Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

Visit West Word on Facebook

List of Issues online

November 2020 Issue

Happy Birthday West Word! 26 years old this month.

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Glenfinnan
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
World Wide West Word

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.

The Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice currently has GP locum cover in place until Mid-February 2021. Graham Kramer and Kerstin Box from the 'Rediscover the Joy' scheme are back at the Practice until 4th December 2020, and Dr Neil Rait, who worked at the Practice for 13 weeks over the summer, is returning for a further nine weeks from 14th December. The Practice also has Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) support through the Rural Support Team, usually consisting of two or three days per week working in the Practice in addition to remote support.
The Practice is currently advertising for a Health Care Assistant to complement the existing team. This post will be for 10 hours, and the post holder will undertake tasks such as the taking of bloods, ECG's, blood pressures etc..
As mentioned in their previous update (see West Word March 2020), NHS Highland plan to go out to tender for a GP to take over the provision of the General Medical Services in Mallaig and Arisaig Medical Practice and say they are about to pick up this again with their Procurement Department. Fiona Mackenzie, NHS Primary Care Manager (West) said, 'The practice team has worked extremely hard over the past nine months, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuring that they are providing safe services for both patients and staff, and of course the delivery of the Flu Immunisation Campaign. The practice has run several very successful flu clinics and the uptake of the flu vaccinations has seen an increase this year in some groups. We are about to commence the vaccination of the Pre-school age group and are planning for the delivery of Phase Two of the Immunisation Programme. We are also continuing with the Pneumococcal and Shingles immunisations for the relevant patients.'

A new vessel joined the fleet at Mallaig Marine at the beginning of November. Orca III is a 15m x 6m catamaran which handles extremely well in all conditions - especially the west coast winter weather! The vessel previously belonged to Kilda Cruises who operate from Harris to St Kilda, Rockall and many other exposed locations. Orca III crossed the Minch from Harris and arrived safely in Arisaig harbour on Saturday 7th November. Her carrying capacity is a very comfortable 12 plus crew and she is already installed with the most up-to-date equipment to charter the vessel for marine survey works, and to operate as a marine support vessel for many of the maritime industries.


After 17 years of trading on Mallaig High Street, Wayoutwest will sadly be closing its doors in the Spring of 2021. Fiona and Michael would like to express their gratitude to all their staff over the years, to the local community, to everyone near and far who has shopped at Wayoutwest, and for friendship, loyalty and patronage.
Fiona says, 'We'd also like to sincerely thank all our local businesses, hotels and accommodation providers for their support and for all the times they've recommended visitors to drop in to Wayoutwest. We wish you all the best for the future during these challenging times. There are difficult days ahead for Mallaig High Street so when you can, shop and dine local.'

Once again, my apologies for the delay to the subscription copies last month. This time the printer paper didn't turn up when it was expected and eventually I discovered it had been lost by a courier in the Central Belt - and I had to wait another week for a replacement supply!
If you're a Facebook user and you haven't already 'liked' the West Word page then please do - especially if you don't live locally. It's an easy way for me to put out updates if I do have problems with the printing (and share photos and news too). www.facebook.com/westwordcommunitypaper
Hope you enjoy the scarecrow trail photos! So many great scarecrows, and so many photos - I'm sorry I couldn't fit more in!
As ever, thanks to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, and to Anne and Jane for taking care of the envelope labelling again.
Kirsty Bloom

Well it's been a fair while since I sat down to write for this column… think my writing might be a little on the rusty side. I've been meaning to come back to it at some point but had to wait til Ellie was reliably having long afternoon naps before I could even think about it!
We had some impressive stormy weather to start November off, which brought with it a huge amount of good quality seaweed that has been gathered by the trailer load for the community garden. The growing season is almost over though there are a few things still going such as leeks and kale but for the most part things will be getting put to bed until the spring now, tucked up under their nice seaweed blankets.
Kira (and Freya) continue to do "Woodfired Wednesdays", which means we get the luxury of freshly cooked takeaway pizza straight out the oven. Despite all the rain we've seen over the last month it hasn't dampened their spirits and they do a fantastic job of providing us all with a wee Wednesday treat.
There will be some changes coming to Doune next year as Andy and Liz, Jane and Martin are set to retire. 2021 will be 29 years for Andy and Liz of running Doune holidays, and the 19th season for Jane and Martin. Sadly Jane and Martin will have to relocate from the White House which has been their home as it will be needed for the new owners but they hope to be able to find somewhere nearby. If anyone is interested in this amazing business opportunity (and way of life), contact any of the above-mentioned folk for more details!
Another change on the horizon as Amie has sadly resigned from her post of Ranger. She has done a great job over the last few years. Thanks Amie J Something exciting also happened… Our post office has officially been reinstated in the Foundation Shop! It's been a long time coming so well done to all the folk involved!
Wee bit of news from the Renewables side of things… Our 280kw islanded electricity generating and distributing system is now unfortunately on its last legs despite the £1.2 million that's been spent on it over the last 20 years. The turbine and the genny both require renovation and the pipeline needs replacing. The good news is that funding has been secured for the turbine and genny work and Knoydart Renewables have provisionally been accepted for the Scottish Government's Off Grid Capital grant which would mean receiving £2.3 million if all goes well. Hopefully should know if this has been successful next month…
Oh, and since its suddenly nearly Christmas, If anyone is looking for locally made Christmas gifts for loved ones Wood Knoydart have now got a website where you can order handmade wooden items made from locally sourced Knoydart Wood. What's not to love? The Shop is also now taking orders for Venison if anyone is interested.
Hope everyone is staying warm and safe as winter draws us in!
Heather Robb

