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

Visit West Word on Facebook

List of Issues online

November 2015 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Crofting, railway and harbour news
Local Genealogy

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

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

Happy 21st Birthday to West Word with this issue!

West Word Anniversary Ceilidh
The West Word team had a wonderful evening on Friday October 23rd, thanks to all who came along or sent messages - and to Ronnie and Martine for the flowers!
Special thanks for the night to Sine and Gavin Davies and the staff of the West Highland Hotel for hosting this evening and for being so helpful, and our excellent entertainers for the evening - Pamela Burns' Irish dancers; Eilidh Shaw, Tam the Banjo, Damien Helliwell and Callan MacBeth for the music; and Brett MacMillan for the songs. Thanks also to the Ben Nevis Distillery for providing the welcoming drams.
Our thanks as always to everyone who has helped West Word reach its 21st Anniversary, whether contributor, advertiser or volunteer helper. Every little part contributes to the whole and makes our paper a voice for the community and an ambassador to the visitor. The Editor adds her personal thanks to the West Word Board of Directors: Chair Camille Dressler, who motivated us all to have the ceilidh; Anne Widdop, who has revolutionised our book-keeping and invoicing systems, Ruth Reavell, who made our wonderful cake and Richard Lamont, who is very supportive and understanding. Many thanks also to Treasurer Andrew Fleming who keeps our finances on track on a day to day basis. Her thanks for flowers and chocolates to the Board and also to Isabel MacPhee for the flowers!
As well as the display of over 60 front pages of West Word, there was also a slideshow of 120 + photos from past issues.

West Word Art Competition
The first prize winners of our Anniversary Competition are:

Anna Fothergill, Mallaig Gaelic Medium Nursery
Iona MacKenzie, P 1 - 4, Lady Lovat, Morar
Corra Davis, P 5 - 7, Mallaig
Rhian Eddie, S 1 - 4, Mallaig High School

The display of art and front pages of past West Words
Photo Richard Lamont

The birthday cake made by Ruth Reavell - raspberry, hazelnut and sour cream topped with a lemon granache and raspberry frosting being cut by editors (l to r) Jill de Fresnes(1994 - 99), Jacqueline McDonell (3 months in 1997) and Ann Martin (Lamont) (1999 - present day)
Photo Moe Mathieson

The awards won by West Word as Community Newspaper of the Year in 2005 and 2009 were on display.
Photo Moe Mathieson

The music was provided by (l to r) Damien Helliwell, Eilidh Shaw, Tam the Banjo and Callan MacBeth.
Photo Richard Lamont

What a lovely, lovely month October has been! Blue skies, sun shining, warmth on your skin, dragonflies, bumblebees still buzzing about….. You'd think it was spring. Definitely not complaining though. Admittedly there were a couple of days of blowy weather, which resulted in some boats being cancelled but on the whole, it's been just great.
Aside from the lovely weather, October has been a good month in many ways. School was out for two weeks for a start, much needed after the hectic-ness of the inspection at the start of September I'd say. Aaran and Fraz were amongst a good few of the locals who jetted off abroad. We had a good range of holidays really, from Italy, to Croatia, to Tenerife, to France, to Portugal! Not bad for a small place like here.
The start of October saw the band Talisk playing in the hall, a night I hear was one to remember! Gutted I missed it but Friday nights hangover was just too much. It says a lot about how the weather was though, when several brave locals were swimming in the sea at night, marvelling at the magical beauty of the phosphorescence! Now that I really wish I had been part of!
Once the holidays finished and the kids were back at school, you would think it would be quietening off, but there has been a surprising amount of people around still. You get to this time of year and you think the boats will be quieter, but there's been more than one occasion where the boats have been full! Good for the Tearoom though!
Mel's 40th/Janet's 70th Halloween birthday bash was a cracker, with so many people making a great effort with costumes and a massive turnout to Sandaig for the do. We do like a bit of dressing up over here it has to be said. Now that Tommy is gone there is definitely less dress up parties going on! The Tearoom is now on autumn hours of 9-4, until the end of this month and Seabridge is also running on its winter schedule so if you are coming over be sure to check, as there are less boats per day. As for the pub, it is currently shut full stop (I'm not sure when it will reopen… New Year perhaps) so if you're wanting a pint…. well, you'd better stay in Mallaig or have friends to visit over here who will provide you with alcohol (or of course, bring a carry oot!)
And speaking of New Year, check out John Langan, its gonna be the best New Years we've had for a while!
Happy Autumn folks
Heather Gilmour

As I write the sun is shining and we seem to be enjoying an extension of this amazing autumn. Out side we are awash with vegetables in Ruth's garden and there are still flowers in full bloom!
However this month's subject is steamer services and I could fill a few pages of West Word if I covered every aspect of this massive subject. Suffice to say that Cal-Mac are completely off the rails ordering ever larger mega ferries and requiring huge expenditure adapting terminals to fit apart from the cost of the ferries themselves. Enough said at the moment and now I must outline what we need from the Small Isles ferry service. Surely in 2015 it should be possible for residents and visitors to the islands to travel to the mainland and return the same night. Certainly in summer and we could start with one day a week for each pair of islands. Islanders travelling for longer periods would also mostly prefer to leave the island in the morning and return in the afternoon not the other way round as at present and this fits in well with the first need. Those wanting to visit the islands for the day are well catered for in the case of Eigg and Rum but for Canna and Muck the stop is far too short to be of much value. Luckily we have the Sheerwater! Everything points to the need for fast frequent ferries and this means catamarans. Everywhere in the world they are the present and the future and in the case of Stornoway three catamarans could have been purchased for the cost of the Loch Seaforth giving a service every two hours! Cal-Mac must carry freight both on wheels and off and for the Small Isles Spanish John could do it but she must be chartered by Cal-Mac. She would not need to run to a timetable but the cargo would have to be kept dry! Then we could have passenger only catamarans with light freight and luggage containerised as in Norway. That is the future!
On the island things are going well. The roads dept is hard at work filling in the potholes; the school repairs were carried out in the autumn holiday and the fully grown salmon are departing for Mallaig in ever increasing numbers. Shooting parties are arriving on Sheerwater twice most weeks from all parts of Britain and even Ireland and on the farm the grass is growing still.
To me West Word should be a conduit for change - for the better. Reporting what is going on Muck has been a privilege which has spurred me on each month. Thank you very much for the opportunity and for the party ten days past. It was great to be there and part of a very enjoyable evening.
Lawrence MacEwen

