city.

Congratulations to Steve Brown and Claire Innes of Wonderland who were voted to be one of top four wedding bands in Scotland! They took a West Word with them to the VOWS ceremony in the Glasgow Hilton on 29th October 2012. Wonderland won the category last year in the prestigious Voted Outstanding Wedding Supplier Awards.

It's four years this issue since we started the Wide World West Word feature, when Fiona and Vicky took their copy from Mallaig to Tenerife. We've not missed a month since! We've been to hundreds of places all over the world, too many to mention, and we've been pictured in the Antarctic, the Arctic Circle, on an oil rig, down a pothole and a gold mine, at the top of Ben Nevis, up a glacier in the French Alps, outside Downing Street, at a Polish wedding, in a plane over Sidney, we've bungee jumped off the Transporter Bridge in Middlebrough, done the loop the loop in a plane with 85 year old Tony, gone sky diving and skiing, run a half marathon, been to the Eurovision Song Contest, the London Olympics and the TT races in the Isle of Man, cruised the Amazon and the Canadian Arctic Ocean, ridden an elephant in India, been pictured with the Space Needle in Seattle, the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Rocky's statue in Philadelphia, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Wembley Stadium, the Golden Gate Bridge, Hoy and Barra Head lighthouses, the Taj Mahal, Alcatraz, the Giant's Causeway, Kisimul Castle in Barra, the Falkirk Wheel, the Acropolis, the Brandenberg Gate, the Great Wall of China, Hadrian's Wall, Machu Pichu in Peru, the Empire State Building, NASA Space Centre, the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Niagara Falls, Gracelands, the Nantucket Ferry at Cape Cod and we've been read in hospital, and on the toilet, by a cat in Morar, 'Wills and Kate' on an Arisaig croft, Stalin and Lenin in Red Square, Vikings at Largs, and the Masai tribe in Kenya!
So - where do you read yours?

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, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport, wildlife, politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

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