Hello, Stormy Muck calling . . .
Hi everyone, thankfully we are still rooted despite all that Mother Nature hurled at us over the last weeks - and now a new issue has arisen that one of the perches has disappeared without trace, so no doubt will be a while for a ferry. October has been the Moffat's Month of Birthdays with all having their day within the last 31. . . We are slowly getting to know our new residents Sharyn, Peter and four year old Amelija, who are with us for a few months to experience island living.
Ferocious pumpkin carvings and ghostly apparitions were spotted on Halloween along with eerie wolf howling and cackled voices (no not the book club) which has no doubt resulted in traumatic dreams for young people!
Tups at the Farm and Croft are getting restless and beginning to flex their muscles in anticipation in getting to work then sleep for next 12 months . . . sound familiar . . . ??
Now is the time for store hoarding and freezer filling, as days are shorter. Roll on November and Bonfire night.
Well folks that's it for us, Person to see . . . Christmas sweeties to make!
Bye bye,
Bruce Boyd

It has been a busy month despite coming to the end of what has been a brief and very different tourist season. The last three yachts anchored in the bay in the middle of the month and whilst we are still seeing a few hardy visitors, things are definitely getting quieter.


On the farm the last of the calves went off to market, however Gerry is expecting some new tups at the end of the month and they will be put to work straight away.
The island has been busy with contractors coming to catch up on maintenance work which was delayed earlier in the year and when Ian Mitchell, electrician, was here he also fitted the Community's new defibrillator at the shop. Hopefully it will not be required, but it is easily accessible and straightforward to use.
The harbour has also received attention with North West Marine coming to repair a damaged fender and we had our annual external audit of harbour systems and procedures. We are still waiting for the final report but early indications are that we will be given a clean bill of health. Unlike the other Small Isles, Canna is a harbour authority in its own right.
We are all still enjoying the benefits of Liz and Indi's hard work in the Canna House garden with regular vegetable boxes full of beetroot, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, to name but a few.
Time to batten down the hatches and await the seasonal gales which seem to be later this year.
Donald MacKenzie

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
The Campbells bought Canna in 1938 and a diary entry for Armistice Day, November 11th, tells us what was going on on the island and how the weather was.


"Gille Brighde beached. Fairly high wind, Lochearn refused to take pier and 2 colts and nomination for county election were left" Here is the said Gille Bridghe lying forlornly beached on the shore in front of Canna House. Also the Lochmor, MacBrayne's ship which serviced Canna between 1930-64.



If you're beginning to think about freshening up your winter outerwear wardrobe, perhaps you might like to take inspiration from Margaret Fay Shaw's collection of sales books for some very fetching Parisian bonnets, which she collected when she was studying music there in 1922/3.



She studied with the famous French composer, conductor and teacher, Nadia Boulanger. I'm not sure how the bonnets would have survived a rigorous Hebridean gale however!
Fiona MacKenzie

The four new houses have now been allocated and the new tenants have accepted! This will mean a further 14 people moving to Rum this month. There are three families with children, which will take the school roll from two to five, and a further three preschool children, which brings the total number of children to 12 and the total population into the 40s. It has taken a long while and a lot of energy to create more housing and we are all looking forward to welcoming the new people, amongst whom are some folk who used to live here some years ago.
We have also welcomed our new ranger, Kat Milligan. Kat was supposed to start back in April but this got postponed until October because of the lockdown and further restrictions. She is working remotely for a few months until the New Year when she will move here. We are hoping that next season won't be as disastrous as this year's as Kat has lots of exciting new projects in the pipeline. Kat has her own foraging blog and after only minutes off the ferry managed to locate a patch of hedgehog mushrooms, which have been eluding me for years . . .
Hallowe'en was almost stormed off but the children managed to have a small scary distanced party in the polytunnel which is ventilated enough to be considered an outdoor space. The kids are looking forward to having more friends to play with - maybe next year's party will be more of a riot.
We also managed to have a bonfire and fireworks at the campsite on the 7th; really good fireworks, generously donated by John Alex Boyd, which was a blessing as most of the community funds which would have paid for them are taken up on the village hall electricity bill. There was no barbeque or anything this year so it was a bit more subdued than usual but it was still good to get out and meet up with everyone.
November birthdays, that I'm aware of, are Kim and Joss. Happy Birthday!
Fliss Fraser

October has been a mixed month for us all, with lovely days in between lashing rain and gale force winds. With our island attractions still closed, we hope our few visitors enjoyed the simple joys of bramble gathering, walking and reading by the fire side.
As to our oldest resident, Peggy Kirk - who turned 90 this year: she thoroughly enjoyed her virtual birthday party in the comfort of her own home, although when the sun came out, she sat outside briefly with her family who had gathered a sumptuous spread in her garden. Her numerous facebook greetings and messages were put together as a you tube video she was able to watch time and time again throughout the day, in between zoom and face time calls from far and wide. She really enjoyed all the tunes sent by family and friends and especially Gabe's jig and Yogi's waltz which were composed for her - 'Mrs Peggy Kirk of Cleadale' and 'Margaret Kirk's waltz'. They moved her to tears and they are bound to become classics in the folk repertoire! She also much enjoyed the song requests for her in various Gaelic programmes, and is now working her way through at least a year's worth of chocolate and sweet goodies!
Otherwise, the month has been fairly dominated by the disruption to our ferry service, due to low tide, damaged fender and the final straw - a sudden engine problem. Glad to report it is all back to normal now, with the bathy survey and fender repairs finally carried out by Highland Council. We are totally dependent on our ferry lifeline service, and tempers have been frayed at times; but the fact is our Mallaig freight staff have been doing all they could to find alternatives and ship stranded goods, and they really deserve a big thank you from all of us for their efforts.
A big thank you also goes to Professor Percy Hammond for his generous gift of an astronomical observatory to the island. The observatory arrived earlier in the month and will be put up in the forestry as soon as the concrete plinth is finished. Percy, as Prof Hammond is known on Eigg, loves Eigg and wanted his observatory to benefit the island: "I am 96 years old now, and my eyesight is not as good as it was. The night sky where I live in Barrington near Cambridge has been affected by the new housing development nearby, and I felt that the time had come to relocate the telescope: Eigg is the ideal place for it with its wonderful night skies, and I really loved the idea of the community on Eigg and the children especially using it to learn more about the stars." Thanks to Dougal and Owain for their work in identifying a suitable location for the Observatory. Percy is planning to come to Eigg in the spring and it would be nice to have an official opening in his presence!
Farming wise, most cattle and lambs have gone to the sale now, despite ferry timetable disruptions. Prices seem to have been fluctuating wildly with really good prices initially and a disappointing fall later in the month. A worry for our farmers already worried about the Brexit impact. The Small Holiday lets legislation currently planned is not likely to make them happier, as the intended registration fees would take half of the income of such diversification activities. Expect a full mail bag from unhappy small holiday lets providers on Eigg to our MSPs and Highland councillors very soon! There is a vast difference between the situation in Fort William and Skye, the two reference points in the consultation, and the Small isles!
Otherwise, there is steady progress on the hub project with the building of the toilet block intended to start soon as part one of the project. Eigg Electric has also received its much-awaited CARES funding for new storage batteries, more solar panels (120 KW) and new inverters to help power the new hub (its power plant will be located in the Green shed). The innovative thing is that we will also be able to develop and install a new system to monitor real time generation and demand so that the team are able to understand individual demands and residents will be better able to monitor their own consumption. Finally there will also be two small domestic heat demo projects based on air source heat pumps, an innovation for Eigg!
On this topic, we are all very pleased that our little film presenting the Eigg Transition Agenda in the Clean Energy EU Islands Video gallery, as part of their online conference in the last week of October was singled out as showing a good community engagement. You can discover it alongside all the other island videos on https://euislands.eu/event/clean-energy-eu-islands-online-forum. We are currently finalising our agenda, based on the three pillars of circular economy, heating and buildings and community engagement. Working out to implement it and make it work with the Clean Energy Transition Agenda of the off grid Scottish Islands will be our work over the winter months. You can find out more about these agendas on the page above.


Last and not least, how to have a decent Halloween in these COVID times? Our island parents found the solution: a Halloween walk from one end of Cleadale to the other. Taking advantage of the calm weather before the storm, a howling band of terrifyingly made-up children roamed the township, singing some brilliant Hallow'een numbers in between meeting with tombstones and hands emerging off the ground at Eigg Organics, encountering the lonely Eigg Broonie outside Croft n6 - suitably eerily lit up with candles in the windows, a glamorous blond ghost with a scary cat outside Babette and Andy's, a Bocan in the trees, a one-eyed Gruagach in the Cuagach burn and a couple of scary gnomes in Maggie and Wes' forest tunnel! Meanwhile the happy guisers' lights could be seen from the top of An Sgurr, where Dylan, Celia and Oli placed their pumpkin on top of the Sgurr trig point on their Halloween moonlit climb!


Then we battened down the hatches for Storm Aiden.
Camille Dressler


Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
From vibrant summer greens to a riot of Autumnal sepia colours, Glenfinnan is looking as bonnie as ever. It may appear that we are all winding down after what has been a busy/crazy summer but the work of the Community goes on!

Back long ago, when we were allowed to visit folks in their homes or dance an eightsome reel, the speed limit through Glenfinnan was reduced to 40pmh. We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who uses the road and who has adhered to this change. It has improved the safety of foot passengers and other road users.
We appreciate that driving through Glenfinnan has not been without its difficulties but please rest assured that all is being done by a very dedicated team to alleviate the problems that we have all had to contend with.

Breaking Music News!
Exciting news hot off the press is that Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band are releasing their 3rd studio album this month called 'Road to Glenfinnan'. Although live gigs and dances are not permitted right now, there is nothing to stop you having a jig in your kitchen to this instead. The CD production was kept as local as possible to support Lochaber businesses and was all recorded in Glenfinnan. The album was designed by Graficanna on the Isle of Canna, and pictures are by Abrightside Photography, Fort William.
The band is a regular on the BBC Alba Hogmanay show and this will be no different this year when they headline along with guests and various different artists from across the gaelic diaspora.

I have heard on the Glen vine that a new book, titled 'Building the Mallaig Railway - a Photographer's Story', is soon to be published by resident Hege Hernæs, the Glenfinnan Railway Museum Curator. The book is a tale of the West Highland Railway with many stories, pictures and history of the famous line. Watch this space for release dates.
St Finnan's Church remains closed at present but worship can be had by visiting our neighbouring parish's Facebook site at facebook.com/catholicroughbounds and accessing a live video stream.
The Glenfinnan House hotel closes for the winter on November 1st. Thank you to the Gibson family and staff for all your hard work this season and hopefully we will see some takeaway nights throughout the winter!
It was with regret that the Glenfinnan Angling Club and the Glenfinnan Gun Club were unable to host any competitions this year. They would like to thank everyone for their continuing support and look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2021.
And finally we had a double celebration recently with the lovely Julia Foster becoming Granny to beautiful twin girls. Her daughter Aimée Foster-Boyde and her partner Jason Chan from Edinburgh, welcomed Nola Yi Chan and Alba Mei Chan into the world on October 1st. We look forward to seeing you walking the little ladies in the Glen in the near future! Many congratulations from us all.
Catriona Hunter