From Muck Primary School
We've had a great week back after the October holidays.
We began the week with a concerted effort to harvest and tidy up the poly tunnel. We collected lots of tomatoes and potatoes. Our sweetcorn is still growing!
We have been problem solving and we can say what the 5 steps are in problem solving. We have been using real people and sometimes little bears to help us, as well as some technology.
We have started our Enterprise Club, and made our first briquette, which we hope to sell. We will need to test it to see how good it is.
We wrote some spooky stories this week as we looked forward to our 'Spooky forest' on Friday. In the forest we shared our stories and played spooky hide and seek. We had a course to go through blind folded. There were a lot of obstacles and gruesome things to feel on the way. It was very scary and some people squealed at times. We dooked and toasted marshmallows. It was Spooktastic

With lots of folk off the island this month it has been very quiet but we have had some of the best weather we have had this year! Well done to Canna's Fiona MacKenzie and Colin Irvine for getting 4th place in the duet competition at the Mod in Oban. You now have a year to practice for Stornoway.
Congratulations to Fiona also as she has been nominated for Gaelic singer of the Year at the Scottish Traditional Music Awards in Dundee next month. You can vote for her online at https://projects.handsupfortrad.scot/scotstradmusicawards/voting/ Kenneth MacLennan Fencing Contractors were over for two weeks and put up 2000m of new stock fencing. They made and excellent job working on difficult terrain.
Cattle sales have been very disappointing but new Cheviot and Blackface tups have been bought at Dingwall and will be out with the ewes soon.
Geraldine MacKinnon

Having had several appearances on the TV and radio recently, Rum's profile is somewhat raised at the moment. A short piece on Radio Scotland news asked what difference five years of community ownership had made? Rum has come a long way in many respects, a new bunkhouse, new businesses, new crofts, more people, secure leases for the existing houses, but still floundering with getting more new housing built. I always thought that a combination of community ownership and Rum just being fabulous was enough to get people moving here and building houses, but we have hit more than our fair share of hurdles. Hopefully (she says) a combination of our new community land use plan (approved by the Highland Council) and a several strand housing strategy in conjunction with the Highlands Small Communities Housing Trust should/could bring about some tangible change. IRCT have also finally got its Forest Plan approved by the forestry commission meaning we can start dealing with the woodland in the village in a constructive manner which is long overdue, there is potential for grant funded projects and small business opportunities.
Rum features again on BBC Autumnwatch 2015 and catches up with the Rum Red Deer project team and highlights some of the deer rut action over at the Kilmory study area and focuses more on the work of the researchers and the aims of the project - it's interesting stuff, catch it on BBC2
I always look forward to autumn for the amazing sunrises we get (if you're up early enough) and we have not been disappointed and it heralds a welcome end to the busy tourist season. This year with the stag shooting leased to Gallanach Lodge on Muck, the season has been extended somewhat with an eclectic bunch of shooters and stalkers on island; nice to see Boyd brothers 1 and 3 wearing tweeds and great to see Ally Macaskill and Raymond Fraser make an appearance for a few days, the years just fly by!
Autumn's arrival means farewell to Kate and Ian who are back off to Wales for the winter and to Sorcha too, who has moved to Glasgow to start a new life, everyone sends their best!!
The arrangements at the school have altered over the summer with Rum and Canna primaries being clustered with Arisaig primary. We're hoping for more interactive education and lots of visits to the mainland for the school roll of two to get together with the mainland kids. The school held a lantern-making workshop on hallowe'en where we were hellishly creative, see the pictures and followed it with a hallowe'en party at the hall and shop. Apples were bobbed for but the mystery of the disappearing pumpkin remains a mystery… Congratulations to the West Word on its anniversary, I did try to get to the party but got thwarted by the weather.
Fliss Fraser

