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

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October 2006 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg, Arisaig, Glenfinnan
Coastal Ranger Report
West Word ten years ago

Apologies for the delay in posting West Word online this month!

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It has been said that 'launch' is not perhaps the most appropriate word to use for the event of introducing a new minibus to the community. However, on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd September, Mallaig and District's new minibus was indeed, officially 'launched' with the cutting of a ribbon.
A supportive group were welcomed to the ceremony at Mallaig High School in beautiful weather by June Cairns, the Association's Secretary, to witness the start of the Mallaig and District Transport Association's new project and to enjoy a barbecue, refreshments and a special cake.
The new £71,000 bus is an Alero from the Optare firm, designed to be accessible on equal terms to all users. Although it already has a low floor, if special access is required, at the touch of a button the driver can lower the floor even more on the kerb side and a ramp can then be folded out to give a very gentle slope to those using wheelchairs, push chairs or walking aids. The funding for the project also covers administration, the employment of a part-time co-ordinator and some running costs and has come from the Scottish Executive's Rural Community Transport Initiative, Highland Council, Lochaber Enterprise, LEADER + and Awards for All, with further help from Councillor King's Discretionary Fund, Morar Community Council, the Gower Trust and the Mackintosh Foundation.
Councillor King admired the bus and said 'I congratulate the Association on their hard work to overcome the difficulties of recent years to keep their old bus on the road and the wonderful achievement of turning their fortunes around to the point where they had attracted sufficient outside funding to buy a new vehicle and set up an office with a paid part time co-ordinator. There are few communities who rally round like the communities of Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig with Knoydart and the Small Isles, to support fund raising events.' His speech was rounded off with good wishes for the future of the scheme.
Mrs. Cairns thanked the community for its support in running and attending fund raising events and also thanked the funding groups that had given grants to keep things going while preparations were made for the new project. These were the Gower Trust, the Arisaig Fund, Morar Community Council and Councillor King's Discretionary Fund.
More thanks were given to people who had helped plan and prepare the funding applications. Especially mentioned were Sheila Fletcher of the Community Transport Association, Peggy Kourmoulaki of Lochaber Transport Forum and Ann Martin, then of Voluntary Action Lochaber. Mrs. Cairns also thanked the members of the Board who had done their bit in keeping everything going and Tommy MacManmon and John O'Neil for training to be MiDAS trainers so that they could keep up their stock of volunteer drivers.

June Cairns cuts the ribbon in company with driver/trainer John O'Neil, Director Maria Martin,
Project Co-ordinator Ann Martin, Chair Ann McLean and Treasurer Jackie MacLellan.
Photo Moe Mathieson.

After Mrs. Cairns cut the ribbon and declared the bus ready for the road, Mrs. Anne McLean, Association Chairperson cut a beautiful cake, a replica of the bus itself, made by Mrs. Jacqui Ross of Arisaig. Those who wished were able to travel on the bus for a short trip and declared it very comfortable. Mrs. Lindy Henderson, who uses a walking aid, declared the access to be very easy and she was delighted at being able to get on the bus without help.
Already helping users of all ages to access facilities outwith the range of public transport, the Association looks forward to serving an even wider section of the community as their new systems get under way. In next month's West Word there will be more information on the changes the project will bring about and new contact details.

Hopes are high that four Mallaig Bowlers will be selected to represent their country at the British Isles Bowling Championship in the Isle of Man. The Championships, organised by the Short Mat Bowling Federation, are scheduled to take place over the weekend of the 10th - 13th November, when a series of singles, doubles, triples and foursome competitions will be held. Mallaig Bowlers Alan Eddie, Denis Eddie, Chris Gray and John Young have already been asked if they are available for selection, and their inclusion in the 16-strong pool is expected to be confirmed any day now.
So come on boys, put Mallaig and Scotland on the map (mat)!

The annual drydocking of the M.V. Lochnevis will affect ferry services from 14th to 30th October (both dates inclusive). Anyone wishing to travel between Mallaig and the Small Isles between these dates, must contact the Mallaig office (01687 462 403) for information - booking is essential!

On the 21st August 2006 John Cormack and Alistair Kirk, both members of the Eigg Coastguard Rescue Team, were presented with their 20 year long service medals. Aside from their Coastguard duties, John is the Island Postman and ferry terminal operative whilst Alistair with his wife Sue runs the Island shop, self catering lodge and croft. Eigg with just an eight person team now has four members with over 20 years of dedicated service to HM Coastguard.
The medals were presented by Steve Matthews, Rescue Co ordination Centre Manager from Stornoway. The day began with an exercise planned by the local Sector Manager, Phil Wren which brought in the Coastguard Rescue Helicopter from Stornoway with the intention of evaluating various landing sites for the helicopter which also gave the opportunity for the team to get an aerial view of their Island.
Following the flight, the Coastguard team and helicopter crew assembled at the tea room for the medal presentation and afternoon tea. All of the children and many adults then had the opportunity to look inside the helicopter with many photo's being taken. Phil then handed out Coastguard "goody bags" to all the children present. The helicopter completed the day with an impressive "fly past" of the landing site and the pier followed by a controlled hover over the stern of MV Sheerwater outside the Harbour.

Left to right: Colin Carr, Phil Wren, John Cormack, Steve Matthews and Alistair Kirk.

What shall we do now?
There's a hush in the air
The cranes have all fled
The rocks are still bare
But the Pier it is finished
The team has moved on-
I could say we're poised to burst into song-not;
Only the birds do that.
Plans are afoot, applications prepared
By Tommy and Grant
To appeal to the Lottery pronto we're told
For support of the next phase in forest and track,
Clearance of ponticum, sitka and spruce,
Creation of bike trails and paths through the woods,
And help from the 'big boys'- I refer to extraction - so
Relative silence may turn into action - again
Development continues and moves on apace
Bob's house and Bernie's and Cara's and Victor's and
Kilchoan's been gutted but is rising again.
The 'yachties' have vanished, gales have blown in,
We're closing the shutters, preparing for rain (and snow and hail) -
I'll quit my preamble and attempts at refrain -
Anymore and I'll surely be known as THE PAIN
Anne Trussell

September is over and the Sheerwater has made her last call. There are still a few visitors on the island but not many. It has been a very busy summer in the Craft Shop with record numbers of patrons in July and August and that is the period which really makes the difference. Sandra Mathers and Jenny MacEwen have really been stretched at times as evening meals, which have been fairly static for many years, suddenly took off this July! And Hebridean Princess made all her calls this autumn - that must be a first.
Congratulations to Glen and Julie MacFazdean on the birth of their daughter Katie Marie. She arrived a few weeks early and weighed under 5lbs but Julie was not in hospital long and both are doing fine at home.
On the farm it has been a remarkable September with weeks of high temperatures and the fields full of grass. I have always been a Global Warming sceptic, unsure whether the present warm period is man made or part of a natural cycle. One has only to look at the raised beaches which surround this island indicating periods of prehistory when the sea level must have been much higher than it is today.
All the ewes have been gathered this month and the numbers on each 'hirsel' adjusted to what the ground should carry during a normal winter. The surplus ewes (mainly the oldest) were sold in Fort William on Friday (29th September). This year I have replaced some of the Blackface ewes with Lleyn x Blackface gimmers, and some of these will also replace Mule ewes in the fields. Lleyn ewes are reputed to be highly prolific - it will be interesting to see if they produce as many twins as the Jacob x Cheviots already in the flock.
Lawrence MacEwen

The first of the sales took place last month. A bright clear morning brought onlookers out in force…locals and tourists gathered on the pier with an air of anticipation and to witness the proceedings. Everything seemed to go smoothly on the day…and there were some very good prices had at the last sale, too…all in all a good result and well-done everyone.
The roofers and joiners have made an excellent job of the school. Cheers to Gordy and the boys. Alan's truck will no doubt be glad to be on, er, dry land. All that remains for us now is to replace the several tons of topsoil around the new swingframe and sow some new grass. Surely a walk in the (play) park for our clerical assistant/groundsman…if he ever comes out of his shed.
Archaeologists arrived once again and were digging around the West End…found substantial quantities of pottery, believed to be dating from the Neolithic era. That's erm…very old indeed. Thanks to Jill and the rest of the team for showing us around the sites, which was a great experience for the children (and some of the grown ups). Pity Johnny fell down the hole…anyway he's back on the ward and on the mend at last. Hope they managed to put the vase back together.
The Ratters are back, this time to do some monitoring…so far so good. They seem to be settling back in quite well. The team, that is, not the rodents. No doubt their success with the Rat Eradication Programme has contributed in no small way to the shearwater chick found back on Canna - the first in seven years, as reported in the press recently.
Talking of media interest, this month another independent production company arrived on Canna, this time to film for a documentary about Thomas Pennant.
Good to read that the seabirds are beginning to return. No doubt the media will by now be aware that we are actively seeking more residents on Canna, that other endangered species, homo sapiens…
Still no renewable energy meeting? Mind you it is getting a bit windy at this time of year. And the nights are definitely drawing in. Aye.
Geoff Soe-Paing

The BBC are here in force, filming some of Autumn Watch- tune into BBC2 8pm for the next two weeks and you'll see live broadcasts of rutting stags from Kilmory glen. They have brought with them about 16 tonnes worth of kit to make this happen, taken up virtually every available bed in the village and have 10 vehicles (there may be more), which, relatively speaking, makes this place not dissimilar to Piccadilly Circus.
Bridge repairs are also under way, being carried out by Corrie Construction. Once the bridges are fixed, it will enable heavy plant to get down the road to Harris to start the much needed road repairs. Actually its current state doesn't classify it as a road and in some places, barely a track.
Stalking activity is also in full flow; SNH's quota of stags has been shot and currently, Derek Thomson is out shooting with guests. Derek's business appears to be going from strength to strength, he's employed an extra Stalker this year, the delightful Portia Simpson - to assist.
There will be a ceilidh this Friday 6th October. Mathew Watson and band who played at the festival will be here. Kicks off at 8.30 ish, and it's a fiver on the door. And , there's another ceilidh the following weekend played by Gabe MacVarish, Ross Martin &co (13th October), both in the village Hall. While I'm at it, we have a band for Hogmanay too and the Castle will be open for guests, so if you fancy a change come and spend the duration out here.
The Small Isles Community council AGM is on Eigg this coming Saturday and we have been asked to come to a consensus about our views for the proposals for the Marine National Park in this area.
We discussed this at a community meeting and found that we don't have enough information to be able to do this- all we have is what we have found on the internet and from the media - there has been no formal information sent here, even to the SNH Reserve Office. Importantly for us, having been subject to more SNH consultations than most, we are fully aware what it is like to be imposed upon and recognise the need for more information NOW, before a decision is made on where the park will be and how it will be run and what the effects will be on local communities.
On Rum, we have been struggling for over 9 years to establish the bare minimum of community development, trying to get security of tenure and affordable housing for those who want to live here - and still haven't got there yet. If things are this hard here with Rum's string of designations then what will it be like if we are part of a national park as well.
We would like to think that it would bring in more tourism, boost the economy, make more funding available for community projects and create opportunities, rather than produce another layer of bureaucracy to make our lives harder and stifle some areas of the local economy, but if we don't get adequate information soon, people will make up their minds based on media speculation and that will only impede any attempt at reasonable consultation.
So if anyone at the Scottish Executive is reading this, can you please provide us with more information about the proposed Marine National Park and its affect on Lochaber and the small Isles.

Recent coastguard activity
The Rum team were called out on 20th and 21st September to assist with a search for a casualty who had slipped and fallen down a burn in spate. Coastguard Helicopter and Mallaig lifeboat searched the area extensively and Mallaig coastguard cliff team carried out a search of gullies along the sides of the burn and the sea cliff. The search was unsuccessful. On Sunday 24th September a subsequent search was carried out by members of the Rum team after the water level had subsided, however, nothing was found.
On Sunday 1st October we were called out to assist with the recovery of the body of the casualty from last week's incident. Members of a mountain rescue team found the body. Mallaig coastguard team and helicopter recovered the body, which was taken away by members of the police.
Rum Coastguard is still waiting to find out if we will get a new storage shed for our equipment. Our current shed is very damp and despite numerous requests for a replacement, they seem to be falling on deaf ears. For a mere £800 a new shed could be bought to keep the gear in a safe, dry environment. It is a waste for this expensive equipment to be stored in its current state.
Fliss Hough

Those Indian Summer September days were most welcome; bales of silage accumulating nicely in the fields, a good harvest of bramble, and a sizeable crop of chanterelles, whilst the very low tides enabled razor fish amateurs to indulge in a few platefuls of this shellfish which is more difficult to get since the new pier has been built! Wildlife was most noticeable this month in the form of whole menageries of insects seeking to invade whenever a window was opened, with Sue doing her customary wasp dance on the patio behind the Old Pier restaurant.
It was a busy month for the island primary school kids with trips to the mainland and to Muck where they enjoyed the Camas storytelling programme, whilst the adult Eiggach enjoyed the clever dialogues of "Art," Mull Little Theater's latest offering on the 25th.
September also saw the board of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust meeting on the island to discuss the final details of the electrification plans, the contractors having discovered a new location for the Laig Hydro capable of producing 100 KW instead of the 40 KW initially thought, which is great news. In any case, the first part of the scheme will see solar panels installed on the island by February 2007: everyone on Eigg is pretty excited at the idea of getting electricity at a rate only slightly superior to that enjoyed on the mainland but vastly inferior to what it cost at present. The IEHT directors also met with the community to discuss the way forward for the next 10 years as a new strategic plan is expected to be produced for our 10th anniversary year. Mark Foxwell of the SWT also reminded the community that the Marine Park proposal would be of great benefit to the island as well as the rest of the Small Isles form a variety of points of view, cultural and economical as well as environmental. Watch this space!
Meanwhile, the young islanders gathered together to give Eilidh Kirk a good send off before her departure for university in Falmouth. Last weekend's balmy weather also saw them on the beach for what will probably the last bonfire of the season before celebrating Frances Carr's 18th birthday on the 29th. Many happy returns, Frances!
It was with much sadness that the islanders greeted the news that Barry Williams had passed away peacefully in Inverness on the 15th of September. Barry, whose wife Joy died last year, had served on the fledgling Isle of Eigg Trust as director and treasurer and was much appreciated for his quiet sense of humour and his dedication to the island. Barry and Joy made a great contribution to island life and there is a feeling that now at last they can be together again. Another sad news was of the death of Valerie Pragnell, basket maker and environmental artist. Valerie who loved the west coast and was a frequent visitor to Arisaig, made a great contribution to environmental sculpture in Scotland and contributed much to the understanding of basket making as art . She enthusiastically responded to the challenge of taking part in the Lodge garden sculpture project as part of Year of the Artist 2000, and involving the island children. We must make sure that we keep her willow den and maze in good shape in honour of her contribution to our island landscape.

Portuguese Volunteers help renovate St Donnan's church
White washed walls, a nice beach pebble path, rebuilt walls and trimmed fuschias are the most obvious signs of the renovations carried out on St Donnan's RC church, Cleadale , Isle of Eigg, by a team of 26 volunteers, mostly from Portugal but also including a couple of Mancunians. The young science, architecture and medicine students who came at the end of August to work on the church had been scheduled to go to Lebanon earlier on in the summer to help with a vaccination campaign amongst Iraqi catholic refugees. The Bayreuth bombings put a stop to their plans and as word filtered through that volunteers were needed on Eigg, they were able to donate their free time to the badly needed renovations here. The students tirelessly worked from morning till night, but laughter was very much part of the experience judging by all the singing and good humoured banter that was going on! They also had some reflective moments under the spiritual guidance of the Portuguese parish priest that came with them and some good old fashion secular moments at the Old Pier. Fr Barrett who started the volunteer programme for St Donnan's church was delighted with the progress made, as the drainage carried out along the wall should help stabilise the building and the fresh white and yellow paint makes the inside of the church much more cheerful. It is also a great encouragement to the congregation! A big thank you goes to all who helped during the week, Wes for sharing his stone walling skills, Angus and Duncan, and Mairi who made a wonderful job of feeding everyone with her helpers, Eileen, Karen and Peggy. And of course thank you to all our new Portuguese and Mancunian friends, who were presented with an Eigg T-shirt each as they went off on the ferry, still singing and laughing!
Camille Dressler.

'The end of an era' is a much used phrase in these days of things changing so swiftly but it says it all, so I make no excuse of using it again. Best wishes to Alan and Helen Lamb as they move into their new home at Smiddy House, leaving the Manse which will never house another Minister for Arisaig and the Small Isles. In the same breath, welcome to Deacon Janet Anderson, who has moved into Clanranald Place.
Poor audiences in the Hall for the most part, except for the Blas Festival concert which was packed. An amazing performance of 'The Heretics Tales' on a huge set which ran the length of the hall - but where was the audience? Those few who came were full of praise for the story, special effects and the acting. Mull Theatre's excellent and funny 'Egg' also had few attending. I think I shall have to cry 'Defeat' and not do arts promotion next year. Prove me wrong by coming to 'Spookmaster-scary tales for children' on the 4th just before the Bonfire and fireworks….
Ann Martin

Donald John loves beer so much he has converted his garage into a microbrewery along with business partners David Leckie and John Fish. A'Chiad Fhear or The First One is the name of the (you guessed it!) first brew from the Glenfinnan Brewery. It is a limited edition of 1000 bottles and a barrel. Those bottles could become collectors items so a bottle of beer might be considered an investment. They are desperate to know what you think of it so have a taste at Glenfinnan House Hotel during October and if you fill in a feedback form you might even get a discount! The recipe, a work in progress, will be adjusted depending on customer comments. The recipe is, of course, a secret but it is no secret that the most vital ingredient is the Glenfinnan water. The three brewers have recently passed a brewing course and are excited about this new venture. It is a far cry from their former careers when they knew each other as High School teachers.
It's good news too for the environment as the brewery produces no waste. The Highland Cows eat the brewers draft which is brewers lingo for the spent malt, no need to marinade the beef, and John White composts the spent hops for his garden.
John White's passion for gardening is no secret and this summer he has been particularly successful. He has been supplying the Farm Shop in Torlundy with organic Glenfinnan vegetables. It will be interesting to know if next year's yield is higher after fertilizing his ground with the spent hops.
On Sunday 24th we had a wonderful afternoon of music and dancing and fundraising raffles and tombolas raising in excess of £720 for the Church Restoration Fund. As the rain lashed outside, most of the village, it seemed, joined together in a marquee on the lawn at Glenfinnan House Hotel. It was a real community effort and the level of support from the village highlights how significant the church building is to everyone irrespective of denomination or attendance. There was an abundance of raffle prizes, sandwiches and home-baking.
John White and the brass band entertained us very well. We also had local musicians playing ceilidh dance music to the immense pleasure of the dozens of young children who danced and ate cake until they were high as kites and were then taken home to bed with some protest. The adults enjoyed it too! It was a warm family atmosphere and the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. The line-up included Ingrid Henderson, Iain MacFarlane, Dougie Hunter, Colm O'Rua, Iain (Whaler) MacDonald and Hugh MacCallum. The church has been inspected by architects and surveyors and is planning a 2 to 3 year conservation and restoration project. The total cost will be in the region of £300,000 to £400,000. Fortunately, Father Roddy Johnstone has secured significant funds and the local fundraisers, Frances White, Isobel MacFarlane and others aim to raise as much as possible so we can expect future events. Frances White spent the week before the ceilidh in Rome with Father Roddy and people from St John's church in Caol. On Friday afternoon she was in the Sistine Chapel then shortly after in Glenfinnan church. The contrast must have been inspiring as she was very enthusiastic in her fund-raising efforts as anyone who bought tombola tickets can testify! They enjoyed an audience with the Pope in St Peter's Square and were delighted to get a mention from the clergyman acting as master of ceremonies even if he couldn't get his tongue around the pronunciation of Caol. There is a memorial to Bonnie Prince Charlie in the Vatican, one of three in the world. The others two are in Glenfinnan and at his burial place.
The marquee we sheltered in for the ceilidh had been the scene of a Gordon family wedding reception the day before. The Gordons descended from the Macdonalds of Borrodale and Glenaladale who rebuilt Glenfinnan House in the 1850s. Lewis Gordon, the bride's grandfather, donated the Rose window in the church. The bride is Joanna Gordon and her groom is Maugan Rimmer from Cornwall.
We had a couple of Blas events. There was a concert in the church with Mary Ann Kennedy, Chaz Stewart and Coisir Og Lochabair. It was very well attended. I only managed the first half leaving when my toddler tried to drown out Mary Ann Kennedy's first solo. We enjoyed the choir and I was especially keen to hear them as their CD had a very soothing effect on my daughter as a baby. She would stop crying and listen! There was also a session in the bar one Saturday night with local Lochaber and Glenfinnan musicians.
The results of the fishing competition on Saturday 23rd September are: 1st Stevie Docherty, best basket; 2nd Donnie MacBeath, biggest fish; 3rd Neil MacDonald, second basket; 4th Reg Hutt, third basket.

News of our young people:
Lewis MacLean is away to Telford College to study sport and continue his hockey career.
Ailsa Powell is back from Taiwan and is returning to Edinburgh University.
Martin White finishes his sound recording course in October and will be returning home from Australia in time for Christmas.

Happy Birthday to Duncan O'Rourke, 3 years old!
Happy Birthday to Àine, age 2 on 7th October.

Village Events
Glenfinnan Gun Club, Duncan Stoddart Memorial Shoot on 23rd October
Halloween Party, 31st October in Glenfinnan House Hotel
Bonfire, firework display, hot food and drink, 5th November
Eileen O'Rua

Geraldine and John Young are presented with gifts by First ScotRail bosses at Mallaig Station.

Mallaig Train Driver Steams Into Retirement
After 49 years, 6 months and 22 days of rail service Driver John Young has finally retired from First ScotRail. John started work on the railway on March 4th 1957 as an engine cleaner, and worked his way up the ladder to become a main-line driver, firstly on steam engines, then Class 27 and 37 diesel electrics and finally on Class 156 'Sprinter' units. John said 'I have mixed feelings about retiring. But I will miss the camaraderie at work. I certainly won't miss the 5am starts in the dark, cold winter mornings!!'
Former Arisaig driver (now staying in Fort William) Alec Iain MacDonald started on the railway exactly the same day as John Young, although he retired from ScotRail last August and now drives the famous Jacobite Steam train from Fort William to Mallaig, and on occasions the Royal Scotsman between Mallaig and Taynuilt.

The Fishing for Litter Scotland Project, co-ordinated by KIMO UK, has now started operating in Mallaig with the co-operation of the local harbour. Several boats have already agreed to participate in the scheme and more will be contacted over the coming weeks. Mallaig is the 8th harbour to join the scheme, which also operates at Aberdeen, Eyemouth, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Lerwick Scalloway and Stornoway and has over 70 participating vessels.
Fishing for Litter Scotland is a three-year project funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, The Crown Estate, Scottish Executive, Shetland Enterprise, Aberdeenshire Council and the Western Isles Council, which aims to engage the fishing industry in reducing marine litter. Participating boats are given hard wearing 1m3 bags in which to collect marine litter which accumulates in their nets during normal fishing activity. The bags are then taken ashore and disposed of on land removing the litter from the marine environment and preventing it washing ashore. The aim of the Project is to establish a network of ten harbours with 100 participating boats and to collect 500 tonnes of marine litter over the three-year period.
The project benefits both the environment and the fishing industry as both are victims of marine litter. As well as causing problems to wildlife, such as seabirds, through entanglement and ingestion items of marine debris can cause damage to nets and catches. Items such as old paint tins or oil filters can contaminate a catch if they make it into the cod end and larger items can tear nets. Research done by KIMO showed that in a worst case scenario it could cost up to £30,000 a year in damaged nets, lost catches and time spent cleaning nets and equipment.

James McLean, Harbourmaster, and John Mouat, Project Co-ordinator, with one of the bags.

John Mouat, Project Coordinator said, "I am delighted to expand the scheme in the West of Scotland with the addition of Mallaig. This continues our commitment to providing as wide a network as possible for participating boats." James McLean, Harbourmaster at Mallaig said, "The harbour is committed to ensuring that the local marine environment is as clean as possible and therefore we are pleased to participate in this innovative project."
KIMO UK is Kommunenes Internasjionale Miljøorganisasjon (Local Authorities Environmental Organisation).

'Tales of the Morar Highlands' is the new book by historian Alasdair Roberts. Alasdair lives in Bracara and is also a printer of West Word! Below we reproduce a review of the book, written in Gaelic by Ronald Black and printed in The Scotsman on 9th September. Paul Galbraith has kindly translated it for us.

Cnacaireachd thaitneach mu dheidhinn muinntir Mhórair
Agreeable Chat about the People of Morar.

There are hundreds of characters in Alasdair Roberts' Tales of the Morar Highlands (Birlinn, £9.99) but I am only going to name three. After reading the book I feel I know them personally!
Roberts himself is the first character. He is a Catholic historian, but that's as well because the 'Faith of the Pope' is in the Morar folk's blood. He is also the historian of the midge and that shows he is capable of light writing. But what is strange about this book is that Roberts is a stranger to Morar. For it is not entirely tales or history but a chat about people. It seems to me that Roberts has named every son and daughter of a mother in the district who were alive in the two hundred years that have gone by! It is no small task for one who did not come there until he retired from his job in the city. That puts him in the same category as Bill Lawson of Harris.
The second character is James MacDonald (1872-1908), fisherman, brave swimmer, Gaelic singer and author of Tales of the Highlands (1907). He gets the first two chapters to himself. He wrote about the Loch Morar Monster: 'The Mhorag once chased a boat from Scamadale to Romasaig, and after swimming in front, she raised herself almost clean out of the water, and on revealing a snowy bosom she afterwards began shaking a cluster of yellow hair with such magic grace that every time the tresses discurled themselves they rained showers of gold.'
I wonder if there is any connection between this and the Mhorag of Alastair Mac Mhgr Alastair, who was himself so familiar with Morar that he praised the district in 58 verses (or more if Roberts is telling the truth).
The third character is Chirstie MacVarish (1898-1986), the daughter of a crofter at 4 Bracara, 'The Girl in the Picture' - title of the third chapter. On a day in 1910 she was taking a load of kindling home. Who came that way, about the bottom of the brae, but Mary Donaldson, an English writer, pulling a hand cart like a pram (the 'Green Maria' as she herself called it) in which she kept her camera. The result was one of the most famous photographs ever taken in Scotland.
Chirstie married a gamekeeper and they had nine children. Roberts tells us about the family. As a widow in 1986, she scarcely remembered the day the picture was taken. But for us she will remain twelve years of age forever as she looks out across Loch Morar - toil, innocence, beauty and longing all mixed together.
[The Scotsman illustration is captioned with the closing words of Raghnall MacilleDuibh: Ciorstaidh NicMharais: 'saothair, neoichiontachd, bòidhchead agus cianalas uil' an lùib a-chéile.']

The book has also been reviewed in the West Highland Free Press and The Herald, and Iain Thornber reviews it in next month's Scots Magazine.
We are grateful to Alasdair for the kind comments about West Word the book contains! It had sold out in most local outlets but may be found in Mallaig Bookshop, Mallaig Heritage Centre and Arisaig's Land, Sea and Islands Centre.

Click here to buy it from the publishers Birlinn online
order online from Amazon

book cover

Morar Futures moves on with Awards for All Funding
The Morar Futures Group has been awarded a grant of £4,600 from Awards for All Scotland to enable them to take the project forward into the next phase of the work. Awards for All is a consortium of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Arts Council, Sportscotland and Big Lottery Fund.
At their Annual General Meeting in July, the Morar Futures Group adopted a formal constitution and elected a Management Committee. There were fourteen nominations for the committee and the following seven people were elected:
Leisha Clark (Secretary)
Maureen Sutherland
Sue Hood
Mairi MacLean (Chairman)
Donnie MacDonald
Anna Cornelius (Treasurer)
Deirdre Roberts
The committee then elected its own officers as above. This Management Committee will represent the Morar Futures Group through the next phase of the work.
With funding from the Communities Scotland's New Ideas Fund, over the past year, the residents of Morar have been working together to produce an Action Plan for the sustainable development of the village. Through many consultation events, a large proportion of Morar residents have contributed many ideas for projects to improve the quality of life for residents and also improve the economic development of the village. The Action Plan was completed in June of this year and will now be used as a basis for four Working Groups to focus attention on individual projects to be taken forward. The next phase of the work is to produce a 'delivery plan' for each of the projects so that funding bids may be submitted over the next year to get the action going. The four Working Groups will each focus on a particular type of project: Community Facilities & Amenities; Community Safety; Business and Tourism Development; and Environment and Heritage.
One of the highest priority projects is to create a community building on the Mallaig and Morar Playing Field. The building will provide changing rooms, showers and public toilets and may house a café as well as exhibition space for local artists and craftspeople in the area. Members of the community are at present working together to decide on the building specification and then a full feasibility study will be done.
Local councillor Charlie King said "I am very pleased that this funding has been awarded as the Morar Futures Group have worked very hard to produce their Action Plan. This is another exciting development to take the Morar Futures Project forward." Hilary Trodd from Arisaig, who worked with the group over the past eighteen months to produce the Action Plan, has been appointed Project Facilitator for this second phase of the work and she will be helping the Working Groups to prepare the delivery plans for each project.
Chairman Mairi MacLean said "The Group is delighted with this award which will enable us to carry on with the work and progress the projects, in particular the Feasibility Study on the new community building."
Hilary Trodd said "The Morar Futures Project is a whole community project involving all ages and all walks of life. More people are becoming involved in this second phase of the work and the community has a right to be pleased with their achievements to date. There is a lot of work still to be done and anyone who lives in Morar is welcome to join in." Anyone who would like to help with the Morar Futures project should contact Hilary on 01687 450740.

Rachel in Kenya
Having had such a fantastic time in the Philippines, I decided to participate in another volunteer programme, this time in Nakuru, Kenya. The project was run through an organisation called i-to-i which aims to provide aid to communities in need. Nakuru is Kenya's fourth largest city, although it is no more than a big town. It is situated 100km north west of Nairobi in the great Rift valley, at around 6,500ft!


I was involved in a community development programme focussing on the rehabilitation of Nakuru's street children. Over the past decade, there has been a huge rise in the number of children living on the streets, as they would come from all the surrounding communities in search of aid. However, great things are being done to combat this problem. Many centres have been set up to care for these desperately vulnerable children. I was based at a centre called Filadelphia which is run by new-life ministries. This Christian run centre is a permanent home to around 80 children, some handed in by parents who couldn't cope, and some who have been completely abandoned to survive on the streets on their own. There are also 500/600 children who come every day to the centre from the surrounding slum areas for education, food and the chance to worship God. This enables the kids to get the education they deserve while also maintaining vital contact with their families.
Unfortunately, as it was the school holidays when we arrived, it was only the 80 children who we were working with. There is a school at the centre, and despite it being their holidays, they were still so keen to learn. It was the children that would come to us to ask if they could go to class - absolutely amazing. Even more amazing were the basic conditions they had to learn in. The desks were falling apart, and there was barely a pencil to go around, but there was absolutely no complaining to be heard. These kids were just so thankful to be given the chance to learn at all. We were mainly working with the younger children, around 25, aged from 3 to 15. Although we did a bit of maths and English, our main task was to just keep them amused, with art, reading and games etc.
These children don't have anybody in their lives to give them the individual attention that they deserve, and so it is vital that they know that there are people out there that care about them. Even simply playing a game with them lets them become children again after so many years of having to be adults. No child should have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from, or where they are going to sleep. To see the smiles on their faces after the terrible things they have gone through is so amazing. One girl (then aged 12) was brought to the centre around 3 years ago after looking after her 9 month old brother for over 2 years on the streets. They are now healthy and happy, and the wee boy (now 7) is the cleanest in the centre, having his sister continue to constantly care for him. There was also a church at the centre and we were lucky enough to be able to see a few services, incredibly lively and uplifting.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Mallaig Youth club, the Women's Bible study group and all those who donated money to my busking. With the money raised between that and 2 other volunteers, we were able to buy new clothes for all 80 children at the centre. It was quite a task but so worth it. Their smiles were priceless. Many came up to us at the end to say thank you and say that they were the first new clothes they had ever owned. Definitely worth the effort. We also threw a party for them, with games, sweets and dancing, and were treated to some songs and a play from the children. We also managed to buy toys; footballs, basketballs, frisbees, jigsaws, board games and skipping ropes, and also lots of school supplies; books, paper, pens, pencils and the children's personal favourite; modelling clay. I don't think they had ever had that before so that was wonderful to see.
As well as helping at the centre, we also assisted at a baby orphanage. Volunteers were just encouraged to come and give the babies lots of attention, so lots of cuddles were in order. They were so adorable; its hard to imagine how anyone could just abandon them. There were case studies of all the babies above their cots and they were all heartbreaking. Some were handed in but the majority were just dumped. Many were also sufferers of HIV/AIDS. It was a lovely place, and was being expanded to house 40 babies! Despite their tragic starts, they were all happy, content wee kiddies.
Sadly there were still a number of children still on the streets of Nakuru. Some looked as young as 9/10 and had absolutely nothing. Many could be seen with a bottle of glue up to their nose, their only escape from their misery. As you walked along the streets, they would approach you, begging for money. I was always told not to give them any as it would just go straight to buying the next glue bottle. However, I could not stand just walking away, and so my friend Kathleen and I decided to start a food aid programme. We would make up food bags and go around handing them out. Seeing how appreciative they were over a wee bit of food was heartbreaking. I would walk away with cries of 'God bless you' being shouted at me. The worst thing was when there were more kids than bags, and so on a couple of occasions, I told a boy to wait outside while I went into the shop, with them craning their neck to see what I was putting in the basket! Although this made them happy for the moment, it was horrible not being able to do more. The only positive thing was knowing that centres like Filadelphia were constantly trying to get more funds so expand to they could get these children off the streets. The centre is currently raising funds to build a new accommodation block which will house an extra 25 girls.
It so happened that my two friends, Danny (from Kenya) and Marijke, decided to get married in Kenya 2 weeks before my project began and so I decided to travel out a couple of weeks early for this, and also to see a bit of the country. I was able to go on a safari to a national park situated near the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro and saw so many animals. It was such an incredible experience. I also visited Mombasa and further up the coast for a few days and also went to various places around Nairobi, where I was able to 'kiss' a giraffe on the lips! Quite an experience! We also went to visit Kindaro children's home where Danny was raised. This was a wonderful day. We spent the whole afternoon playing with the children, watching them perform songs and presenting them with some toys and sweets. The wedding itself was fantastic. I was very honoured to be asked to play my fiddle in the service and I think the locals enjoyed it. There was a lot more singing and dancing compared to weddings in the UK, and boy, do Kenyans know how to dance! Amazing.
My experience has certainly changed my view of Kenya. Contrary to what you see on the TV, the country is such a happy place. People who have so little are unbelievably appreciative over even the smallest of things. Everyone greets you in the street and goes out of their way to help you. Almost every open space, no matter what day of the week is filled with people worshipping God, singing and dancing. The children who have had to cope with terrible starts to their lives have constant smiles on their faces. Things are being done to help those in need, for example free education to all primary children is now coming into place. I believe that what is keeping these people from just giving up is their incredible faith in God. He certainly is doing incredible things to help these wonderful people.
If anyone wants to find out more, go to:
Thank you once again for all your support.
Rachel Inglis

Well that's it folks! I'm not sure whether to cheer or mope, but that's the year's annual walks programme completed! How did I do? Well, difficult to say. If I go by the numbers, I reckon that I'm down some 25%, but if I go by the comments and the smiles of satisfaction (or achievement) then maybe it wasn't so bad! Anyway I have to say that over the piece I enjoyed my season, and met some really nice new people as well as entertaining some of my "hardy annuals". It's also very encouraging to have a selection of visitors from various countries enjoying our often very boggy hills! Good too that some of them decide to stay for extra days having sampled the wonderful views and countryside that we have on our doorstep. Strangely the majority this year were not German as last year, but Dutch took top honours with most clients. I suppose if you consider the terrain in Holland it must come as rather a shock to the system to be dragged up hills through bog and heather, but all were happy to climb and raved about the views.
Digital cameras are a "must" nowadays, and I have the pleasure of getting a good look at what is available as my "punters" ask to be photographed with some of the stunning backgrounds that my walks provide. My stock answer to these photo requests of "O.K. as long as it is idiot proof!" is no longer required as the magic of the electronic world has decreed that one only has to either look through the viewfinder or at the tiny screen and press the button to take the perfect photo! There now amn't I a clever boy!!! The only problem that I find with these magic cameras, is that we now take photos of everything, and frequently take several of the same thing, thinking" I'll pick out the best one when I get home!" Unfortunately, the "when I get home" bit is usually when I get the "home at last lazy" bit and settle down to a cup of tea, whence the sorting of "the best one" becomes "I'll just download these and sort them out later!" O.K. That's fine, but with the photos scoffing up kilobytes and megabytes, I suddenly discover that my machine is following me and getting slower and slower! Eventually it all catches up and some considerable "cursing time" (you know what I mean) is spent re-organising, re-naming and obliterating! I mean, what the blazes did I take that for? How the heck do you expect to see peoples' faces if you are pointing straight at the sun! Oh well! Back to the drawing board, maybe they are not that idiot proof after all!!
Enough of cameras, and for a change I'm not going to go into my computer woes! So what's been doing since last month? The beginning of the month, or at least the first week was very pleasantly taken up with the now familiar attack on the Northern Irish mainland where healthy divots were removed from the pristine golf courses that the "Heart of Down" competition offered us "Trighers". Despite going into battle against some 500 golfers from all over the world, I'm proud to say that three of our members were placed well up in the top 50 with young Fraser Weirman collecting top honours with a third place, a mere three points separating him from the joint winners over the three days. A round of applause please! Did I hear you say "where were you placed?" No, must have been the deaf ear!
Anyway, to move rapidly on! The rest of the month kind of ran down. I managed to keep busy enough without seemingly achieving very much, but at least I have managed to keep up a reasonable attendance at the gym. I did tell you that I am due to go for my "Walking Group Leader" course on the 8th of October, so there is no way that I intend getting left behind! Not much brain left, but still some pride! The last few days I have been assisted in my duties by my "job experience" assistant Diarmid Sullivan, so I have asked him to construct a paragraph to add to this. Anything to make it more interesting so enjoy!!
Finally, I would like to get a regular walking group going for the winter, maybe a walk once a fortnight which would include a variety of different levels to enable anyone to take part. I know that there is no way that we could settle on a day that will suit everyone all the time, but as long as we can get a group of five or six at a time, then it should be good fun. I see lots of ladies go to the aerobics classes, and I'm sure that walking would be the ideal complement, so why not give it a try? If you are interested please get in touch with either myself or Heather Simpson as soon as possible, as the intention is to start at the beginning of November once everyone is clear of holidays.
You know the number! (For once I won't give it - just to check!)
Angus Macintyre

After having worked with Angus for a week, for my work experience, I have discovered that working, as a ranger is a far more public job than it appears. For example in the course of the week we did two activities that involved schools and I also participated in two, very interesting, different guided walks, on which we happened to see a Pine Martin and several other forms of Scottish wildlife. I mainly chose this placement for my work experience to help me in later life in the field of archaeology and it turned out to be far more beneficial that I originally thought.
Diarmid T. Sullivan

Arisaig's Tommy MacEachen has notched up 53 years competing in Arisaig Games and this year entered an International competition for the first time! West Word asked him about his career...

I first competed at Arisaig Games in 1953 and came second in local shot and hammer. The next year I came home on leave from my National Service and competed at Arisaig again, coming second in shot and hammer. I finished my National Service in 1956 and went to work in Woods at Morar. I trained at the Mains Field most nights along with Angie MacDonald and Robert Purcell.
One Monday in July I borrowed £2 from my brother and set off to South Uist and won £8 in prize money. I then set sail for Mallaig in time for Morar Games, where I had a good day, winning £14.
One Saturday I went to Taynuilt and ran into the mighty George Clark, who told me to beat it, but I stayed and beat him in the shot put. Next event was caber and I put it over easily. Clark went next and slipped on the wet grass, the caber coming down between his legs. He got up in a rage and snapped the caber over his knee and roared 'Get me real caber!' People ran in all directions and came back with a huge telegraph pole with which he won.
I competed in ten Games that year and finished at Glenfinnan where I won the heavy events. I joined the Police the next year (1957) and my Games career took a dive, partly due to working shifts but mainly because I did not get time off for Games or training. But in 1971 I decided to give it a real go and managed to win the heavy events at Glenfinnan, and that started me off again.
My best win was at Morar in 1988, where I won over £100 in prize money. My worst Games was at Oban in 1966, where I got a 3rd equal for 6 shillings and 8 pence (about 34p).
When I retired from the Police I started training at the Mains Field again but the field was taken from us so I went up to Caol to train with George Horne and his sons and Peter Whitehead and Willie Simmons. These boys have all done well at the Games and it shows that if you train hard you can get there.
I don't train so hard now but still enjoy throwing the hammer and having a go at the caber. This year the Americans brought their Grand Masters to Inverness and Frank Cousins and I took part. This competition is for veterans over 40 and the entrants are divided into various age groups-I competed in the over 65 group and came third. About 85% of the competitors were American but there were a number from Europe too. This is the first time the Grand Masters has been held in Britain-next year it's in Kansas.
Tommy MacEachen

A newspaper cutting from 1974 captioned
'Some of the heavyweight athletes who took part in the Mallaig and Morar Games.'

West Word - ten years ago
The outline planning permission presently being sought by the Mallaig Boatbuilding & Engineering Co to relocate the new Breakwater Development, currently being undertaken by Mallaig Harbour Authority, is another step forward in the Mallaig Waterfront Development. So began the leading story in the West Word of 10 years ago - October 1996. there is surely a touch of déjà vu concerning the second cover story as, much like the present day mutterings of Marine National Parks, a special meeting had been held at Glenuig about the proposed Marine Special Area of Conservation (a topic also touched on by Charlie King's Council Corner). The cover photograph was of the late Donald Hamish McDonell with his 1630 fiddle and it foretold of a feature on page 19 of the 32 page publication which cost 75p.
Some things never change was the thought that went through my head when an article on page 2 commented on the lack of nominations for the Mallaig Community Council. This story sat alongside an item on the introduction of another Government tax - The Landfill Tax!
A new Severn Class Lifeboat heading north for Stornoway was given the once over by Mallaig Coxswain Michael Currie and Bertie McMinn who were both impressed by its capabilities. Among the Planning Applications was one from Morrison Construction, Inverness, for the extraction of 70,000 cubic metres of rock from Bourbloch Hill.
Local hotelier Alistair MacLeod recounted his Loch Morar Experience with Morag while another creature, 'Paddy the Cat' inspired Arisaig's Morag Jeary into writing poetry.
Joyce Watt, now a member of the Strathclyde Police, and Tracy MacDonald, newly graduated from a Dundee College, were pictured in the middle pages, while an 'extra A4 insert' carried a full page advert for the Bank of Scotland on one side and on the other this month's crossword in French compiled by Christine MacDougall.
Local crofter Duncan McDonell told of his father and forefathers' musical and cultural heritage in Bracara on a page long article headed 'Many a Good Tune' and Doune's Tony Robinson described the Eda Frandsen's participation in the Tall Ships Race in A Sense for Adventure.
Regular features like Ross Campbell's 'Heavens Above', Neil Robertson's 'Down to Earth' (this month: ripening green tomatoes), Bramble's 'Sweet Tooth Corner', Auntie Mary's 'Creepy Crawly Corner', Paul Galbraith's 'Gaelic Tales', the Round and About compilers and the School Pages all made interesting reading and make one realise how indebted and lucky West Word has been over the years with its quality of contributors.
Do Mallaig & Morar Really Need A New Hall queried the advert for a hall meeting urging people to attend to make a new hall a reality.
A snippet that caught my eye…back trouble didn't stop Susan MacLellan from enjoying the Philomena Begley/Mick Flavin show in Marco's -s he took her own cushion along to ease her discomfort…

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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The paper version of West Word contains 36 pages (A4 size) including:

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