The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust has been gifted an observatory by a long standing friend of Eigg, Professor Percy Hammond, retired professor of Electrical Engineering at Cambridge, who has visited Eigg for the past 30 years and whose daughter Nicky and son-in-law Richard have a house on the island.
Comprising an 11 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope, a computerised mount and a dome to house it, the observatory is a gift of considerable value and the community is extremely grateful to Percy for this generous gift, which arrived on Eigg in early October.
As a consequence, a few avid Eigg stargazers then combed the island for a suitable location. Light pollution, access and of course skyline were the criteria. After visiting the highlighted spots, it became apparent that one was way ahead of the others, right in the middle of the forestry, with a reasonable road access within 50 metres of the site, and well away from passing car headlights on Eigg's main road - our main source of light pollution.
Work has started on a concrete plinth to stand the observatory on and the newly set up Eigg Astronomical Society hopes to hold observatory sessions on clear nights within the next month!
Dougal Tolan

Arisaig's memorial was unveiled two days short of the second anniversary of the end of WWI and the second informal national Remembrance Day. It was designed by George Jack, associate of Phillip Webb; George also designed Faire na Sgurr and the old club room of the Astley Hall.
The occasion is recounted in Arisaig & South Morar Record of Service 1914 - 1919, the unique scrapbook put together in 1920 by Lady Astley-Nicolson. The book is on display in The Land, Sea & Islands Centre and a copy can be looked through there and in Mallaig Heritage Centre.
'Tuesday November 9th, 1920, was a very memorable day in the annals of Arisaig and was observed as a public holiday. The day seemed fitted to the ceremony and the surroundings in which it took place. There was a soft grey mist and veiling clouds sweeping low over the hills and islands, lifting occasionally with a suggestion of a light behind, as there is hope ahead.
'Locheil came to perform the ceremony, and was met at Arisaig Station by a Guard of Honour of 22 men (all ex-Servicemen) under the command of Sgt. Lachlan Gillies DCM.
'After Locheil had inspected the Guard and addressed a few words to them, he led them at a sharp pace down the hill to where the rest of the procession were assembled.
'Here the Piper, Hugh McDonald, took the lead and, swinging past the Guard, headed the Procession along the winding road to where the memorial cross stood, solitary and aloof, looking seawards.'
Locheil made a speech, 'standing unbonneted before the Memorial', paying tribute to the 96 men who had left the village to go to war and the 22 men and one nurse - Sister Mary MacKinnon - whose names were on the cross.
'Turning to the memorial, Locheil pulled a string and the veiling sheet immediately fell to the ground.'
After more speeches, Sir Arthur Nicholson, who had lost his two sons in the Great War, thanked Locheil. Prayers were said by Fr Donald MacEachen (standing in for Canon Chisholm) and Rev. J. A. MacDonald.
All the arrangements for the ceremony had been made by Mr William Grant and Mr Alex MacDonald, who acted as Marshals.
Ann Martin

New album from the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band
The Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band are delighted to announce their third album release, Road to Glenfinnan, which is full of great toe-tapping dance tunes and songs to keep the spirits up. The band is made up of stalwarts from the traditional music scene, equally at home touring the great stages of the world as performing in the local village hall.
On accordion is Iain MacMaster, Iain MacFarlane on fiddle, Ingrid Henderson on piano and Colm O' Rua on banjo along with special guests Hugh MacCallum and Joe Gillies on drums and vocals. The band say 'We're so happy to be able to bring our music and fun into peoples' lives, especially this year, and we're very proud to have kept it all Lochaber based by using the Old Laundry Studio, Glenfinnan and Graficanna for design.'
According to Highland fiddler Duncan Chisholm, 'They are the absolute real deal. Without doubt the number one exponents of real West Highland culture bar none, the epitome of what it means to be an authentic Highland Band. This album is a perfect example of all of these things, beautifully crafted on the shores of Loch Shiel.'
'Road to Glenfinnan' is available to pre-order now and will be on general release in the shops from Dec 27th. Order direct from www.oldlaundryproductions.com or pop into the Granite House or Mallaig Art Gallery.

Arisaig Community Trust News
Shorefront Project
The final design has now been submitted to the Highland Council for planning approval. The reference is 20/03984/FUL and if you wish to comment on the application you can do so either by logging into the Highland Council website or in writing to them. The full documents submitted for the planning application are also available to view and download in the Projects Section of our website (www.arisaigcommunitytrust.org.uk).

In addition to the planning application we have submitted a grant application to the Scottish Government's Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. The decision on this application is due in early December.
Please note the following about the planning submission:

Any volunteers wishing to take the lead on any of these elements would be very welcome!
Please contact us at info@arisaigcommunitytrust.org.uk

Time for a change: a Changing Place toilet for our area?
The visit at the beginning of October of Elaine, Debbie and Shona, a Glasgow family with strong Eigg ties, starkly reminded me of the unmet need for better facilities for people living with disability, as I had not seen them since Shona was quite wee. Shona has Rett's syndrome, a rare genetic disorder causing severe disability with no mobility at all, which means she is dependent on her family for all her needs. Shona is now 14 and loved her Eigg holiday by the beach. Her family takes her on holidays to many places all over Scotland, especially Tiree which has the special beach buggies, but they were so happy to be back on Eigg after the lockdown.
However, Elaine, Shona's granny, explained how much easier their travels would be if there were more "changing places toilets" available (there are only 1527 in the whole of the UK!). There is currently little awareness of the needs of people with disabilities that limit mobility and how the lack of special toilets are putting at risk their carers and families when they have to take to use the toilet floor for changing. Can you imagine having to travel all the way from Glasgow to Eigg without having the possibility for a change? Whether by car or train, it's a long journey, and then there is the ferry crossing and getting to your accommodation!
So together we wondered how great it would be if Mallaig, as a growing tourism destination and travel hub, would consider investing in such a facility for people with little mobility and their families as a Changing Place toilet. Shona and her family are surely not alone in wanting to travel and discover more of Scotland's coast.
Find out more about the Changing Place campaign and what a difference such facilities make to people's lives by visiting: www.changing-places.org. If you feel strongly about this issue, you might consider getting in touch with your local councillor or community council to raise awareness.