Another fine autumn period, much appreciated by islanders and visitors alike, a welcome end to a year which had shown such weird weather patterns. Weird indeed to still have all the leaves on the trees, bringing glorious colours to the foreshore and reflecting in the rarely still waters of Galmisdale bay. And what about the unusual and magical sight of 200 dolphins fishing in the sound of Sleat that delighted those who travelled to Eigg at the end of the month? (Some folk would say it was because we had Dolphin Boy on board).
Following on from Feis na Mara which saw a massive island exodus to the now very well established Mallaig festival. The 70th birthday celebrations for Wes, our iconic Irishman, brought many friends back to Eigg for a good old trad fest knees up in the Community hall. As one of the East coasters working on the new surgery refurbishment remarked, the Eigg folks know how to party, and Wesley, resplendent in his borrowed gold lame jacket, carried on the next day with more tunes from Angus Grant, had a well deserved rest on the Monday and did it again on his real birthday when Damian and Gabe took over with the help of lovely Sara Impala and her husband!
But October was not all about feasting, with serious matters such as the Being Here interviews of islanders to check on the progress of the NHS new medical scheme for the Small Isles. With a busy logbook for the helicopter and coastguard medivac service for Eigg and, the First Responders system is proving to be as efficient as we'd like it to be in any case. Eigg and the rest of the Small isles are now waiting for progress on the proposed Lochaber Health panel which would gather together representatives of all Lochaber communities. Maybe we ought to ask the NHS to publish something about it in West Word, as it would be to everyone's advantage to understand what it could be used for!
Another issue was the first meeting of the Ferry User Group in ages, much of it taken up by the current ferry tender process. It was a relief to hear from Transport Scotland officials that the current loose freight arrangements for the Small Isles which have been recently questioned, shall be maintained.
It was decided to make these FUG meetings a regular twice yearly occurrence and a good thing this will be too! However, it was a surprise to hear that the Coruisk was going to be deployed in Mull to cope with the predicted influx of vehicle traffic there with the introduction of RET. Understandably the folks in Sleat are not happy at all as RET might have exactly the same consequences here. Finally one issue just pertinent to Eigg, is the growing volume of island archive material. With the 20th anniversary of the Community Buy-out round the corner, the Comunn Eachdraidh Eige invited Stevan Lockhart from the Assynt Community archive and Alex Du Toit to present their respective archives and reflect with us what a professional standard community archive for the island would look like! A very worthy visit, funded by the Highland Council through its discretionary award. But what are the odds for two archivists working in the Highlands to both originate from Cape Town? Isn't this quite a coincidence!
On the archaeology front, more timber from our Galmisdale wreck have been recovered, probably pulled out by the suction action of the strong local current formed by the large pipe under the new pier nearby: we are awaiting anxiously for more sandbags to be placed on the wreck before the winter gales make it situation even worse…
Talking of gales, everyone commented on Hallow'een, how clement the night had been, compared to the horizontal rain and howling winds that are normally our lot at this time of year (it's all saved for next week on Bonfire night, I'm told). Our swarm of ghosties and monsters took full advantage of it anyway. As to the pumpkin competition, it was certainly won hands down on size - as well as artwork - by Dylan Bull: what a whopper!
Now I must not forget another competition which had winners from children on Eigg: the West Word 20th anniversary art competition special prizes for Creativity was won by Maggie Carr and Breagha Millar! The 130 entries received really showed how much our community newspaper is now embedded in our local culture… Thanks go to Ann, our editor for organising it and to the judges who had a hard choice to make as the quality of the entries displayed in the West Highland hotel on the night of the West Word 20th anniversary for all to admire was extremely high!
Camille Dressler

Arisaig student welcomes First Minister to City of Glasgow College's £66m Riverside Campus

Arisaig student Liam Dyer joined First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and City of Glasgow College Principal Paul Little on Monday 26th October to unveil the new £66m Riverside Campus on the banks of the River Clyde.
Liam, a former pupil of Mallaig High School, conducted part of the First Minister's tour of the new campus, which represents the first phase of City of Glasgow College's new £228m twin-site supercampus and was delivered on time and within budget.

Student Liam Dyer gives an explanation to the First Minister

Eighteen-year-old Liam, studying towards a Scottish Professional Diploma in Nautical Science, assisted the First Minister as she steered a super tanker through Sydney Harbour within the new state-of-the-art simulation suite at Riverside Campus. He said: "The new Riverside Campus has completely revolutionised our learning. The layout of the place is all open and it makes for a great atmosphere. This new campus has new opportunities for existing students as well as people coming in to work towards new tickets. For me, it's like a home from home."
City of Glasgow College's Riverside Campus was officially opened by the First Minister, who described the state-of-the-art facility as "world-class" before meeting college staff and students during a tour of the campus. She added: "I am thrilled to be able to open the Riverside Campus of City of Glasgow College, which will provide students from around the globe with access to state of the art equipment and world leading training opportunities.
"Scotland has a strong maritime history and now 10,000 students a year will be able to come to the Riverside Campus to continue that proud tradition.
"This is an excellent example of our capital investment programmes at work. The Scottish Government is happy to have supported the construction of this new campus - part of a £228 million investment in the City of Glasgow College estate - and I look forward to visiting City Campus on Cathedral Street, too, when it opens next year."
Principal Paul Little was proud to welcome more than 250 guests from all over the world for the milestone event. Principal Little said: "This is a truly outstanding, world-class campus with the 'wow' factor. It represents a bold statement of intent by City of Glasgow College to lead the global maritime college community. Within that community, our Riverside Campus is now the most advanced of all colleges throughout the world.
"We are making a significant contribution towards to the renaissance of Glasgow's maritime industry. We have made a transformational difference with the opening of this new campus."
The twin-site supercampus is expected to serve up to 40,000 students and 1200 staff a year - the equivalent of six million users in its lifetime. The City Campus site at Cathedral Street in Glasgow's city centre is currently under construction and is due to open in summer 2016.
Riverside Campus enjoys a stunning waterfront location and features a ten-storey student accommodation block and a landscaped recreation area alongside workshops and classrooms that comprise state-of-the-art technology. The new marine engineering workshop features Scotland's first shipping simulation suite, allowing students to experience the bridge of a super tanker, as well as nautical chart rooms and a ferry-sized ship's engine. The Marine Skills Centre also has its own jetty and free-fall lifeboats.
Barry White, chief executive of the Scottish Futures Trust, said: "SFT's vital role in the Riverside Campus led to many hundreds of construction jobs being created and the long-lasting legacy will mean many thousands of careers will be founded from the world-class vocational training delivered from this new, state-of-the-art college."
Laurence Howells, Chief Executive of Scottish Funding Council, said "This fantastic new building and the Cathedral Street campus opening next summer will completely transform the experience of being a student for thousands of Glaswegians. For businesses and communities these investments make a strong statement about the future of the city and the part its colleges are playing in creating a strong 21st century economy."
Ali Jarvis, Interim Chief Officer of Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board, said: "On behalf of the Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board, I congratulate everyone who has contributed to the delivery of this exciting new facility for Glasgow and beyond. The Riverside Campus will give 2000 students the opportunity to learn new skills using cutting-edge technology. Recognising the importance of technology-based subjects for Glasgow's economic growth, GCRB's plans for this year and next provide for a 12 per cent growth in energy, engineering, construction and manufacturing provision."

On and Off the Rails

Growing Older in Unavoidable, Growing Up is Optional
I cannot possibly start my column in any other way than by saying THANK YOU to each and every one of you for the congratulations, hugs, cards, phone calls and 'craic' that has come my way in the last month. Since my 'cover was blown' from being just me to being Sonia Cameron, ACoRP Award Winner (1st in the 'Outstanding Volunteer Contribution' Category), reported so kindly by our esteemed West Word editor Ann and commented on by ScotRail in last month's edition, my embarrassment is calming down and soon it will be 'business as usual'. In the meantime I have had a busy, happy month. Thank you all for your kind words and actions. You are all the reason that we came to Mallaig twenty-three years ago (and the Railway of course!!) and you have not let us down. I love the life I live and live the life I love.

2015 Jacobite Season comes to an end
Friday October 23rd saw the final Jacobite steam train hauled service come into Mallaig. Once again it proved to be a successful year bringing thousands of visitors to our area. Yet even as I write this column, West Coast Railways (WCR), the operators of the Jacobite steam train service, has today announced the dates for the 2016 service. They are as follows…
The morning Jacobite will start its runs from Fort William to Mallaig and return on Monday May 9th running Monday to Friday until Friday October 28th.
The Saturday and Sunday morning Jacobite will start from Fort William on Saturday June 18th until September 18th.
Tickets are held at 2014 prices:
Day returns; Adult Standard £34.00; Adult 1st Class £58.00; Child Standard £19.00; Child 1st Class £31.00.
Single tickets can also be purchased: Adult Standard £29.00. 1st Class £53.00; Child Standard £17.00, 1st Class £26.00.
Tickets go on sale for 2016 on Friday November 13th 2015. Gift Vouchers can be purchased to give as Christmas presents. To book tickets phone 0844 850 4685, 9.30am - 4.30pm, or online at www.westcoastrailways.co.uk, 9am - 5pm.
The last Jacobite of 2015 arrived to balloons (donated by Mallaig Toys & Gifts), banners, bunting and rain! The obligatory 'everyone stand by the loco' photos were taken, and after the train ran round its stock everyone dived out of the rain for an on-board party! Pat Mackenzie was commissioned to provide the 'Desperate Dan' meat pie and cauldron of curried parsnip soup. Sandwiches were devoured and this was followed by the traditional cake, crafted and baked by our very own Mallaig Bakehouse. The cake was cut by Guard Florence MacLean and Driver Alex Iain MacDonald (who was earlier presented with a bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water by Harbour CEO Robert MacMillan, which was then locked away until the train returned to Fort William. The train crews, catering girls, Jacobite gift shop crew and voluntary helpers were all treated to a short, amusing speech by Driver John Hunt, who also thanked them all for their efforts, and thanked local businesses for the vital role they play in keeping Jacobite customers happy and well fed.
Our thanks go to all the local shops, restaurants and businesses who kindly donated financial input to pay for the party - without them it could not happen - and finally, thanks to the hardy locals who came down to the station in the wind and rain to see it all happen!!
Thanks everyone.

The Jacobite Team 2015

The '20 year club' Jacobite crew

Robert MacMillan presents Driver Alex Iain MacDonald with a bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water whisky.
Photos courtesy of Steve Roberts

All trains return home!
Saturday October 24th saw two 'special' trains depart Fort William, travelling South to their relevant homes, ready for servicing and repairs before taking up duties on Continental Christmas Markets, Christmas Dining Train, plus previously booked tours of Great Britain. Finally, at 7am the North Eastern Locomotive Preservation Group (NELPG) owned K1 62005 steam locomotive left Fort William hauling seven Jacobite carriages plus its own support coach, with WCR Class 37 Diesel 37516 Loch Laidon on the rear, heading for Carnforth in Lancashire with a booked stop at Crianlarich for 1½ hours to take on water. The second train was made up of two Black 5 steam locomotives owned by Ian Riley, 45407 and 44871, hauling nine Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS) coaches, two support vehicles, and a WCR GUV (General Utility Vehicle!). The coaches had arrived in Fort William, with catering facilities and passengers at 11.30 from Polmont behind Class 47854, WCR owned diesel Diamond Jubilee. After arrival at Fort William the passengers had approximately one hour to explore the town (and its pubs!). we joined it at Fort William and at 12.35 departed for Polmont and then Bo'ness, where the two Black 5's were detached. 45407 then took part in the SRPS Gala Day on Sunday 25th October. On Monday 26th October the two locomotives, along with their support coaches, and the WCR GUV, then travelled to Carnforth. The following weekend will see both locomotives on the 'Tin Bath', a yearly excursion based on The Last of the Summer Wine country.

The Borders Railway
As you may have seen on TV or read about in the national newspapers, the new railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank has now been officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen.
After travelling down to Bo'ness with the SRPS special charter train (see opposite page) I decided to traverse the new line myself. After n overnight stay at the Travelodge in Falkirk, Steve and I and trainee WCR fireman Paul Freer travelled on into Glasgow to meet up with friends, including my long standing friend, ex-WCR Royal Scotsman driver Andy Craig, for full Scottish Breakfast before going on to Edinburgh. We travelled on the 12.50 out of Queen Street and arrived just in time to catch the 14.11 departure for Tweedbank. You cannot pre-book seats on the new line so we took a chance! Consisting of a two-car Class 158 unit (the type that allegedly we will inherit for the Mallaig line one day after they are refurbished).
We embarked for Tweedbank with me reading West Word whilst travelling in the catering trolley lock up!! It was that full. To say the train was grossly overcrowded would be an understatement! The guard was somewhat amused as I don't think he had seen anybody travelling in there before. There was no catering trolley on the service - one could not have got through the carriages! Surprisingly it was quite comfortable sat on a bench rail with a wee window view and next to the Tardis type toilet!! The journey time is approximately one hour and the time went very quickly. There are ten stops along the route, Galashiels being the last but one and obviously the busiest. We travelled on to Tweedbank at the end of the line and, as we had been pre-warned, were greeted by a lonely waiting room that apparently had only been put up in the day before and a Station Ambassador, who turned out to be a very helpful chap, issuing maps of the area and the places to visit - Melrose, etc. After a wait of 35 minutes our train departed back to Edinburgh and this time we were able to secure a table seat and were able to see the view from both sides of the train. There is a great deal of tree and shrub planting and sprayed on wild flower and grass seeds already shooting, indeed beautiful red poppies are just coming into bloom in time for Remembrance Day. There are masses of stone gabions and all the fencing, gates, posts and rails are very high quality zinc. There are passing loops and we passed the Royal Scotsman coaches at Craigentinny and another service train in the loop. In hindsight it would have made sense for Abellio to hire in diesel locomotives with carriages until the new rolling stock is available. The steam trips along the line in the first month were a great success, using SRPS, Steam Dreams and ScotRail. The only problem with hiring in additional rolling stock would be that the carriages would have to be fitted with toilet holding tanks - a requirement made by Network Rail on this brand new track. The Class 158's do have this, so when we get them (eventually) on our line we will have the joy of no more effluent on our railway line. The 156's used at present on our lines don't possess holding tanks - hence the state of our tracks!
However, all that said I can highly recommend the new Borders railway line, but I would suggest you wait until the overcrowding problems are resolved!!

Autumn/Winter 2015 West Highland News
This interesting magazine is now on sale. As always it is packed with many interesting articles (including ferry news) and some lovely photographs. Priced at £3.50 it represents great value for money. Edited by Doug Carmichael from Oban, it is most informative to Railway enthusiasts.
Issues can be obtained from me or at 'Bill's Place', Fort William Railway Station. Give me a ring and I'll send you a copy - 01687 462189.

October West Word Competition Result
The answer to the question set was Simon Bradley - the author of the £25 book The Railways: Nation, Network and People. And the winner is ……drum roll here …… Dougie Westley from Inverness. Congratulations Dougie, the book is in the post.
See you on the train
Sonia Cameron

From Personal Angle
I don't suppose anyone is really is really too upset about the demolition and removal of Morar Hall. It had become a sad, tired and forlorn building of late and its removal met with general acceptance that it had had its day.
However, like any community hall in its time, it was a boon to the community regularly hosting ceilidhs, school concerts, Christmas Parties, Whist and Bridge sessions and dances of course.
Singing in the local band - surely you all remember The Tiggers and The Revolution?? - the Morar Hall was our regular dance venue and throughout the 70's the Saturday Night Dance became extremely popular as we were hired on a regular basis to play at Morar Hall by Alex and Christine MacDonald who, of course, could be found at the hall doorway taking the admission money for Hall or Church funds. Along with fellow band members James Manson (bass), George Young (drums) and Graham Leck (guitar). I would head most Saturdays over to the Hall to set up the gear, tune up and rehearse before heading up to Morar Hotel (Carol Kirkwood's father Calum MacKellaig was mine host with barman Johnny MacVarish) for a few drams then down to the Hall for the 10pm start.
It was the era of Slade, Smokie and Creedence Clearwater Revival, and we would play their songs as well as lots of others. We were adept at the Boston Two Step with Irish and Scottish songs being augmented by The Scaffolds 'Lily the Pink'.
It was also the era of mini skirts, tank tops, flares, sideburns, and one particular fashion item peculiar to Mallaig - Norwegian cardigans and jumpers. The connection being the Norwegian klondykers who visited Mallaig at that time.
A Norwegian TV crew filmed one of our dances in Morar Hall but unfortunately did not show footage of the band performing, but I can be heard singing 'Beautiful Sunday' on the TV programme soundtrack!!!
Moe Mathieson was our roadie! The boot of his car resembled cocktail bar and he would refresh our supply on a regular basis, setting the drinks down behind the bass drum seemingly in slow motion due to the strobe lighting effects!
The biggest riot I ever witnessed at a dance happened in the Morar Hall. It was during Glasgow Fair and it was particularly frightening as local clashed with some Glasgow holiday makers.
But it would be wrong of me to end this item on a downer as lots and lots of happily married couples have reasons to remember fondly the Morar Hall!
Robert MacMillan


Ferry Changes?
Whilst most people are pleased that Transport Scotland/CalMac Ferries Ltd are actively considering the introduction of a Lochboisdale to Mallaig ferry service for the 2016 summer season serious concerns are being raised about the future of the Mallaig-Armadale ferry route. The new proposals mean no Coruisk on the Skye Ferry Service in 2016 with the replacement vessel being the hybrid ferry Lochinvar (with a much reduced carrying capacity then the Coruisk) and the Lord of The Isles - the ferry set to link Mallaig to South Uist - augmenting the Lochinvar on the Skye Ferry Route in between sailing to Lochboisdale.
This in the view of the Authority is complicating matters when there is a simple solution and the following except is from a letter sent to CalMac re the new proposals.
"The proposed introduction of a Lochboisdale to Mallaig ferry service is one we welcome whole heartedly but to make it a more meaningful service - particularly for the Uist populace - it surely has to operate on a twice daily basis.
The Authority therefore contends that the solution which causes the least disruption is also the easiest to implement a) leave the Coruisk on the Mallaig/Armadale route; and b) introduce a twice daily summer ferry service between Lochboisdale and Mallaig."

Noel Regan & Sons have been busy doing repair and maintenance to several areas of the harbour including a new walkway around the Harbour Building. Although this work is now complete new fencing to go round the walkway is awaited and will be done later this month.
VG Forestry have been busy dismantling the upper storey of the Old Purse Net Factory and, in time, a new roof will be fitted to make the building wind and water tight prior to the onset of the real winter storms.

The Authority has placed an order for two new generators and hope to take delivery of one of them in December and the other one in January 2016.
One of the generators is set to replace our existing generator which has been in-situ now on the steamer pier for close on 40 years with the other one giving the Authority the ability to extend emergency lighting capability down to the outer harbour.

Lochboisdale to Mallaig Service
The Lord of The Isles commences its twice a week Lochboisdale to Mallaig run on Saturday 14th of November. The timetable is the same as the previous two winters (dep Mallaig @ 09.45 and 18.15 on Tuesdays & Saturdays) from 14th November 2015 through to Tuesday 22nd March 2016.


Mr Michael Currie, who resigned from the Harbour Board in June after 30 years as Chairman of the Authority, was presented with some farewell gifts by the Authority on Friday 6th November 2015. In the photo (l to r): Andy Race, Johnny MacMillan, Robert MacMillan, Allan Henderson, Michael Currie, Charlie King, Jackie Wright, Michael Foxley.
Robert MacMillan
01687 462154 info@mallaigharbourauthority.com

Further Consideration Required for Ferry Proposals on the Mallaig-Armadale Service Says MSP
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch has written to Caledonian MacBrayne regarding their proposed new ferry provisions. Mr Thompson believes the new provisions on the Mallaig - Lochboisdale service are excellent, as is the rollout of RET to all routes, however he has concerns in the affected communities about proposals for the Mallaig-Armadale service.
Mr Thompson said 'Whilst the proposed increasing frequency of sailings is welcomed, there would appear to be overall capacity issues particularly around the vehicle and passenger carrying (too small) of the LochInvar and the turnaround speed of this vessel in each port. In addition, there is concern over what will happen if the Lord of the Isles cannot sail from Lochboisdale or is otherwise delayed.
'I believe it is necessary, given the wider goal of improvements for all, that CalMac and the Scottish Government give these matters further consideration prior to the implementation of the new timetable'.

Mallaig Lifeboat Log

Tuesday 29th September 2015. Medicac from Inverie
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie at 14:50hrs. A visitor to Inverie was enjoying an afternoon's Loch fishing when he overbalanced and fell down the bank onto the rocky edge, knocking himself unconscious. His partner was able to summon help from locals who took the angler to Inverie Pier. The Lifeboat took a little longer than usual to reach Inverie due to the fact that she was proceeding on one engine. Technicians had been in the middle of reassembling the Port engine which just had new injectors fitted when the pagers were activated. On arrival at Inverie the casualty was assessed by the paramedics in the waiting room and was found to have recovered well from his mishap. Wishing to remain in Inverie the casualty conveyed his thanks for everyone's assistance and continued with his break along with his partner. Lifeboat proceeded back to Mallaig at a leisurely 10 knots arriving at the pontoon at 16:25hrs. Lifeboat fully operational at 18:00hrs.

Saturday 3rd October 2015 Medivac from Isle of Rum
Launched at 02:35 to Loch Scresor, Isle of Rum by Stornaway Coastguard. A passenger on a small research/cruiser vessel Monadhliath had suffered an allergic reaction to medication whilst at anchor in Rum. The Lifeboat arrived on scene at 03:15 with two paramedics onboard. Once the passenger was assessed and stabilized he was taken onboard the Lifeboat and conveyed back to Mallaig for transfer to Belford Hospital ,Fort William by the paramedics. Lifeboat ready for service at 04:55hrs.

Monday 19th October 2015 Medivac from Isle of Eigg
Launched to the Isle of Eigg to convey a patient back to the mainland by Stornoway Coastguard at 13:40hrs. A resident on the Island had been suffering back and abdominal pains and was advised by medics to seek treatment on the mainland as soon as possible. Arriving at Eigg slipway at 14:10 the patient was boarded and transferred to Mallaig for onward travel to Fort William's Belford Hospital. Lifeboat ready for service at 15:00hrs.
Jim Morton

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
The Crofting Commission held a series of roadshows throughout the Crofting counties and the one at The Ben Nevis hotel Fort William on 14th October was well attended. The Convenor of the Crofting Commission, Colin Kennedy was there representing the Commission along with a member of staff. The SAC were also in attendance and they gave an informative talk on the importance of liming. The SAC advice was to take a soil sample before you apply lime as the incorrect application can result in an imbalance of minerals in the soil that will have an effect on the uptake of important minerals required for fertility, calving and growth. They also advised that peaty soils will need a lower rate of application to bring it to the correct ph than other types of soil. SAC will do the soil testing and provide the kit. Above all the importance of lime is not to be overlooked as applying nitrogen fertiliser in the spring will deplete the soil of goodness if the grass does not have the right lime and phosphate balance. This talk by SAC was very informative and helpful.
Colin Kennedy, Convenor, fielded various questions from the audience, mainly asking why the Commission seem to be very hard to get hold of, even more so than in the past. Phone calls and emails are met with no response. He replied that things should improve once the new IT system has been installed at the Commission. There will be a fast track application process and a new way of dealing with regulatory applications that will speed things up. Mr Kennedy was also questioned about the misuse and neglect of croft land and whether crofters were obliged to be 100% honest when filing in the census, he reiterated that the findings from the last census and the next, plus the findings from the census to be sent to grazing committees soon, would be used to form polices and action strategies on neglect and misuse. When asked when the new draft grazing regulations would be sent out he said it would go before the board at the next meeting in November.
Patrick Krause from the SCF gave a talk on the important lobbying work done for crofters by the Federation , without this voice Scottish ministers and EU politicians would not hear the specific needs of crofting. The Scottish Crofting Federation also has a dedicated legal helpline for members, and keeps a list of vacant crofts. Members also receive the very informative Crofter magazine three times a year . The Registrars of Scotland were represented and they stressed how community croft registrations were a quicker and easier way to register your croft, as less likelihood of challenges to the land court.

Quality Meat Scotland, also known as Scottish Farm assured, QMS is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. It promotes the red meat sector and markets the Protected Geographical Indication Scotch Beef and Scotch Lamb brands.
It was set up in 1990 to provide assurance to industry and consumers that animals produced for the food chain met certain standards of welfare and traceability. If you are not Farm assured and you keep livestock in Scotland then your animals cannot be sold as Scottish beef or lamb. The supermarkets and finishers want Scottish Farm assured livestock and the difference in price for stores now at the marts is as much as £100 per head. It pays now to be Farm assured , if anybody would like the phone number to take steps to join this scheme please contact me on 07919872309. It is very worthwhile and not at all difficult to fulfil the criteria

BIRDWATCH October by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly settled month and fairly mild. The first Whooper Swans of the winter were reported from the 13th with flocks seen heading South over several days. A group of 27 were seen over Loch nan Ceall on the 26th. Most flocks continued South, but at least 2 adults were on Loch nan Eala from the 19th until the month end.
An unusual sighting for the West Coast was a Red-necked Grebe seen on Loch nan Ceall on the 2nd and presumably the same bird was seen just offshore from Gorten, Back of Keppoch, on the 4th. Most of the population breed in Eastern Europe, Finland and Russia. Many spend the Winter on the coasts of the North Sea but are considered scarce on the West of Scotland. Two Slavonian Grebes were also seen on Loch nan Ceall on the 6th.
Numbers of Wigeon and Teal built up on Loch nan Eala as the month progressed. Wigeon were also reported from Silver Sands and Loch nan Ceall. Great Northern Divers were first reported offshore from Camusdarach on the 4th when there were 3 present. Numbers increased at Gorten and Rhue by the month end and many more were seen flying South down the Sound of Sleat.
The first Redwings were heard migrating overhead at night from the 4th. Several large flocks were seen around the 12th and Fieldfares were noted from the 15th with small numbers seen in Morar, Camusdarach and Arisaig.
Five Golden Plover were seen at Traigh on the 4th. On the 30th at last 13 Purple Sandpipers along with 5 Turnstones were seen feeding on the rocks at Westbay, Mallaig.
Numbers of Chaffinches and Goldfinches coming to garden feeders increased by the month end, although there still seemed to be plenty flocks of Goldfinches feeding on roadside weeds.
On the 7th two Sea Eagles were seen flying out from Mallaig and circle over a prawn trawler, much to the annoyance of the attendant gulls!
Merlins were reported from Gorten and Rhue on the 4th and a Hen Harrier was also seen on the Rhue peninsula on several occasions. A large falcon seen predating a drake Mallard at Gorten Back of Keppoch, appeared to be a Saker Falcon or a hybrid and was almost certainly an escapee, as photos showed that it was ringed and had the remains of falconers jesses attached to its legs. A similar bird was reported from Rum on the 30th September.

Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Thanks to Ann and all who contributed to the Ceilidh on 23rd October for West Word's 21st birthday, Uncle Jim and l enjoyed our jaunt to Mallaig.
Those were a couple of great photos of Otters by Colin MacKenzie in last month's West Word, and several folk have asked if spring is the best time to look out for mother otters with their cubs.
Here is a photo of the mouth of an otter holt, with a slide they have made through rushes, and a sprainting (droppings) site on a rock.


This information is partly from books and from our observations. The chances of seeing otters active during the day are better in the west of Scotland. When the tide is incoming over shallow sheltered bays with seaweed-strewn rocks (where there is plenty of prey) can be good places for spotting otters fishing. In more-populated areas or where dogs are exercised, otters tend to be more nocturnal.
Otters are unusual amongst British mammals in that they are capable of breeding at most times of the year, Collins Complete British Animals indicates a breeding season for otters from February to November. Thus cubs can be born through the year but in the north they are apparently more likely to be born in spring or summer. Could this be that although there is a food supply throughout the year for those living by the sea, the water temperatures are warmer in the summer and therefore less energy is used by mother and cubs to keep warm while fishing submerged in water ?
Adult otters have territories, the male lives alone and his territory may impinge on those of several females. The mother is the sole parent rearing the 1 to 4 cubs, they can be weaned by 4 months but usually stay with the mother for about a year, or until the next batch of cubs.
The otter's main power for swimming is with its tail and hind-legs; the fore-legs are used for steering, balance, and holding prey. Otters can be under water for 6 to 7 minutes (van der Brink, 1976). We timed a dog otter swimming in the sea off the Mallaig car park and it remained underwater for lengths between 4 and 5 minutes.
Dr Mary Elliott
Refs: F.H. van den Brink 1976 A Field Guide to the Mammals of Britain and Europe.
Paul Sterry 2005 Collins Complete British Animals.

Wide World West Word

And still we are taken to places we've never been before!

Joe MacLeod, Morar, actually took us on his stag party trip to Berlin where he visited Checkpoint Charlie, the former crossing between East and West Berlin, with (l to r) friends Paddy Small, Corpach, Damien MacDonald, Mallaig and Ross Gillies, Arisaig. Now we're waiting for that wedding photo Joe!

Shona and 'Sooty' Tierney packed their copy when they left Mallaig to visit Nashville, where they visited Gracelands and The Grand Ole Opry as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Victor and Betty Wands, subscribers from Greenock, enjoyed an Autumn break and West Word on the banks of the Rhine at Boppard in Germany.

Our own rail columnist and award winning volunteer Sonia Cameron read her West Word in a catering trolley cupboard on the new Borders Railway!

Margaret Harrison took her copy when she left Arisaig for a few days break at Airth Castle and Spa Resort.

Where will we go next? we're looking forward to finding out!

Kin Connections by Marlene (Màiri Éilidh) MacDonald Cheng (mcmcheng@shaw.ca)
Continuing with 'Kin Connections' in the August 2015 issue of West Word, Margaret Gillis's father was Donald Bàn Gillies. He died in Scotland leaving two daughters - Margaret and Catherine. Their mother's name is not known, but she most likely was from the Arisaig or Morar area of Scotland. After the father of Margaret and Catherine died, their mother married again to Lachann (or Lauchlin) McDonald, son of Ranald McDonald of Arisaig, Scotland. Their mother and Lauchlin had a son Donald (mac Lachann), making Margaret and this Donald brother and sister. In this manner, the children of Margaret Gillis and Donald (son of Allan) McDonald were first cousins to the children of Donald (son of Lauchlin) McDonald and his wife (unknown).
Lauchlin McDonald and Margaret Gillis's mother (who's name I haven't been able to trace) stayed in Scotland. As far as I can tell, only one of Lauchlin's children, their son Donald (Dòmhnull mac Lachainn), came out to Nova Scotia and settled at Fraser's Mills, very close to where Donald (son of Allan)'s family settled. Other children of theirs remained in Scotland.
On both sides of these connected families can be found five young men who entered the priesthood. Through the descendants of Donald (mac Ailein) McDonald and Margaret Gillis, Rev. Doctor D. C. Gillis and Rev. H. P. MacPherson were second cousins - Rev. Doctor D.C. Gillis was the grandson of Catherine, daughter of Donald (mac Ailein) McDonald and Margaret Gillis, and Rev. H. P. MacPherson was the son of Alexander Bàn, son of Donald (mac Ailein) McDonald and Margaret Gillis. Both Rev. Gillises were on staff at St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
Margaret (Gillis) McDonald's children were first cousins to the children of Donald (macLachann). Donald (MacLachann) had a son, Lauchlin whose wife Ann was a Gillis. These three priests - Rev. Alexander L., Rev. Donald L., and Rev. Ronald L. (the 'L' stands for Lauchlin) - were grandsons of Donald (mac Lachlann) McDonald, and sons of Lauchlin and Ann (Gillis) McDonald. I have searched high and low for information on the families of the descendants of Lauchlin and Margaret (Gillis) McDonald, but haven't been successful finding them. Hopefully I shall be able to find some of their descendants, either in Scotland, or in Nova Scotia, who might be reading West Word and who wouldn't mind sharing what they know.
Well, onward and upward; I have some exciting news to share with those who follow the Kin Connections column in West Word each month. For many years I have been searching for my Mother's MacEachern people, but I could only get to about the 1850's before I hit a road-block. Recently I received an e-mail from an avid MacEachern researcher by the name of Alec McEachern. He inspired me to have another look at my MacEachern research (Thanks again, Alec). First of all, I knew that the names of my Grandfather MacEachern's ancestors were in the 1871 census, but I hadn't looked at it for several years. Something made me sit up and take notice. I said to myself, "I've been through all this before and I got nowhere. I wonder if they really were 'MacEacherns'!" I sat at my desk thinking about possible names and "MacEachen" popped into my head. I grabbed my binder that has the census information, and flipped it open at my MacEacherns. Sure enough, the census showed that they were "MacEacherns", NOT "MacEachens"! "NOT AGAIN!!!", I said to myself. I put my head down in disappointment. After a minute or so, I suddenly had an idea. What if someone was spelling the name wrong? I immediately went on-line to find the original 1871 census, the one that is taken by hand by a local census taker. It took a while to find it, but when I did, the beautiful hand-written results showed clearly that the name was "McEachen", not "McEachern". Aha, I thought, in excitement. The census taker who did the hand-written version would have been a local person, and most likely a Gaelic speaker. He or she would have known how to pronounce and spell the name. My heart was pounding with excitement!!! My head was racing! Where would I find MacEachens in Scotland; perhaps South Uist and/or the Small Isles? I looked up and right in front of me on my desk was a small booklet featuring all the names of the people on the Small Isles in a census taken in 1764/65. That was quite far back, but perhaps the family names would give me a clue. I went back to the 1871 census to find my great-grandfather James MacEachern. I knew that he was the first born in the family. There he was in the 1871 census, and he was 20 years old, the eldest of the lot. His parents were John (age 51) and Margaret (age 51). I also knew that John's wife was a Lamey, an Irish lady whose people were very musical!! The rest of the family were there with John and Margaret, except for Angus (age 82) and Sarah (age 80) who were in the very next family (with all their adult children who hadn't married), and the next family to Angus and Sarah was that of Alexander and Marcella, John's brother and his wife with their children. This gave me the names and approximate ages of all the children in Angus and Sarah's family. Now that I knew ages, it was clear that Angus was born about 1789 in Scotland and Sarah was born about 1791.
Well, I must tell you that I found a census that was done in Inverness County, Cape Breton in 1818. After checking the ages of McEachen men in that census, and comparing it to the one done on Eigg (one of the Small Isles) in 1765, it certainly looks to me as though my MacEachens who are over the age of 55 match up quite well with the names and ages of the McEachen males at the time of the 1765 census on Eigg. Now I will check out the McEachen males on South Uist and elsewhere, to see how that compares. Yahoo!! More work, but I LOVE IT!!! Slàinte!!!

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)

Visit the official Road to the Isles web site


Copyright © 2002-2015 West Word
Page last updated: November 2015

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland