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November 2022 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Arisaig Community Housing Project Secures Full Planning Approval for Six Homes
After almost two years, Arisaig Community Trust have secured full planning permission for six houses to be built at Station Road, part of our affordable housing development. Along with the building warrant, awarded earlier in the year, the majority of consents are now in place for the project and work will soon be getting underway. This is a great milestone and we are delighted to reach this point.
The housing development climate is currently challenging - rising inflation, covid, Brexit and the Ukraine War, have created instability in supply chains and increased demand for materials. Additionally, rural areas have experienced reverse migration: as home working encouraged moves from cities to rural areas, accessing an affordable home becomes harder for those living and working in Arisaig and other rural locations.
The Rural Housing Fund - a lifeline source of Government funding for rural communities - has provided an uplift on our original grant to help meet rising costs. The project will be delivered with a mix of public, private and loan funding, with the sale of four self-build plots adding vital capital to the pot.
The design and engineering teams with S + K MacDonald Homes have been tremendous over the last two years. The Highland Council planning and roads departments deal with large volumes of applications, thus approvals have taken longer than anticipated. While frustrating at times, the outcome has been positive.
Our Planning conditions required that we pay over £6,000 in developer contributions - a mechanism for the local authority to fund key services and infrastructure. In our case, the worthy recipient of the payment is Mallaig Pool & Leisure.
Final preparations are being worked through to get on site as soon as possible. The first phase of the project will see six new homes and an access road built at Station Road. This will be the most disruptive part of the project and those in the area will unfortunately see increased traffic and heavy excavation machinery on site.
In tandem, applications for Planning in Principle will be submitted for four self-build plots. Once approved, these will be marketed for sale at affordable levels with application and allocation details publicised well in advance, managed by the Communities Housing Trust. CHT have worked with us to co-ordinate all the major steps to date. They act as development agent to support community groups with housing projects, funding applications and professional representation at local and government levels.
Official applications are not yet formally open for either the rental homes or self-build plots, but you can indicate an initial interest with us at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, we are asking the local and wider community for their input on naming the new street at Station Road.
Guidance on street naming is on the Highland Council website and we welcome suggestions that would include locally significant place names, plants, trees, people or landmarks, along with the suffixes of Street, Road, Way, Grove, Avenue, Brae, Close, Gardens etc. One name that has been put forward to the ACT Board of Directors is the late Monsignor Thomas Wynne, who made a significant contribution to housing provision in the area; all suggestions will be given consideration and the most popular will go to a public poll and be submitted to the Highland Council for approval. Please email or message us on facebook with your ideas!
Housing Project Officer
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
I really enjoyed going to see Jackie Kay at the Book Festival last weekend. Hilariously funny tales and poignant poems, and great tunes from Ross Ainsley and Tim Edey. We'll have stories and poems from the Hoolie to share next month.
Don't forget to send in your Christmas messages soon for publication in December's West Word!
The December issue may be out a little later than usual as I will be away at the beginning of the month for a family funeral, but please send in your submissions as close to the deadline as possible (25th November) as I'll start working on the issue early.
My thanks this month to Mike, Morag, Ewen and Henrik for looking after the printing and distributing, and to Jane and Anne for sorting out the envelope labelling.
The clocks have gone back, and the nights are closing in, the air cold, leaves falling rapidly from the trees. Winter is nearly here...
Hallowe'en however, was a joyful affair in the pub. So much effort went into the decorating, cocktails and food, as well as party games and things for the kids. Locals also put in a big effort with their costumes, but we all know Knoydartians love a wee bit of dressing up. Well done to Caitlin and Connor though, who will sadly be leaving us soon, for the best dressed adults award and to Bronwen, who won the kids best dressed. Winter games nights are now taking place on a Thursday, where you can come along to the pub and choose from a variety of board games or bring your own, and we look forward to a pool tournament too. It's going to be so different this year, having a warm, welcoming place to go and socialise when it's wild and dreich. The Community Land week exhibition was a success and it was fascinating to see the past laid out the way it was in the hall, with old newspaper clippings, and video footage, going back to the buyout days and before. The local timeline was something to see, spanning quite a circumference in the middle of the hall. The hall also saw a fantastic gig from Mec Lir, a very lively "supercharged trad" band from Glasgow/Isle of Man.
And finally, you may have seen us featured on the BBC news, all about our hydro electricity. If you haven't, check it out on the website.
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
November is finally here and with its arrival, signals the end of a busy summer season. The Car Park has been invaluable, and the Car Park Ambassadors have proved that they are worth their weight in gold. (They have the patience of saints - thank you so much lads!)
The hotels have shut for the winter but there still may be Shenanigans on the horizon because this month means Bonfire Night! Keep your eyes peeled for information on the village display.
The Glenfinnan Gun Club are delighted to be holding a shoot on Saturday 12th November at Callop for the Duncan Stoddart Quaich and the Donald John Robertson trophy. It is so lovely to see the club up and running again after a long break.
Remember if you are looking to buy local this Christmas, we have some amazing talent in the Glen. You can purchase Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band CD's as well as CDs from Ingrid Henderson and Iain MacFarlane. (You can find these available to purchase from Mallaig Art Gallery, Arisaig Marine and The Granite House, High Street, Fort William.) If you are looking for the perfect gift for the man who has everything….why not look at the amazing items created by local resident Craig Higgins. Craig has hand crafted beautiful walking sticks, antler dog chews, key rings and his very talented wife has many crochet items for sale, so pop on to the ETSY store and search Glenfinnancraftsco for a perusal of all these great pieces. Finally we have some more fabulous crafty individuals who will hopefully be showcasing their skills in 2023 but for now . . .
Remember, Remember the gifts in November,
Ceilidh music, keyrings the lot!
I see many reasons, to shop local this season,
So go out and get some gifts bought.
Is árd ceann an fhéidh sa chreachann
(High is the stag's head on the mountain crags)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello Muck Calling . . . here we are rushing headlong into a fairly busy community period of events . . . Hallowe'en was the start with Muck's annual 'Scary Walk' which was this year probably one of the best ever, with plenty of frights and Ghostly characters dotted along the route; big thanks for everyone involved . . . the kids had an absolute 'scream' . . . the spooky after party was a tad legendary and the morning after there was a few more ghastly sights - it seems the bar rises year on year. On towards the 5th November, and our Normal massive beacon of a bonfire which wouldn't look out of place on a Pete Jackson movie involving rings!!
The last month just seemed to blur past as a large portion of the Isle took the opportunity to head to warmer climes for the first time in three years due to what happened globally. Those tans will be a distant memory now, and not even a postcard ???? . . . which brings us nicely to a wee shout out to some of our Island girls who partook in October's 'Dip-a-day' challenge for Surfers against Sewage - in all weathers, at any time, in they went. Well done all.
Whilst in the dark season there's time to rethink strategies for next year's visitor experiences, when we hope to have more live entertainment once more. A couple more events on the calendar to be ironed out and new improved Tearoom offerings, as you can never stand still, so watch our spaces.
Well guys that is us for now so will sign off and see you next time. Ooooh - just over seven weeks until Christmas!
ISLE OF CANNA
As I sit here writing this, the wind is howling outside and several drying bathmats have been blown off the fence. The wind isn't even at the strongest it's going to be yet today, with mid-afternoon being the peak. The tide is high and my dog was startled by a crashing, spraying wave while she was out for her morning ablutions. It's dark too. The sky and the water are that lilac grey which contrasts so well with the green of the machair and the clouds are hurtling northwards. The waterfall on the road to Tarbert was blown skywards. I wonder if whirligigs could be adapted to produce wind power.
The hooded crows grip tightly to twig and tower top, feathers buffeted by gusts before leaping to glide and with tiny adjustments of wing and tail, press onwards . . . or sideways into the wind. As it is on Canna, the weather blows in and then it blows out, never lingering for long.
We lost one of the island's longest standing residents this week. Tubby the horse, aged 33 years, has gone to the great clover field in the sky. He had begun his winter wanderings around the island and was a familiar sight plodding along the road in search of tasty treats or standing atop the highest point on Sanday creating a glorious silhouette against the southern sky. A gentle giant until corralled into his summer grazing when he would throw a tantrum at his confinement.
The farm has enjoyed a successful sale of the calves and Gerry has bought four new tups; two Cheviots and two Texels! Meanwhile the Zwartbles sheep are out of control and roaming the island. I saw them today having a race along the road to the Rhu Church. They can build up quite a bit of speed when they set their mind to it!
We welcomed senior pupils from Feis Oigridh na Mara and Mallaig High School Music Dept to Canna for a fantastic evening of music and dancing as part of their tour of the Small Isles and Knoydart. There were only a few of us on the island at the time so we got some of our visitors to come along as well. The pupils are all extremely talented and provided us with plenty of wonderful music and singing. The reels were sparse but everyone gave it a go nonetheless and no matter who you were, you were encouraged forcefully onto the dancefloor!
We said farewell for now to Catriona who has been our Ranger here on Canna for the past six months. Catriona expanded our Bio Security network across the island, and ran a week-long volunteer program with young people from ReGreen. This was a huge success with a big beach clean and habitat management for the Canna Corncrakes. She is an accomplished flute player and entertained us on many occasions in the cafe. Her sharp wit will be missed also. In a card she left for me after she departed Canna, she thanked me for "an unusual Summer". Only on Canna!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
If this chillier Autumn weather has got you lighting your peat fire, and you fancy trying self-dyeing some wool or cloth why not try this traditional 'recipe' for a dye, taken from Margaret Fay Shaw's book, "Folksongs and Folklore of South Uist"? It uses the soot (suit na mòna) from your chimney. I would be interested to know if it works with coal and wood fires as well!
"Put the soot in a muslin bag and boil it in water for at least an hour. Lift it, squeeze it and then put the wool in and boil for a dark yellow-brown or auburn shade"
Autumn and Winter are traditionally the time of year for stories by the fireside, and John Lorne Campbell collected many stories in just that fashion. Here is the translated fable of how the fox got the better of the wolf, collected from Seonaidh Caimbeul, THE storyteller in the glen (North Glendale) in November 1935.
"The fox had a terrible hatred for the wolf. He didn't know how he could get the better of him because the wolf was the stronger. Now the wolf had schooling, but the fox had no schooling at all. One day when they were going together they saw a big horse and when they were passing him, the fox said to the wolf. "Can you read the name that is on the horse's shoe"? "I don't know" said the wolf. "Is there a name there"? "Yes" said the fox, "but since you have education, see if you can read the name that is written on it". They both went as close as they could to the horse and they were waiting, every time the horse lifted his foot, to see if the wolf, who was getting closer and closer to the horse, could read what name was on the horse's shoe. At last, the horse lifted his foot and kicked him and knocked him a good piece away. "Oh" said the fox, "I am not a scholar, and I don't want to be". There was nothing for it but the fox had got the better of the wolf".
Not exactly the wolf and the horse at the Change House, Canna 1930's
"Tac an Teine"- "The Fireside" is also the title of the album released last month by myself, featuring clips of Canna sound archive, song, piano, pipes, conversation, story, cats, music boxes, birds and laughter, profiling the voices of the original contributors from the 1940's and 50's, woven together with contemporary voices of today. No sounds on it apart from the sound of Canna House and Garden all those years ago. Imagine yourself at a ceilidh "at the fireside" of Canna House . . .
ISLE OF RUM
Last month had a lot going on.
We had community meal in the hall to welcome Liz, the new schoolteacher, and Lauren, the nursery teacher and her family, a harvest themed meal, lots of stews and lovely homemade bread. There's another planned for November.
In Rum Primary news, they have a new mural courtesy of Clarissa, the first arrival on the bunkhouse volunteer programme. The weather being so poor, they had to rig up a makeshift lean-to to keep it dry, which worked. We had the big reveal last Thursday and it's glorious - the third in a row of colourful happy school murals.
More volunteers arrived as Clarissa left, welcomed with a warming pot of Alex's daal, and also the Cross Cut Coop, a women's collective of builders and carpenters and woodworkers, based in Scotland who carry out projects any and everywhere. They built us a very impressive new campsite shelter, which will also be a base for astronomical observations in the winter or now even, with so much going on in the sky at night. A brightly shining Jupiter currently greets us every night when it's clear.
In an unprecedented move, bonfire night was moved from the campsite to the ground beyond the village hall; it seemed a bit disrespectful and foolhardy to build a bonfire quite near to our new wooden campsite shelter. There was a good squad to build the fire and lots of burger making happening too and chilli and chips. But, the fireworks . . . By far and away the best fireworks we have ever had. They were so good I was laughing in disbelief; for me it was like the millennium or something! Haha. Well done David for organising the display!
Nearly forgot Hallowe'en. The kids dressed up mightily well and partied in the hall before going off guising around the village: they got gangrene muffins from me!
The big news is that after a few well-timed press articles and some social media action, we finally got the attention of Scottish government and had a productive meeting with Lorna Slater MSP about the future of the castle and land. The current sale has been stopped and the Scottish Land Commission will help NatureScot with the unchartered waters of community consultation and maybe we can come up with a better plan for the castle and the community, a better model of land tenure and possibly something exciting for all of us.
Lots of birthdays and parties and cakes last month:
Ashton was 15 on 12th October, Andrew 11 on the 25th then Kim on 2nd November, Wee Fliss was 5 on the 6th November (yes there are now two Fliss's on Rum), Jocelyn is 13 on the 20th November and Aila is 4 on the 25th.
ISLE OF EIGG
With Nan being away to take her Babushka show to the Westport Festival on Ireland's west coast, I am back to tell you the latest about Eigg this October. A pretty wild month altogether, but with many birthdays it seems to have passed very quickly: this included our nonagenarian's birthday, as Peggy turned a healthy 92 on the 10th. She loved her day which was filled with treats, flowers, family and friends.
Animals sent to market, tups purchased, gardens tidied, apples and fungi collected: not a great harvest of chanterelles or field mushrooms this year, but Gabe got a good many ceps. The apples in the community orchard provided on the other hand a real bumper harvest. Our island birders rushed to look at two Long Tailed Duck spotted in Cleadale on the 23rd - a real rarity, according to John Chester. His records for the month show other unusual visitors such as three Sooty Shearwaters, and late regular migrants, Redwings and Fieldfares appearing in small numbers with a few Woodcocks and the first returned Great Northern Diver. There were also several flocks of Whooper Swans and Pink Footed Geese passing over the island while more notable wader records included several Greenshanks and single Bar Tailed Godwits and Purple Sandpipers.
Island kids had a great time harvesting colourful leaves and conkers at their autumn wildlife watch afternoon during the school holidays: they even found a few of the huge pine nuts produced by the our Monkey Puzzle tree hidden in a corner of the Lodge Garden, which is now being maintained by George and Saira since Neil's retirement. There are so many interesting exotic species in this garden that there is talk of twinning it with the Inverewe Gardens to benefit from their expertise. The garden also provided a few scary treats for the Halloween bats, grim reapers, vampires, waterhorse and other creatures of the night that came out on Friday 29th, as the Eigg broonie made its yearly appearance accompanied by ghost, wolf and a very scary Corn Cailleach. Much screaming later, all repaired happily to a suitably decorated Galmisdale café-bar where Stuart's green pizzas, blood red macaroni cheese and luridly coloured cocktails impressed young and old. The giant spider and the pumpkin vomiting its seeds were gruesomely good!
At St Columba's church, the well-patronised exhibition on the Eigg Community buyout is coming to an end, with a great evening of stories online demonstrating the legacy of the buyout with Lesley Riddoch, Alastair McIntosh and Andy Wightman. Folks can listen to The Power of the Eigg Story, yesterday and today on this link: www.buzzsprout.com/1726942/11627040 or going to the "latest news" page on the Eigg website. http://isleofeigg.org/2022/11/podcast-of-the-power-of-eigg-story/
However, it is incredible that with all the progress of community empowerment in Scotland, the community on Eigg has been told that the UK's "Community Betterment" initiative to provide all rural areas with a 25m telecom mast may result in compulsory purchase of the site if we did not like its location, and we don't as it is right on top of our Hen Harriers breeding site! Happy to report the mast provider has now offered an alternative site, which we are now looking at, but they aren't getting any points on their communication strategy, quite the opposite! Meanwhile Solas Eige SCIO, which is working towards the purchase of the church, has lodged its stage one application to the Scottish Land fund. We will know in mid December whether the feasibility study for a multi-use of the church to continue as a place of worship and various community usage can go ahead.
They Fought and Survived
On the 18th October, stone-masons from the Czech Republic installed four additional 'stones' beside the Czech and Slovak memorial in Arisaig, to commemorate 188 Czech and Slovak soldiers who trained in the Arisaig area and survived the war. Of the 188 names, 33 became agents for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and were deployed on one of 17 specific missions into occupied Bohemia and Moravia; 143 were enlisted into the 1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade and fought in Normandy and Dunkirk.
The new stones were unveiled on the 4th November by Marie Chatardová, the Czech ambassador from London. Also present were Veronika MacLeod, the Czech Ambassador for Scotland and the eminent Czech military historian, Eduard Stehlik. Piper Allan MacKenzie provided excellent musical accompaniment. Following the laying of wreaths by the Czech dignitaries and local residents, the group visited the Land, Sea and Island Centre. Their attention focussed on exhibits relating to the training of Czech and Slovak agents, with a particular emphasis on the SOE 'houses' where the trainees resided and trained - Garramore, Traigh House and Camusdarach. The proceedings were completed by an excellent lunch at the Old Library.
The four new stones can be seen behind the original monument. Please note the new Information Board in the foreground.
The unveiling of the new stones was performed by (from l to r) Veronika MacLeod, Marie Chatardová and Eduard Stehlik.
To the right of Eduard Stehlik are relations of some of the men named on the new stones.
Mallaig Lifeboat log
20th October 2022
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to launch and convey Paramedics to Inverie at 10:18. A female resident was suffering from abdominal pains. On-scene at 10:55, the Lifeboat was met by local Coastguards who had brought the patient to the pier. Once assessed by the Medics the woman was brought onboard the lifeboat along with a friend who was to accompany her to Hospital. Lifeboat departed Inverie at 11:05 and berthed at the pontoon at 11:25. Patient and companion were transported to Belford Hospital, Fort William.
26th October 2022
At the request of Police Scotland through Stornoway Coastguard, the Lifeboat was tasked to search for two overdue wild swimmers in the Camus-cross area of Skye. As the crew were making their way to the boat the launch was cancelled. Police Scotland had located the swimmers safe and well. Crew stood down at 18:15.
Michael Ian Currie
Mallaig Harbour News
The clocks have changed so it's dark this afternoon (Halloween); the Steam Train finished last Friday, and CalMac are on their winter timetable so the Loch Fyne, Loch Bhrusda and the Coruisk are away for the season. Summer is definitely over! The harbour seemed very empty for a few days, but the stormy weather has seen it fill up again over the weekend and today. There is more bad weather forecast for the rest of the week so we are currently juggling berths to fit everyone in!
Another sure sign that summer is over is that the sprat pump arrived at the end of October, just about the same time as it arrived last year. Unlike last year, we haven't installed it yet, until we have more information about when the fishing is likely to start. It feels a bit like Déjà vu, as last year when I wrote about it being installed I said the weather still felt a bit mild for sprats, and the weather has definitely been mild the last couple of weeks.
Some of you may have seen press coverage of the fishing statistics published by Marine Scotland for the 2021 calendar year. These showed an increase in the value of landings for the Mallaig District of almost 38%. Whilst this seems very positive, it has to be taken in the context of the very low landings in 2020, and also the fact that this is for the whole district covered by the Mallaig office of Marine Scotland, which also includes the Small Isles and Ardnamurchan, and the North Shores of Loch Linnhe to Corpach. Tonnage for the year fell by -1.5%. By far the majority of landings throughout the district were shellfish (83% by tonnage), and this is certainly the case for landings through Mallaig Harbour as well. Marine Scotland's figures for the district showed a total of £4.8million was landed throughout the district, while our figures for last year showed landings of £2.4million through Mallaig Harbour, so only half the district landings came through Mallaig Harbour. For comparison, the same statistics showed a peak for the district in 2017 of £9.8 million, and landings through the Harbour in 2017 were £8.16 million, so a much larger proportion of the landings were through the Harbour in 2017 than is the case now. I've mentioned in previous months the challenges facing the industry, and this month the Reul a'Chuain was sold to be converted to a houseboat, and the Silver Dawn has also been tied up - so the local fleet is reducing further.
It's the end of the season at the Marina so the seasonal staff are all finished for another year. Our thanks go to Gena, Michael and Ross for working alongside Chris this season. It's been another busy year, with 1,700 nights occupied at the Marina, and 1,022 vessels. Total nights occupied are higher than last year, and even slightly higher than 2019 - pre-pandemic. We're going to remove the portacabin from the top of the pontoon within the next month so that the concrete can be laid for the foundation of the new office 'cabin' which will be up and running for next season.
Last November, I wrote that the works had started on converting the Denholm Office into smaller spaces, and this November I am delighted to say that the new tenants are finally able to move in. Mallaig Fishermen's Co-op and West of Scotland Fish Producers Organisation are in the process of moving across from their existing offices above the railway station. It will be great to have some more activity through in that side of the building again. Some of you will know that my husband works for WSFPO, and that he used to be employed by Denholms, working in the office we have converted, so there have been lots of jokes about being in the same building, and about him almost getting his old desk back!
I also mentioned last November that we had submitted the Marine Licences for the works in the Outer Harbour. It may not look like much progress has been made with this, but there has been lots of work going on 'behind the scenes'. We have added an additional ferry berth to the scope of the original works, in response to the Coruisk being back, and the Loch Bhrusda supporting the Loch Nevis. While this has delayed things, it will mean that the overall project makes as efficient use as possible of the space within the Outer Harbour. We are consulting with CalMac at the moment about this new ferry berth to ensure it meets their needs, and then hopefully we will be able to cost the project and apply for funds to make it all happen! You will have seen announcements in the media elsewhere about new ferries and various other works being undertaken to the ferry infrastructure. There are plans for a replacement for the Lord of the Isles, and also initial consultation is being undertaken by CMAL on the Small Vessel Replacement Programme. Both of these have potential impacts for the infrastructure in Mallaig, and we have to be sure that any work we undertake in the Outer Harbour considers these potential impacts. You can find details about these projects at www.cmassets.co.uk/current-projects/.
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
Writing in daylight as I start my column on Tuesday 8th November, but with emergency speed restrictions in place on the railway line today due to 'poor weather conditions'! Between Arisaig and Glenfinnan a 20 mph restriction is in place, plus between Tyndrum Upper and Bridge of Orchy, which is resulting in late - but welcome - arrivals into Mallaig, sadly but understandingly with few passengers choosing to travel. Add into that the fact that the RMT ScotRail conductors are operating a total no overtime or rest day working policy - called for by the union - means that if a colleague calls in sick, takes a lieu day or holiday, no other colleague can fill in for them, as this counts against union policy. All of this means that many more individual car journeys are taking place between work and home. Just as COP27 is taking place! Senseless or what? I cannot believe that this is right. Why can negotiations not take place without strikes? The RMT has for weeks had an offer from ScotRail that has not even been put forward to its members to agree or object.
The offer should (surely) be put forward by their union to the ScotRail workers involved in the dispute - including conductors, ticket inspectors, depot staff, cleaners, CCTV operators and catering staff, all of whom are not being balloted on this latest offer, rejected at source by the union representatives. When a train does not run they all do not get paid. Passengers can claim their ticket money back, but the workers on the ground lose out.
In the meantime the current dispute remains very much live, and the union is continuing its re-ballot of members to secure a fresh mandate for action with the result being due on Monday 15th November. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said, 'Our re-ballot remains alive and if we have to take strike action during the next six months to secure a deal, we will.' This will include a walk out on the day of Scotland's rugby international against Argentina on Saturday 19th November, followed by every Friday and Saturday from 2nd December until Christmas.
The Scottish government has said it respected the democratic right of union members to take industrial action. But a spokesman added, 'It is really disappointing however that union leaders continue to deny their members a referendum on the latest pay offer, one which would benefit lower paid ScotRail workers in particular […] Even more disappointing is this latest threat of additional strikes in the lead up to Christmas, particularly as this will not lead to any increased pay offer. […] If carried out, these strikes would potentially leave RMT members far worse off at a time when many will already feel the impact of the costs crisis.'
As I bring this piece to an end, the RMT organiser in Scotland has just told the BBC that the plan of action was designed to 'focus minds to find a solution.' I shout at the TV and switch it off!!
The teatime train into Mallaig was due in at 17.35 and has just arrived at 19.40, because of the speed restrictions mentioned earlier. If anyone is on it, they can claim their money back on 'delay and repay' so it is a no-win situation, Ye Gods, and surely no one is on the platform in the pouring rain waiting to leave Mallaig? Where do we go from here to solve this debacle. Talks are still ongoing between RMT, ScotRail and Transport Scotland: we wait, as do the staff.
To lighten the mood let me bring you some good news - the release of The Jacobite 2019-2022 DVD. A 'must' for both train buffs and armchair travellers, this 129 minute (two disk) DVD is superbly filmed and captures the working hard locomotives in stunning locations. Better still there is no running commentary, allowing you to appreciate the sound of the steam locomotives (and the scenery); however, short titles are included throughout to identify the locomotive, location and gradient.
Filmed in all weathers the producers are to be complimented on their choice of locations which show off the majesty and power of all the four locomotives. Couple the sight of belching steam drifting over the trailing coaches silhouetted with the beauty and magnificence of the West Highlands, you could not ask for anything more! Well worth the asking price!
Locomotives include LNER K1 No. 62005 and LMS 'Black 5's No. 44871, 45212 and 45407. Copies are available to purchase in DVD (£14.95) and Blu-ray (£17.95) formats but you can save 10% on these prices postage free by using code HERITAGE22. Available to order over the phone on 07563 019405 or online at: www.steamingaroundyorkshire.co.uk
It would make an ideal Christmas present. I have one copy to give away, in DVD format, in a postcard draw. Send a postcard with your name, address and telephone number to me: Sonia Cameron, 'Fasgadh', No 5 Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD. The closing date will be Tuesday 30th November - and it will arrive in time for Christmas. Good luck!
Friends of the West Highland Lines
The Autumn/Winter 2022 issue of the magazine West Highland News - Plus is out now. Slightly later than usual due to having to change printers at the last moment, this glossy, colour, 54 page 'gem' of a magazine, which includes eight pages of CalMac news, never fails to please; it is the only magazine spotlighting the West Highland lines and ScotRail network, past and present. Issued three times a year, I already have a waiting list of 20 devoted readers waiting for me to send out copies to them. I can get more, and at a cost of £4 plus postage will gladly send you one. Quickest way to contact me is by telephone on (01687) 462189 and I will be glad to help 'Friends of the West Highland Lines'. In the Summer 2022 issue, members were asked for an opinion on whether they would like an online version of the magazine. The overwhelming response was an emphatic NO! So, this well-received print version will continue to reach everyone by post in an envelope!!
On 16th July, at the national rail campaigning group 'Railfutures' AGM in Bristol, Friends of the West Highland Lines won the 'Gold' award 2021/22 for Best Website for a Rail User Group. Congratulations to the behind-the-scenes contributors and up-keepers of the website. Follow them at www.westhighlandline.org.uk or facebook fowhlsociety and Twitter @FWHLines. Another notable, previous success was when FWHL won the Network Rail Good Neighbour Award in 2011 for their work with Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park in getting lineside vegetation cut back to restore iconic views from the railway.
Model Rail 2023 - Date for your diary
Advance info: Model Rail Scotland will be back in Hall 3 at the Scottish Event Campus, Exhibition Way, Glasgow G3 8YW on Friday 24th, Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th February 2023. The exhibition will be open between 10.30am and 6pm on Friday and Saturday, and between 10.30am and 5pm on Sunday. Ticket prices for this wonderful show will be £15 adults, £5 children and £35 for families (2 + 2) and will go on sale later in the year. I'll let you know when!
Serco Caledonian Sleeper News
Continuing on from last month's column . . . Scottish Transport Minister Jenny Gilruth, when addressing the Scottish parliament regarding its proposal to rebase the franchise agreement with Scottish ministers (which Serco was entitled to try and achieve after a period of its franchise) and the subsequent termination of the franchise agreement on 25th June 2023, commented, 'It is worth noting that Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd has, broadly, delivered well and significantly improved Caledonian Sleeper services over the last seven years.'
So where does that leave Serco now? Truly, like many other franchises, teething problems on the high end new fleet occurred, ticket sales plummeted during the Covid pandemic, emergency financial support was required, and given, by the Scottish government. However and despite this a new direct contract award scheme MAY remain open for Serco to continue, should they wish to enter a bid. The Caledonian Sleeper franchise replacement regulation stated, 'Transport Scotland on behalf of the Scottish ministers may […] wish to make a direct award of a public service contract to Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd.' John Whitehurst, MD of Serco's transport business, has said, 'We will continue to work with Transport Scotland around options for the future management of the service.' More next month!
Jacobite Steam Train 2023
I had hoped to be in possession of the dates for next season, but deadline for copy has beaten me! It was a pretty dreich day on Hallowe'en when the season for 2022 ended. A Network Rail strike the next day meant no stock movement until Sunday 30th October, the very day that BST ended, and all trace of WC Railway departed at 9.28am from Fort William junction - 520 feet in length. Also, deer entered my garden and chomped through my flower beds, and autumn officially began. Haste ye back!
One day - Coming to Mallaig?
Hydrogen train trials underway in Scotland - on the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway near Linlithgow - honestly!
A former ScotRail Class 35 electric unit converted to hydrogen power is being tested on the above railway line. Now reclassified as Class 614 last October, the trials on the 8 km heritage line could be the first step towards introducing hydrogen trains on rural ScotRail routes where electrification is not considered an option. However, it is understood that Network Rail infrastructure trials are not likely in the near future. Hey ho. We can but dream! Surely we can be hopeful for a regular service in 2023 - please.
See you on the train,
Stop Press! The Jacobite morning service will run from Monday 3rd April - Friday 27th October, and the afternoon service from Monday 1st May - Friday 29th September 2023 (both seven days a week).
Thoughts on the name Gaoideal
I've wondered about the Arisaig place-name Gaoideal, as we see in Camas Ghaoideil and Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil, for some time, and trying to figure out what it means kept me busy for a good bit of the summer. NB: I'm using an asterisk to show a hypothetical or reconstructed name.
Although I'm wary of big, bold statements, there is little doubt that Gaoideal is an Old-Norse name, and initially I became rather fixated on a comparison with Arran's famous landmark, Goat Fell, in Gaelic Gaoda Bheinn, originally *Geitafjall in Old Norse, meaning exactly the same as it does in English. Another goat mountain is Gèideabhal in South Uist, a name with the same origins as Goat Fell; you won't see it on many maps, but you'll find its better-known name: Beinn Mhòr. Lawly MacLeod confirmed for me that Gèideabhal is still current as an alternative name.
The Norse world is full of goat mountains, and Iceland alone has several hills called Geitfell or Geitafjall, with other variations on the name noted within the Icelandic place-name survey (www.nafnid.is). In Scotland there are probably a few others to supplement Gèideabhal and Goat Fell. But do we have one on our doorstep? It's possible, but there are other options as we will see.
While Rough Bounds Archaeology's fascinating, thorough and authoritative 2012-16 archaeological survey of Rhu Arisaig uses Gaoth Dail, 'windy field' concurrently with declined forms of Gaoideal as a toponym, this is most likely to be rooted in folk-etymology, an attempt to make sense of a name by plucking out familiar Gaelic-like morphemes, the small units of sound which 'make sense' in a language. When the Ordnance Survey collected place-name data locally between 1876 and 1878 the spelling informants, Mr Angus MacDonald, a keeper at Borrodale, and Father William MacIntosh, Arisaig, may have put forward the 'windy' hypothesis. Survey data that must have been collected in 1873 and which established Camas Ghaoideil and Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil as OS map features was questioned, and the OS name books show Camas Ghaoideil being 'corrected' to Camas Ghaoi' dail, with the meaning given as 'Windy Bay'. However, their suggestion remained as a pencil comment in the notebooks and never made it to the maps.
This is problematic: in 1959 Calum Maclean, one of Europe's most prolific and skilled ethnologists, recorded Angus MacNeill of Smirisary, Glenuig, talking about a man from Gaoideal, Iain Lom Ghaoideil, who was a local strongman. In the recording, which is available online in the Tobar an Dualchais archive, Gaoideal is clearly pronounced exactly as it's written in Gaelic, very distinct from Gaoth Dail etc. Another problem is that the windy bay idea would come to us as *Gaoth-dhail, not Gaoth (or Gaoi') dail, giving a medial sound quite different to what we actually have in Gaoideal (indeed, with phonetic drift over time, we might have expected *Gaoth-dhail to become *Gaothail or *Gaodhail). The most compelling argument against the wind idea is possibly that it doesn't feel right: switch the nouns around and you'd get *Dail na Gaoithe, a perfectly plausible name, but Gaoth-dhail just seems odd.
Chronologically, we can chart the written development of Gaoideal as follows (there will be other instances which I've not found!):
- Gedeuall c. 1309 (Denis Rixson Land Assessment Scotland. http://las.denisrixson.com/2016/03/arisaig/)
- Gidoyll 1613 and 1619 (Denis Rixson Land Assessment Scotland. http://las.denisrixson.com/2016/03/arisaig/)
- Guidale 1750 (James Dorret A general map of Scotland and islands thereto belonging: National Library of Scotland)
- Guidall 1832 (John Thomson Atlas of Scotland: National Library of Scotland)
- Gaodail 1849-60 (Admiralty Charts: National Library of Scotland)
- Camas Ghaoideil 1873 (Ordnance Survey name books: scotlandsplaces.gov.uk)
- Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil 1873 (Ordnance Survey name books)
- Camas Ghaoi' Dail 1878 (Ordnance Survey name books)
- Gaotal 1889 (Charles MacDonald Moidart: Among the Clanranalds (Edinburgh: 1997))*
- Guidale 1889 (Charles MacDonald Moidart: Among the Clanranalds (Edinburgh: 1997))*
- Guidale 1904 (drawing on earlier sources) (A MacDonald and A MacDonald The Clan Donald Vol. III (Inverness 1904))
*Stupidly, when I visited the Moidart History Group archive in Glenuig during the summer I didn't check their original copy of Among the Clanranalds to see if there was a difference in spellings between edited versions and the original.
All versions hint towards an initial specific element along the lines of anglicised or scoticised guid- or similar, and I'm confident that this is Old Norse geit, 'goat'. Additionally, each version of the name shows some sort of phonetic variation on a generic (i.e. common, such as 'field', 'mountain' or 'valley') -al ending, and this points us in the direction of three possible Old-Norse generic elements, all of which are common enough in the west and in the islands:
vǫllr fits well: a gently-sloping field running from the old seminary ruins down to the foreshore. While searching on the Tobar an Dualchais website for references to Gaoideal I noticed that there is also a Gaoideal-type name in Mull (Ordnance Survey: Gaodhail). Remembering that Alasdair Whyte, Salen (Mull), did his PhD on Mull place-names, Settlement-names and society: analysis of the medieval districts of Forsa and Moloros in the parish of Torosay, Mull (Glasgow: 2017), I had a look and discovered that he talks extensively about the Mull Gaodhail. He argues strongly in favour of *Geitarvǫllr (or similar), 'goat field', commenting on previous scholarship examining the possibility of dalr or fjall being the generic element. He also gives a clear rationale for the variation in medial consonantal sound which we can potentially see in the various versions of 'our' Gaoideal, and for the transition between an expected Gaelic *Gèideal to Gaoideal. It's quite possible that we have a *Geitavǫllr, 'field of goats' locally.
How about fjall? *Geitafjall, 'mountain of goats' could work, but where's the fjall? Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil is pretty unremarkable in itself, just another bump on a very bumpy bit of coastline. But it's a prominent bump, easily the highest immediately-seaward point on the north shore of Loch nan Uamh and visible from miles around, even from as far 'inland' as the head of Loch nan Uamh. Next time you are driving back from Glenuig look back towards Arisaig and you'll see Tòrr Mòr silhouetted against the higher ground behind; it's the only feature to stand out in this way and herein, maybe, lies its importance. Denis Rixson's 2010 essay The Shadow of 'Onomastic Graffiti' in The Journal of Scottish Name Studies, includes a quote from WFH Nicolaisen's 1992 Scottish Society for Northern Studies work on Arran place-names: Although many of the names of Scandinavian origin are now names of farms and villages, none of them started out as such. They are all names of coastal features or of features easily seen or reached from the coast, almost within sight of their boats.
We could, of course, apply this to vǫllr; Gaoideal is quite easy to spot from across Loch nan Uamh. This is not to say however, that all Norse place-names in the north and west are simply navigational features or 'first impression' features, and in his paper Nicolaisen was talking specifically about Arran; however, generally, the narrative on Norse settlement has changed somewhat in recent years, no longer seeing Norse place-name evidence as an indicator of lower-status settlement or even 'stopover' locations, but as an indicator of some kind of bureaucratic permanence or colonisation. For a very accessible discussion of this see Denis's The Shadow of Onomastic Graffiti and Alan MacNiven's 2017 paper What's in a Name? The Historical Significance of Norse NamIng Strategies in the Isle of Islay for Scottish Society of Northern Studies.
Is it high enough to be a fjall? As WM Mackenzie pointed out in the 1914 second volume of The Book of Arran, a fjall is a larger, more prominent hill, and he put forward that many of the -bhal or -val names could be from hváll (or hóll), 'hill'. Therefore, we may be looking at *Geitahváll or *Geitahóll, the latter perhaps tantalisingly close to what we have today. Height alone may not qualify a fjall, however; John Holliday argues in his paper Longhouses Below the Waves: A Place-name AnalysIs of the Norse Settlement of Tiree in Traversing the Inner Seas (Scottish Society for Northern Studies, online: 2017) that fjall could be primarily a navigational term, giving weight (in location context) to Nicolaisen's statement above. Another issue with the fjall idea is the lack of existing local examples. Rùm is full of -bhals and -vals, but the only other definite West Word-local mainland example (so excluding Beinn Sgritheall, Glenelg) is (and I'll stand corrected) Rois Bheinn/Roshven, originally *Hrossfjall or *Hrossafjall, 'horse mountain'. But where is that -bhal or -val ending in Rois Bheinn? It has been translated into Gaelic, with bheinn (beinn, 'mountain') supplanting fjall. William J Watson in Scottish Place Name Papers (London: 2002) comments on this unique phenomenon, suggesting Suilven, Blaven and Gaoda Bheinn (Goat Fell) as other examples and it's just possible that Larven and Gulvain fall into this category. Local uniqueness, however, doesn't mean that an idea can't have mileage; John Holliday talks about the regaelicisation of the Tiree landscape as land was developed and new boundaries were established. Although this process may not have been a deliberate eradication of non-Gaelic names, the effect was similar as land features were given new names in Gaelic and older Norse names were forgotten. The ones which persisted did so for reasons of status or because they were useful, or at least too useful to lose.
Dalr is one of the most persistent and frequently-occurring Norse generic place-name elements we have, and we see it just over the hill at Borrodale and at Beasdale. Although I'm not hugely inclined to consider it for Gaoideal, it's not out of the question. Although a dalr is a valley, we should be open-minded about this; dalr appears to have pretty broad shoulders in terms of what it represents - it doesn't have to be a major, deepish gap between hills. Gaoideal has a big, sloping field, not really a valley as such, but Scamadale is another short 'dale' and its name reflects this. Another classic short 'dale' is Mungasdale in Wester Ross. William J Watson often translated dalr as 'field' across his publications, although I'm tempted to think that there may have been a subconscious nod to the Gaelic word dail, 'field/meadow' here, itself a very early borrowing from Old Norse which can be found in place-names far from the area of Norse attention, such as Perthshire. Perhaps we should reflect on the fact that Gaelic, Scots and Scottish English have two general but substantially different (in terms of geography) terms for 'valley': gleann, 'glen' and srath, 'strath'.
As WFH Nicolaisen muses in Scottish Place-names (Edinburgh: 2001), dalr may be one of the most useful elements when defining the Norse sphere of influence; it's one of the ways the Vikings said, 'we woz here'. I think it's stretching it a bit to see Gaoideal as a classic valley (it doesn't have a significant watercourse through it for one thing) but it's just possible that it was close enough. Information on the actual historical boundaries of Gaoideal would be useful; if we found that Gaoideal's bounds extended eastwards towards Druimindarroch, i.e. eastwards from Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil, we could be looking at Lòn Liath, between Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil and Druim an Daraich, as being our *Geitadalr. Lòn Liath is much more valley-like than the land leading up from Camas Ghaoideil, and while we may associate Gaoideal now as being to the west of Tòrr Mòr, it's not impossible that the name originates to the east. However, once we get into this kind of thing *Geitafjall could become a contender, but further research is needed to confirm the historical distribution (or lack thereof) of -fjall names on the Rough Bounds' mainland.
So … we have three main possibilities:
*Geitavǫllr, 'field of goats
*Geitafjall, 'mountain of goats'
*Geitadalr, 'valley of goats'
My money is on *Geitavǫllr: the phonetics suit, the landscape suits and although, deep down, I really wanted *Geitafjall, I think that there is too much against it. I'm saying that Gaoideal is 'field of goats', but goats being goats, I'm sure that they spent a fair bit of time on Tòrr Mòr Ghaoideil. NB: I've generally gone for the Old-Norse genitive plural form ('of goats') throughout, but it's possible that we are looking a genitive singular form ('of goat'). This would give *Geitarvǫllr, *Geitarfjall and *Geitardalr respectively and, with the passage of time, could still end up giving us Gaoideal.
As a nice wee aside, Among the Clanranalds gives us this snippet, referring to a skirmish between French and British frigates in Loch nan Uamh on 2 May 1746:
During the hottest part of the fight, one of them, an old man belonging to Gaotal, was heard to offer up the most fervent supplications to heaven for the preservation, not of the French, less so of the English, but of some goats belonging to himself, and which at the time were grazing on an island within close range of the combatants' guns. Whatever the facts may be, there's no denying that Gaoideal is a beautiful place, with the traces of precious human history still visible in the bracken. I wonder what happened to the goats.
Thanks to Diarmid Sullivan for casting an eye over this.
BIRDWATCH October 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly mild and damp spell with many birds arriving during the month.
Whooper Swan passage continued throughout the month, with reports from various locations. Four adults and three juveniles settled on Loch Ailort for several hours on the morning of the 6th. Thirty six flew south over Loch Morar on the 8th. On the 10th a herd of 50 flew south over Arisaig. On the same day a group of 18 made a forced landing on Loch Ailort after being harassed by a Sea Eagle.
Still large flocks of Greylags around Traigh and Back of Keppoch, along with several Canada Geese. The first returning Great Northern Divers were seen at Camusdarroch on the 3rd, where two birds were seen close inshore. As the month progressed, birds were seen on Loch nan Ceall and offshore from Traigh and Mallaig. Two Slavonian Grebes were seen on Loch nan Ceall on the 29th.
Wader passage much reduced compared to September. The first Purple Sandpipers were back at West Bay, Mallaig by mid-month. Turnstones were also seen there and at Traigh. Ringed Plovers were reported from Traigh and the Morar Estuary. Golden Plover were reported mainly from Traigh, with at least 19 there on the 9th.
Greenshank were seen on the Morar Estuary on several dates, with at least three present on the 24th. Single Sooty Shearwaters were seen off Eigg on several occasions and a group of eight were seen from the MV Sheerwater on the 28th.
Migrant thrushes started to appear, with the first Redwings seen at Rhubana, Morar on the 9th, with widespread sightings the rest of the month. Small number of Fieldfares were reported from Arisaig from mid-month.
Jays were seen and heard around Morar and Loch Ailort on several occasions.
On the 29th a Red Kite was seen over Rhubana, Morar, and a male Blackcap was seen near Woodside, Morar, feeding on elderberries.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Lucy took a copy with her when she went to see Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in Edinburgh's Festival Theatre at half term, and read it with some members of the ballet company at the end of their open rehearsal! The world's foremost all-male comic ballet company, which formed in 1974, are wonderful, hugely talented and hilarious; if you love dance and haven't seen them, then watch out for them the next time they are on tour in the UK. They've performed at Eden Court in the past, and hopefully will again! The 'Trocs' clearly enjoyed their copy of West Word, as they continued reading it once in costume for their evening performance!
Kirsty Martin went on holiday to Fife with her family and took a moment to read her copy at the WW2 Secret Bunker.
Matthias and Diana took a copy home to Einsiedeln, Switzerland where they're thinking back on their wonderful holidays in Arisaig.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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