We are absolutely delighted at Traigh Golf Course to receive recognition as one of the best nine-hole courses in the world from such a prominent magazine as GOLF which has a huge circulation, particularly in the US.
(See https://golf.com/travel/50-best-9-hole-courses-2020/)

The most special aspects of Traigh are the sensational views from the course. Some of the tributes we have received emphasise this too:
"There's surely no more beautiful setting for golf anywhere in the world" Golf Monthly
"Gem of the far north; a sight to behold" Daily Telegraph
"We like its raw beauty" Daily Mail (Scotland's Top 100 Courses)
"Bears all the hallmarks of a classic seaside links" Bunkered
Selected as one of Golf Monthly's '20 Courses to Play in 2017'

We are very proud of the course and have worked extremely hard on it since my father had it redesigned in 1993. It is based on a line of grassy hills, with the springy turf of a true links course. Traigh is a subtle golf course that rewards accurate shot making. Good players are made to work for their scores, and yet high handicappers are given every chance. In short, Traigh offers something for everyone. Traigh presents the golfer with all the traditional challenges of a classic seaside links.
This year of course has been quite a battle for us as we were closed for some crucial visitor months, but we have had a remarkable response since reopening with local membership of the club up 70%. We are very appreciative of this support from the club, and especially pleased that we have got so many new younger members - including most of the Mallaig football team. And after lockdown ended, with so many more people holidaying in the UK, we have seen very strong visitor numbers as well in the second half of the year.
Our greenkeeper Gavin Johnstone has worked tirelessly all year with able assistance from Angus Macintyre. Gavin was not furloughed but kept the course alive during the difficult period of lockdown, and we are enormously grateful to him for that. We have received a great number of compliments about its condition at the moment - as good as it has ever been, according to most of our visitors.
As well as our own website www.traighgolf.co.uk, I would also encourage you to look at a video on YouTube that has recently come out from James Robinson Golf - www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyTp5ycqRcQ. James has a very large number of followers, and I feel that he has really captured the spirit of a most special sporting venue.
David Shaw Stewart


Scarecrow Trail 2020
Lady Lovat and Mallaig Primary would like to thank everyone who took part in the Scarecrow Trail last month! it was a great whole community effort. The trails raised £165 for Lady Lovat Primary and £309 for Mallaig Primary.


The winners were as follows:

Lady Lovat
Favourite Overall Scarecrow: Flat Out Cyclist (1) - Lorraine Crawley
Most Effort: Catch of the Day (9) - Pamela King and Rachel Wilkinson
Funniest: Donald Trump (14) - Morag Martin


Favourite Overall Scarecrow: Minion Trouble (31) - Kirsten MacLean
Most Effort: Buzz on the Brae (41) - Marion Affleck
Funniest: Dougie Beck (33) - Mallaig Primary EM 5-7 class

We look forward to next year's ideas for the scarecrow trails!


A RUM DO by Ann Martin
The best of luck to the new business on the Isle of Rum, Askival Rum, featured in the last issue of West Word (October 2020). It reminded me of another rum-type brew associated with the island, one that was based on a 4,000 year old recipe!
My memory might be faulty in parts after 34 years, but as far as I remember the story was this.
An archaeological dig on Rum which took place between 1984-86 uncovered evidence of the earliest human settlement yet discovered in Scotland, a Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) site going back some 9,000 years. Skara Brae on Orkney is only some 5000 years old.
About 1983 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland were conducting a survey of the island when a ploughman uncovered a quantity of flaked bloodstone and a small amount of flintwork, including a barbed and tanged arrowhead in the field above Loch Scresort. The finds were reported to the RCAHM and they called in archaeologist Caroline Wickham-Jones.
In the spring of 1984 freelance archaeologists Caroline W-J and Dave Pollock and their team of Historic Scotland archaeologists arrived on Rum to start excavations on the site. Over the next two years they uncovered a considerable quantity of bits of stone in one small area of about 4500m2, with little found in the rest of the field. Over 100,000 artefacts were found at the site, evidence it was in use for over a thousand years.
Most of the material was Rum bloodstone, also called chalcedony. It was popular in the Stone Age for making tools which in other parts of the country would be made from flint, so nomads would visit Rum by sea to mine it on Bloodstone Hill.

Barbed and tanged arrowhead

By the time the dig ended in 1986, evidence had been found of later human habitation - possible post holes, firepits containing hazelnut shells, broken stone slabs which were possibly hearth stones. There were also several pits, some of which could have been post holes for tepee like dwellings. Domestic rubbish including Neolithic pottery sherds was also found, infilling holes and ditches, and in a possible midden.

An artist's impression of dwellings at the site

Bits of plant substances were found adhering to the surface of a few pottery sherds, and proved to be pollen of various plants - ling and other heathers, meadowsweet and royal fern. It was most likely they had been combined deliberately and similar concoctions found elsewhere appeared to be a result of prehistoric fermentation. This was then the earliest evidence of alcohol consumption in Scotland.
Residents on the Small Isles and the mainland were invited by the archaeological team to take part in the last week of the dig in 1986. Myself from Arisaig, Mairi MacKinnon and Karen Helliwell from Eigg and Doreen (Nessie) Jones from Muck took up the challenge - if I've forgotten someone, I apologise!
When we left at the end of the dig, Mairi, Karen and Doreen decided they would try to make the brew and got the list of ingredients from the team. I didn't get to taste it but I believe it was pretty awful!
However, the experts got involved. A drink based on the fermentation of heather honey. was made under modern conditions in the Girvan laboratory of William Grant & Sons, the Glenfiddich distillers: they used only the ingredients identified from the pollen analysis. The results were quite palatable, at 8% proof. They made 60 bottles, but didn't market it. The dig was over but that wasn't the end of the story. Wm Grant decided they would hold a competition to name the concoction, and the prize was quite amazing: the winner would be given a tour of the Distillery on Speyside, be taken from there, I believe by helicopter, for a night in Inverlochy Castle; from there by steam train to Mallaig, where Arisaig Marine's Shearwater picked them up and took them to Rum, for a few nights in Kinloch Castle. A ceilidh was arranged for the lucky winner and the famous Eigg Ceilidh Band was engaged to play. The competition was run in publications all over the country. By chance a young man commuting to London picked up a magazine containing the details and on impulse entered it. He won the prize with the name . . .Rum Dew. And so it was that a great party was had by all in Rum's village hall. Every table had complimentary bottles of Glenfiddich (no Rum Dew!) The islanders, the Ceilidh band and followers and those archaeologists who could get there had a great evening but I'm not sure what the young winner and his wife thought of it all! When we all trailed back to the Shearwater the next morning, the musicians were all holding their instruments. From their supposedly empty music cases came a gentle clinking. . .

Mallaig Lifeboat Log

17th October 2020
Launched at 18:25 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a small fishing boat. Whilst hauling her gear to the south of Arisaig Point, the vessel suffered an engine failure. As the vessel was still attached to her gear the Skipper was unable to rectify the problem and so requested assistance via the Coastguard at Stornoway. On scene at 19:00 in calm conditions, the Lifeboat strapped the casualty alongside for the half hour tow to the harbour at Glenuig.

26th October 2020
Launched at 11:35 by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg. A resident who was due to undergo a medical procedure was to be taken to the mainland. Due to cancellations and latterly a technical fault with the ferry the patient was not able to attend on the due date. Now overdue by a number of days, the casualty was beginning to suffer the ill effects of the delay. On scene at 12:16 the patient was waiting at the pier. Once checked over by the Medics he was quickly boarded along with his partner for the journey back to Mallaig. Lifeboat berthed in Mallaig at 13:00 and patient transferred to Fort William's Belford Hospital. Lifeboat ready for service at 13:10.

27th October 2020
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 10:55 to the assistance of a vessel with steering failure. The vessel, on passage from Fraserburgh to Kilkeel in Northern Ireland, was located to the north of the Hyskeir Lighthouse. Barra Island lifeboat was also tasked to assist. Lifeboat made best speed out via Canna Sound to the casualty's location. As the Lifeboat cleared the Sound the casualty reported that they had regained steering and were proceeding at a slow speed towards Rum Sound. Barra Island were now also on scene with the casualty. Once Mallaig Lifeboat arrived on scene at 12:15 and a request to escort the casualty from the Coastguard was agreed, Barra Island Lifeboat was stood down to return across the Minch in less than favourable conditions. Hence began the slow punch through a stiff SW breeze and swell towards Rum Sound accompanied by heavy rain showers. Much to the relief of both Casualty and Lifeboat the wind fell away as both vessels approached the Sound, and conditions allowed more speed to be applied towards their destination. Arriving at Mallaig 17:00 the casualty was safely berthed alongside the pier to await repair. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 17:30.

Mallaig Harbour News
It definitely feels like Winter has arrived - the Marina is now closed for the season and CalMac are back on their winter timetables, so after what has felt like a very short season, things have quietened off again. The weather over the last two weeks of October was awful, which felt like it brought everything to a halt anyway! On the positive side, the Sprat Pump has been installed on the Harbour, and two of the local boats, Caralisa and Rebecca Jeneen are all geared up for the Sprat fishery, and hopeful of starting on 2nd November.
We've been getting used to the changes to the fish feed loading this month - with the Aqua Senior away, we have more regular but much smaller loadings of feed onto Ferguson Shipping's landing crafts, rather than one large loading every few days as it was with the Aqua Senior. Some of you may have noticed our Harbour Scarecrow which was part of the Scarecrow Trail - we made him from buoys, and called him 'Bobby Buoy' - it was great to see so many scarecrows throughout the area - especially when we have been unable to have any other community events this year.


By the time you read this, STV will have shown 'Don't Rock the Boat' which filmed in Mallaig in August. At the time, we weren't allowed to share this photo (above), as it was still a secret as to who was in which team, but it's too good a photo not to share now!

Our public meeting on the proposals to develop more space in the Outer Harbour took place on 5th November, and you can view the presentation and download a copy of the consultation questionnaire from Affric's website. www.affriclimited.co.uk/News/Consultations.php.
Our intention is to reclaim the area of the Outer Harbour which was previously earmarked for a relocation of the boatyard. We have considered various designs, but the existing construction of the breakwater is such that the most cost-effective design is to take a diagonal line from behind the old ice factory to where the piling begins on the outer breakwater. This design will:
- Provide 60m of additional quay length capable of taking boats of up to 500 tonnes.
- Provide 4000m2 of additional laydown
- Ensure no reduction in the workable length of the Ice and Breakwater Quays.

In addition, we are considering deepening an area of the Outer Harbour. Current water depths in the outer harbour are -4mCD, however the existing infrastructure could facilitate water depths of -6m CD. It would however require dredging, including blasting of rock and clearly that would have cost implications. It would also cause some disruption to the operation of the Harbour while the works were in progress.
If, having seen the proposals, you wish to make representations on the proposed development, please contact: Fiona Henderson, Affric Limited, Lochview Office, Loch Duntelchaig, Farr, IV2 6AW, consultation@affriclimited.co.uk by the 20th of November 2020.
As well as the proposals for this major development, we have also been working on some smaller proposals, including working with the new South Knoydart Community Council to apply for funding to install a shelter at the top of the new passenger access pontoon. West Wheels have also completed the installation of their electric charging point for their new electric van, which is within one of the Harbour car parks.
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154 jacqueline@mallaigharbourauthority.com

On and Off Rails

The power of West Word!
You sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin. Firstly thank you to the editor for including my review of the latest edition of FOWHL magazine last month and following on from that I owe a debt of gratitude to each of you who contacted me requesting me to send you a copy. It certainly has been entertaining to read the notes that have accompanied them. I feel proud to be able to help you in this way. You should have all received your copies - as far afield as the Isle of Wight to the Kingdom of Fife. We are all one 'railway family': let's keep each other going through these strange times.

The power of WCRC
It was a bold and calculating decision by West Coast Railway company to extend the 'covid secure' Jacobite steam train service from Fort William to Mallaig whilst there was clearly a demand for it to run.
However in the end, really bad weather, lack of good daylight hours to maintain all the work in the yard at Fort William, requiring to keep the locomotive on each week 'in steam' - all through the night, etc, led to the last day of the 2020 season's running taking place on Friday, November 6th.
Time to thank all of the locomotive and on-board train crews, who have lived away from their families in a bubble at the goods yard at Fort William to prep the two steam locomotives, two diesel trains, five mark two coaches that formed the afternoon Jacobite, plus the seven carriages that have conveyed many a masked passenger (160 per journey actually) each morning and afternoon. Then there are the firemen, the night cleaners (inside and out), the catering girls and boys and saving the best till last, Florence the 'Team Jacobite' train manager who, it has to be said, oversees the whole operation each day. The team of drivers, the fitter in the yard, the ash pan cleaners, the coal yard quality control team!! It goes on and on!!
I have taken great comfort in the banter this year, and given as good as I get!!
I will miss you all, but, as Easter is earlyish in 2021 (Good Friday is April 2nd) and hopefully with a covid-free or low status as we are now, we will welcome you back again - no doubt still wearing masks, 2m apart etc.
Fortunately we, as a community, are considered at level One of the pandemic as I write. I know that the last few weeks of trading have been like a double-edged sword hanging over us, as we count down the days. Time to take a breath, take a walk, and say that we got through it so far!

Scotland's ScotRail trains
Hats off to all of the Mallaig crews (drivers, conductors, booking office and night cleaners) for keeping our trains safe, and themselves! We are still currently encouraged to travel only for essential purposes. As we also can only move about in the Highland Council area by train, I believe quite rightly that, once past Roy Bridge we are out of area.
I personally have not been on the train since March, and as someone who has travelled everywhere by train all the time for 76 years it is 'weird'; in the dictionary it defines the word as fate: that which comes to pass!! That's me.
But seriously over the past four weeks I know that our local crews have had to deal with deep water running along the tracks, animals (of various sorts) on the line, trespassers (with children!) waving at them, darkness at both ends of the day, gales . . . Last weekend the high tide filled the tunnel under the tracks by the points at Mallaig, and sprayed high into the air onto the line! Dodgy points, trees down, TPWS lights out when the electricity was off - and we are all at home whilst the P-Way men assess and repair it all. Keep going everyone, and thanks.

Other rail related items
The main line between Edinburgh and Glasgow via Falkirk reopened on September 21st after the line had been wrecked at Polmont by floodwater spilling from the nearby Grand Union Canal on August 12th. The breach was a 300m stretch of the railway embankment. Fish from the canal were found in fields and rivers, 15,000 tonnes of soil and stone were displaced, over 3000m of signalling cables had to be relaid, two double track (new) gantries installed plus a complete double track railway. The time the line was closed ScotRail operated a rail bustitution service between Linlithgow and Edinburgh. Thanks to all involved.
On the same day the same severe weather triggered the landslide which derailed an HST train near Stonehaven which claimed the lives of the train driver Brett McCullough (45), conductor Donald Dinnie (58) and passenger Christopher Stutchbury (62) at Carmont. 210ft of bridge parapets, 1,500ft of railway and rebuilding of the railway embankment, 1,200ft of telecom cables and flood defences were required and the line reopened on Tuesday 3rd November. Scotland's railway boss Alex Hynes said it was a 'very poignant day' as the victims were remembered. Railway accidents cause sadness wherever they take place. There will not be one railway worker or their families that does not remember August 12th 2020.

GSS in joint venture to develop Haymarket Yards site
Aberdeen-based property developer GSS Developments (owned and run by members of the Stevenson family) are part of a new joint venture that has acquired a disused site of a former railway goods yard in Edinburgh for £1.62 million. It is well remembered by many retired railwaymen who will be sad that no further use was required for the site. Near to Haymarket railway station there are excellent rail links to Glasgow, London and cities on the East Coast line. It's sold with planning consent for a 91 bed student housing development, but alternative uses are under consideration. It was a thriving railway goods yard. Now it is called a 'prime location'. Why do I sigh? The same sigh that I felt when Mallaig signal box was destroyed by JCBs or when the steam cranes disappeared from Mallaig pier, I guess, and don't even mention Mallaig's turntable or the wrought iron and glass canopy that covered Mallaig's island platform! I just thought when I heard the news: is it really progress?

Really nice news
The Ness Islands Railway, in Whin Park, Inverness, owned and operated by the Highland Hospice who took over the railway in 2019, in its first operating season from April to October last year produced a surplus of £14,137 - all of which was donated to Highland Hospice to support the delivery of palliative care throughout the Highlands.
Due to Covid 19 restrictions it did not open until July this year. It now has sneeze guard screens, hand sanitisers, gloves, coach sanitisation after every trip - which has been challenging - but it has been a huge success! The steam locomotive Chrissy has been working (well, what can I say) under full steam, and the two diesel locomotives Uncle Frank and Uncle John have been doing their turns and now all three are ready for a rest, and so are the volunteers who operate and maintain them.
The aim of the team is to reopen around Easter next year. Figures are only available for July and August but £12,000 was raised in July (£3000 more than July 2019) and August smashed all expectations with £13,000 coming in (more than double the takings of August last year). What a fantastic feeling that must have been for the volunteers team who run it so smoothly and effectively. Well done!

Glasgow Queen Street: Britain's favourite railway station
On 16th October 2020 the 'World Cup of Stations' 2020 took place online. Out of 2,579 railway stations across the country Glasgow Queen Street was shortlisted as one of the 48 stations to go forward in an online, week-long, poll which recorded over 95,000 votes in total. They saw off the competition in each day of public voting, beating Scottish rivals Motherwell, Aberdeen and the Wemyss Bay in the group stages, and heavyweights Newcastle and Crewe in the semi-final. Two of this year's finalists once again thought the path to victory online was to put their 'station cat' into the frame (Huddersfield and Stourbridge Junction) but in the end, Glasgow Queen Street, fresh from its £120 million redevelopment, proved too much for them, even ahead of King's Cross!
Remember to stay safe during coronavirus; if you must travel, travel safely - we must all play our part.

See you on the train - eventually - still not yet.
Sonia Cameron

BIRDWATCH October 2020 by Stephen MacDonald
Still lots of birds on the move during the month. Good numbers of Whooper Swans were seen on several occasions. On the 5th four were seen resting on Lochailort in the morning. Four also landed on Loch nan Eala for a short while, then flew south accompanied by the lone Whooper which had been on the loch since late September. On the 9th, 19 were seen over Traigh, 16 over Arisaig, eight on Loch Eilt and 48 south over Loch Ailort. On the 12th 16 rested at the head of Loch Ailort for several hours. On the 22nd with north-westerly winds, 42 (three skeins) were over Arisaig and 120 (four skeins) south over Loch Ailort.
Several groups of Pink footed Geese reported, with 48 over Loch Ailort on the 3rd and 60 east up Loch Morar on the 11th. Ten Greenland White Fronted Geese south over Gorsten, Back of Keppoch on the 17th was the only report.
The first Goldeneyes reported were three on Loch Morar on the 11th. A possible Red-necked Grebe was reported offshore at Traigh by a visiting birder on the 8th. The first wintering Slavonian Grebes were seen on Loch nan Ceall on the 18th when at least three were present. 12 Little Grebes were also there the same day. Red breasted Mergansers were reported from Loch Ailort, Loch nan Ceall and the Morar estuary, with 31 at the latter location on the 11th. Great Northern Divers were seen at various locations around the coast, usually just ones and twos, but on the 15th 23 were counted off Arisaig along with five Red Throated and two Black Throated Divers.
Storm Petrels were seen on several occasions, mainly between Arisaig and Eigg. Both Great and Arctic Skuas were also seen in the Sound of Sleat. Little wader passage now, mostly wintering birds reported, with small numbers of Redshank, Curlew and Lapwing noted. Ringed Plover were seen at Traigh and the Morar estuary along with the odd Dunlin. At least two Greenshank seem to be wintering on the Morar estuary. Two Golden Plover were feeding on Traigh Golf Course on the 2nd.
Dippers were reported from Camasdarroch burn and one was seen on the shore of Loch Ailort on the 23rd.
On the 5th a Kingfisher was an unusual sighting on the shoreline of Loch Ailort, between the fish farm and Inverailort Castle.
Jays were reported from Alisary, Arisaig and Loch Morar on several occasions, taking advantage of the acorn crop. Large groups of Rooks and Jackdaws also feasting on the acorns around the west end of Loch Morar. At the latter site, groups of Mallards were also seen feeding under the oak trees that overhang the loch.
On the 13th a Yellow-browed Warbler was found feeding in the trees by Arisaig Marina. This tiny Warbler, little bigger than a Goldcrest, breeds in the Siberian Taiga, the closest breeding area to Britain being in the North Ural mountain range. They normally winter in Southeast Asia, but in recent years an increasing number have been recorded in Western Europe, mainly in September and October. This year good numbers were recorded in the Northern Isles, Western Isles and also Skye, Rum and Tiree.

Here's dedicated wild swimmer and former Rum columnist Nic Goddard enjoying a relaxing read post-swim. Making the case for the laminated West Word, she says 'The temperature in Loch Sunart was around nine degrees so it was good to read some of the hot news from the area to warm me up!'


Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook

List of Issues online

Visit West Word on Facebook

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!

For 12 issues: £36 anywhere in the UK
£55 for Eire and Europe / £75 for the rest of the world.
Contact the Editor to subscribe.

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel/Fax: 01687 462 720
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)

Mallaig & District Newspaper is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation No. SC048780


Copyright © 2002-2020 West Word
Page last updated: November 2020

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland