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Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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October 2014 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Photo Mo Mathieson
'NEW' CO-OP OPEN FOR BUSINESS
The Co-op re-opened in style on Thursday 25th September after two weeks closure during which the interior received a total makeover.
Cutting the ribbon (above) are Ellie, Autumn and Michelle who won an art competition run by the store, and staff members Margaret Eastham and Yvonne Dempster, with manager Mark Ross.
HIGHEST ACCOLADE FOR LAWRIE & SONS
Hello! Well, an eventful month in Scotland trickled down to Knoydart, with my Yes-bedecked Landrover and phonebox not appearing to have any influence on the final independence referendum result, unfortunately. A few hardy souls gathered together to watch the results come in; I've never seen such a dejected crowd (apart from one attendee who was quite relieved, I think). No matter the result, it is clear that change is on the way; the main thing is to keep the political engagement alive.
The day after the result was announced we put on a double-bill of music. First up were Dead Man's Waltz, featuring regular Knoydart visitor Hector MacInnes. They played some wonderfully appropriate miserable music, which, with Hector's mellifluous voice, proved a beautiful listen. All three members of the band had been heavily involved in the Yes campaign on Skye: I did ask if they would have been as good at playing the miserable tunes if there had been a Yes vote, to be told that they probably wouldn't have made it to Knoydart at all, with a ditch in Skye being the more likely destination!
Swiftly following were indy-folk rockers The Last September. Mostly remembered in Knoydart for frontman Pete Deane being dropped on his head by Fay at one of my infamous dress-up parties, they proved to have some tight guitar sounds, and some more sad tunes. Believe me, it's just what I was in the mood for anyway. Apparently Pete's concussion did eventually wear off. A well attended village hall bar, some inventive food from Knoydart Snacks, and a surreal party at the big hoose rounded off the evening nicely.
Next up, music-wise, are the wonderfully talented Jenn Butterworth and Laura-Beth Salter on Friday 10th October at the hall; should be a great wee night.
I've held off commenting too much about it over the last few months, but the attentive reader may have discerned that our local pub isn't, well, open very much these days. It's no longer a community hub, which some may say is a good thing, but most miss it as a friendly place they can pop into all hours of the day or evening. It's been closed until 3pm every day over summer, plus one day and evening a week. Now, at the start of October when Knoydart is buzzing with stalking parties (and plenty of day visitors), the place is closed completely for more than two weeks. I mainly mention this so that folks don't have a wasted journey over here: as Ranger I've had to deal with many, many visitors bitterly disappointed that it was closed (including one lady who travelled all the way from Canada for a pint!) Often these visitors don't seem to understand that the place is out of the control of locals; I've lost count of the number of people who have said to me that the community should be taking it over. If you want to visit, please ring ahead to check that it's open. To cater for hungry visitors, Knoydart Snacks are open every evening at the Community Garden with some inventive dishes, so all is not lost if you turn up here with no food!
I'm off to snowy climes for a few months, so this is my last missive. It's been great to write the column again for a few months. I shall take out a subscription to be sent to me in France and will attempt to take selfies in silly places with it! Oh, if you want to apply for my job you've got until 10th October!
Tommy McManmon apologises for any offence or upset caused by the above comments about an un-named local pub. He asserts that the comments were his own personal statements and did not come from any organisation. He is also aware that he has no right to pass judgement on other people, and should respect their privacy.
ISLE OF CANNA
I'm sure everyone has enjoyed the last few weeks of great weather, it has been like having an extra month of summer. It has made moving animals off to sales so much better. Sheep prices have been back on last year but the average price per head has gone up by over £2/head.
It has been great to welcome back a group of volunteer dykers from Cumbria for the second time, and they have made a fantastic job of rebuilding all the gaps in our drystone walls. It is very important to continually maintain the dykes as they soon fall into disuse and become an eyesore.
Fiona J MacKenzie has been back to run another very succesful week long Gaelic course involving language and song.
Thanks to the crew of Loch Bhrusda and Pete on Orion for doing their best to provide as normal a service as possible with the Loch Nevis away.
Sorry it's a short bit this month.
ISLE OF MUCK
The end is in sight for those building the Fish Farm houses at Port Mor. It must be for the carpet fitters have been and gone. Last week the island was full of electricians from SSE and Wind and Sun connecting the houses and ironing out the last few minor problems in our power scheme. Port Mor is now a web of cables and water pipes and one hopes that they have all been mapped for future generations. No doubt detection technology will help. And it certainly has not been the weather that has held up work with the finest September for decades. Grass growing in the fields and the finest bramble crop for a few years.
Beef prices for the farmer are around 25% less than last year so when consignors from Canna, Eigg and Muck gathered at the calf sale at Fort William on the 20th they were expecting a considerable drop from last year's better prices. I think I can safely say that everyone was pleasantly suprised. A record harvest and low grain prices for farmers in the east must have encouraged these extra bids.
Also at the sale was a superb almost new live stock wagon complete with personal number plates and EMB emblazoned on the sides. I mention this because Ewen Bowman features in Polly Pullar's book A Drop in the Ocean. I have now attended promotional events (apart from Muck) at Arisaig, Tobermory, Aberfeldy, Lanark and the Wigtown book festival. Met lots of people who had been to Muck over the years. Galloway was particularly interesting as it was a part of Scotland that I had never been to before. Great farming; I visited a herd of Belted Galloway Cattle and a dairy farm where they were cutting the 4th crop of silage.
ISLE OF RUM
The start of the transition to winter, September is a month of change leaving behind the lovely Indian summer weather, the Sheerwater has finished its season and Ian's boat is out on its last fishing trip before he takes it out of the water. Awash with brambles again, freezers are full and jam has filled every available jar on the island, with something interesting varieties going around… blackberry and chilli; blackberry and rosemary. The red deer rut is now well under way at Kilmory, after a bit of a slow start due to the unseasonably warm weather. While we basked, the deer were struggling in the heat with their thick coats. Favourite stags such as Clown00, named Cassius by Autumnwatch, Zaphod and Talisker are back on the rutting greens strutting their stuff and it is great to see them. Tattler06 is a young upcoming stag who is promising great things to come, if he could just forget about chasing the hooded crows from his harem and concentrate on his hinds. You can follow all the action from the Deer Researchers on Twitter with daily updates from @rumdeerresearch.
The promised road contractors are here to undertake repairs to the Harris track and what will amount to a massive overhaul of the Kilmory track, they are here till after the new year and we are all looking forward to the results.
As mentioned last month, IRCT held a weekend workshop for the community for the new village land use plan. Facilitated by PAS (Planning Aid Scotland), local people were encouraged to drop in to give their views on future developments on Rum including housing, more tourist facilities, a new shop and café, business opportunities, the list goes on. It turned out to be a productive weekend with lots of people coming and going, clearly the more input we get the more representative the plan will be.
The shiny new bunkhouse is ... really shiny and also ready to open to the public on 10th October. We are all suitable excited and carrying out final prep for the first visitors. I should have mentioned before but ... welcome to Jed and Mike to Rum, they will be managing the bunkhouse on a jobshare, good luck to them ! We held an open day for everyone who hadn't already had a look around to come and see the place, try out the beds and roll on the turf ( yes really) it looks like a bowling green, we all have turf envy now!!
Finally, congratulations to Nicola on the completion of her Master's degree and well done to CalMac for the replacement boat service while the Loch Nevis is away, it all appears to have run smoothly. IRCT will be having their AGM at the end of October, date to be confirmed.
ISLE OF EIGG
The Indian Summer weather on Eigg this September could not have been more welcome. With a busy month for visitors, it was hugely enjoyable: the geological guided walks at the beginning of the month which were part of the Cruise of the Betsey project benefited greatly from clear skyes and brilliant views from the top of the Sgurr or the Guala Mor at the north end of the island, where under expert guidance from Prof John Hudson, we looked for and found plesiosaur remains. A story telling ceilidh at the Glebe barn concluded this most enjoyable re-tracing of Hugh Miller's sailing from Oban to Eigg in his friend's "floating Manse" of 1844, which allowed him to explore Eigg and discover its fossil beds. A brain child of Joyce Gilbert of the Royal Geographic Society, the event was linked to the Hugh Miller's celebrations in Cromarty and featured a number of scientists, artists and poets. We look forward to a following event next year and another visit from the Fort-William geological group.
Next of course was an important event for the island: the return of island girl Catriona Helliwell from New Zealand to marry her Kiwi fiancé Russell Boleyn. As guests converged from all airts and pairts, the fine weather showed Eigg at its best, and our antipodean guests were more than impressed! The full moon and tranquil night for Catriona's hen party at gamekeepers's cottage allowed for a great gathering of the Eigg women round a patio fire overlooking a silvery sea, a most magical sight. The stags' poker night at Damian's was perhaps not so focused on that type of moonshine....enough said! With much emotion on the great day, kilted dad Simon walked his daughter to the altar in our beautiful church of St Donnan, where Catriona's aunt officiated for the wedding, something very special for the whole family. The newly weds were then truly hitched together, as Russell's jacket button somehow got itself tangled in the lovely lacy dress of his bride as they came out of the church, an occasion for much merriment! 3 special brews from Eigg's latest business venture, Laig Brewing Co., greeted the guests at the hall: Kildonnanburg, a refreshing pilsner, Hakari, the wedding IPA and the Cleadale 80 shilling, featuring one iconic islander on the label (I will leave you to guess who!) all served in the lace decorated jam jars collected for the occasion. Lace was the theme for the hall decoration which looked absolutely wonderful! Great food and music followed, with Catriona birling around in splendid form, making the most of the occasion before her return to New Zealand where she works as occupational therapist and shares firefighter husband's passion for surfing. We do hope they found suitable waves in Ireland's west coast where they left for a short honeymoon before the long journey back and wish them many years of happy of surfing together!
The other important event in Eigg's life was the vote on the 18 September, as saltires and stickers appeared in ever more numerous numbers on the island. There was even one attempt to plant the saltire on the Sgurr which ended up in a search for the missing patriot, who had simply fallen asleep by a rock after that strenuous effort. A100% turn out was achieved, with even a voter from Canna choosing to vote in person on this historic occasion! That our ballot box was then carried to the pier after 10 pm where the Sheerwater awaited to transport it to Arisaig before collection by a van that then speeded away to Dingwall much impressed the Swedish island representative at the AGM of the European Small Islands Federation (ESIN), where yours truly represented the Scottish Islands Federation in her position as chair thereof, as well as being re-elected as ESIN vice-chair. That AGM took place in Sant'Antioco, a small island off the Sardinian south coast, and gathered 20 delegates from 8 countries, whose deliberations resulted in identifying a new transnational European cooperation project on Entrepreneurship on islands to start on in 2014-2015. Italy currently presiding in the EU, representatives of the Italian government took the opportunity to stress their commitment to help islanders achieve the same level of access to services and economic opportunities as mainlanders, which they presented as an issue of social justice! This was music to the ears of the delegates, and we all hope to make the case for this position with our own governments!
Last but not least, a revolutionary new scheme is now in the process of being installed in our Eigg Electric system, courtesy of the famous Williams Group. From their Formula One racing technology, Williams Advanced Engineering have developed a new concept in storing power for Renewable energy system, the Williams Flywheel, which they were keen to test in the Eigg system. This flywheel technology ought to address the problems of short-term power fluctuations in renewable energy sources. The conventional approach adopted so far in such microgrids as ours has been to switch on additional loads such as heaters when there supply exceeds demands or to rely on diesel generators, when renewable generation is low. To prevent energy loss as heat, the new system allows excess energy to be transferred via electrical cables to a flywheel that sits on the micro-grid where it is stored via a composite rotor that spins at up to 38,000 rpm. As generation momentarily drops, the flywheel slows down and releases the stored energy back along the electrical cables to the micro-grid, providing a free supply of recycled power. The system is over 90% efficient and because the excess energy generated is not lost as heat, and is instead re-deployed, the use of the diesel generator is reduced! CQFD… Another first for the already world renowned Eigg microgrid!
This magnificent photo of a Buzzard was taken near Arisaig House by Colin MacKenzie of South London
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR - October 2014
The contract to upgrade and improve Lovat Slipway has been awarded to Lochaber based contractors Fion Construction Ltd.
Fion Construction are due to commence work on Monday 20th October and complete the refurbishment by the year end.
Although access to the Boatyard will be maintained, liaison and agreement between the contractor and the Boatyard will establish when the slipway can be concreted.
This project will impact on anyone wishing to use the Lovat Beach and Slipway as the Beach and Slip will in reality be closed for the duration of the contract.
Once the works have been completed it will become very important that the Slipway and its environs are not damaged by misuse particularly by heavy track vehicles. The Authority therefore is set to introduce and enforce a "booking in system" with regard to future usage of the Slip by large vehicles.
The project is being financed by Mallaig Harbour Authority, Nevis Estate and European funding via the Highland EFF Axis 4 Programme.
Outer Breakwater Repairs
As one contract is set to begin another one ends - Noel Regan & Sons having completed their repair of the damaged rock armour at the Outer Breakwater.
Although work was affected by tidal constraints particularly during the early part of the contract the weather enjoyed by NRS could not have been better. The Indian Summer that we've all enjoyed throughout September certainly suited the contractor.
The £300,000 contact was completed on Friday 3rd October - eight weeks after its commencement on Monday 11th August.
The giant crane, used for the lifting and placement of the 3 - 4 tonne rock armour boulders is now to be dismantled and ultimately removed. I know its profile will be missed by Mallaig residents as it's become a bit of a local feature over this past few weeks.
Outer Isles Service
The new timetable for the Lochboisdale - Mallaig 2014/14 winter service informs that the ferry Lord of The Isles is set to take-up its duties on Saturday 29th November 2014. Although this commencement date is later than last year there will be no mid service break as there was in the inaugural year of the three year trial period.
Let's hope that this winter the weather is kinder and less disruptive to the twice weekly Mallaig - Outer Isles crossing.
Timetable: This timetable operates from 29th November 2014 to 31st March 2015
Some last minute complications and considerations delayed the awarding of this contract. Thankfully all issues have been resolved and the contract awarded to TSL Contractors Ltd. The Isle of Mull based construction company is currently involved in the bridge replacement works over the Allt Dearg Watercourse on the A830 between Glenfinnan and Ranochan (four miles west of Glenfinnan at the bottom of the Mhuidhe).
Work on the Mallaig Promenade Project is set to commence later this month and be completed by January 2015. The Project is being financed by The Mallaig Harbour Authority, Nevis Estate and European Funding via the Highland EF Axis 4 Programme.
MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG
There were two call outs of the Mallaig Lifeboat Henry Alston Hewat during the month of September 2014.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 15:35 to the assistance of the yacht Amadea 2 in Glenuig Bay. On scene at 16:15hrs the Amadea was found anchored to a mooring by her propeller. Apparently as they attempted to pick up the rope the Skipper was not able to hold on to the rope and had let it go. In doing so the pickup ran down under the hull and into the propeller which must have been creeping and drew the rope in. The Lifeboat picked up the adjacent mooring and launched the Y-Boat firstly to pass the tow rope across to Amadea and make her secure to the lifeboat. Once this was done the crew of the Y-boat assessed how best to try and free the rope from the propeller. The crew tried to cut the rope free with a lance fashioned from the small boat hook and the tools knife secured with jubilee clips. This operation was made even more difficult by the moderate chop coming onto the casualty's stern. After several attempts at trying to free the casualty from the mooring with no success owing to the fact that the prop had drawn in so much rope that the crew were dealing with the riser chain. With the motion creating so much lift that it would be too dangerous to call in the services of a diver it was decided to abandon attempts until the weather settled. To make Amadea safe until a diver could free her a rope was attached to the adjacent mooring and Amadea was brought round to head to wind to make the overnight stay more comfortable for the couple and their three dogs. Before departing the lifeboat crew provided phone numbers of local divers who could assist in freeing them from their dilemma. Lifeboat returned to station and ready for service at 18:40hrs. Amadea was freed from the mooring the next morning after a diver cut the entangled rope from the propeller, fortunately no damage was sustained and Amadea proceeded on her merry way.
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of the motorboat Cos'a'kin broken down East of Eigg at 15:30hrs. On scene at 15:50hrs the Casualty was found drifting without engine power owing to the main drive belt which drove the auxiliaries, ie, cooling, electrics had shredded. Telephone calls were made ashore to see if another belt could be acquired in Mallaig from local engineers. Unfortunately no matching belt could be sourced. The party had originally departed from Dunstaffnage Marina via a Tobermory where one of the party had left his own boat to join his friends on Cos'a'kin. It was decided to tow the Casualty towards Ardnamurchan where Tobermory would come and meet us. That way they could get back to the mainland with the other boat and get spares for Cos'a'Kin. After a couple of phone calls Tobermory's LOM had his Boys steaming north to meet Mallaig coming south with the casualty in tow. Tobermory lifeboat was met at BO Faskadale and the tow transferred across. In flat calm condition Cos'a'Kin was southern bound at a respectable 8-9 knots behind Tobermory Lifeboat at 17:20 hrs .Mallaig lifeboat returned to station and was fuelled and ready for service at 18:00hrs. Good day in inter station cooperation saw a good result to the outcome of this call. Good job by all concerned!
CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
The Crofting Commission will issue their long awaited census forms to crofters on 21st October. Crofters will be obliged to return the forms by 16th Jan. The Commission is asking what you do with your croft and what you do with any common grazing share. The Scottish ministers will use this census as a fact finding exercise to discover the true state of crofting. Of course it can only use the information given and I am sure there will be some imaginative answers to some of the questions.
Future support for crofting will depend on whether the Commission can translate their findings into a case to support the value of crofting and its contribution to life in Scotland. The Scottish Ministers will have to find ways to implement the outcome of these findings, whether that is to relieve crofters of the burden of regulation or to increase regulation so that neglected and unused crofts can be brought into use by active crofters or young potential crofters.
This census is a legal requirement.
The Crofting Commission are looking more towards self-regulation for crofters. They will help and advise of the options available for those looking for ways to fulfil the duties of a crofter.
What are the duties of a crofter?
A duty to be a resident on, or within 32 kilometres of, their croft
A duty not to neglect their croft
A duty to cultivate and maintain their croft or to put it to another purposeful use
Purposeful use has now been defined by the Commission as that which will not prevent the croft being used for cultivation in the future.
PA1/PA2/PA6 Pesticide and Spraying course
27th & 28th October Astley Hall Arisaig. 10am - 4pm.
Assessment day 20th November.
Please get in touch with me if you wish to do this course as I need numbers to make it viable
E: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07919872309
A rare sight as two locomotives are seen together in Mallaig.
K1 62005 and 44871, one a regular Jacobite turn, the other on a railway touring 'special'.
Photo by Steve Roberts
ON AND OFF THE RAILS
Autumn, like a lady in waiting, is one step behind us - but not just yet!
With the summer timetable still operating by ScotRail and Club 55 boosting passenger numbers, plus a full month of weekday Jacobite trains weekend touring trains, The Royal Scotsman still visiting, and a Photo Charter train booked to visit us, the 'Port of Mallaig' is still benefiting from our Railway Line….and yet, you get the feeling that autumn is just around the corner. We just need to hold it off for a while!!
The sacks of bulb fibre and tulips and daffodils are staring at me, the pots of Christmas flowering (maybe!) bulbs are just planted, but the summer bedding and hanging baskets are still flowering at the Railway Stations. With any luck they will see me through October and the it will be time enough to take down the hanging baskets, move the standard bay trees and plant up for spring 2015, after emptying all the summer bedding of course! This year I will try again the trusted method of layered bulb planting. Starting with a layer of compost at the bottom of the casks, followed by tulips, bulb fibre, daffodil, bulb fibre, snowdrops, bulb fibre and maybe a wee Christmas tree in the centre, on top - that will keep me busy for November!!
In the meantime, all Railway Stations have been branded!
Or should I say re-branded! Transport Scotland (ahead of the ScotRail next franchise successful bidder being announced later this month) have removed all the First ScotRail signage and replaced them with ScotRail signs, new welcome signs in Gaelic as well as English, brought back the lovely red double arrow motifs, and at Arisaig have replaced the Most Westerly Station plaque with a new one. First Group may of course be the successful bidders, but with four other contenders in the running to takeover the whole ScotRail business, competition is wide open.
ScotRail Timetable Change (or loss of service)
As in previous years, after Sunday October 26th, Mallaig Extension Line will revert to one train a day in each direction on Sundays until next Spring. It is beyond comprehension in this day and age that First ScotRail have not stepped up to the plate and given us an all year round full service on a Sunday. Hopefully the new franchise - even if it is First - will have addressed this in their proposals for the next ten years (the length of the franchise).
We have well and truly lost out to the Oban Line which will have two trains in each direction on a Sunday this winter. Why them and not us? Mallaig will have no train on a Sunday (again) until 16.05 and will have one in at 23.35. Combine that with no Sunday bus service and one Sunday ferry late in the day and suddenly there is no incentive for five months to visit Mallaig and area or travel out and back. I despair at times, I really do!
Other ScotRail News - Good News
Club 55 is now open for business again; from October 1st until November 30th you can roll all over Scotland for only £19 return if you are 55 years of age or over. Combine this with a ticket in other First rail group areas and you can get some incredible bargains in parts of England. The ticket at £19 is for a return journey of up to 30 days, meaning (if you want to of course) that if you travel outward at the end of November you need not return until after Christmas!! Full details online at scotrail.co.uk, any staffed railway station or, if you telephone ScotRail Customer Relations and ask for a Club 55 brochure to be sent to you, it comes with two free tea or coffee vouchers per brochure when you buy a wee cake to go with it! These vouchers are redeemable where there is a trolley service (hospitality steward) on board, i.e. West Highland Main Line, and are valid until 29th December 2014. The telephone number is 0330 303 0112. Do it now!
Caledonian Sleeper Service News
The six nights a week (not Saturday) excellent sleeper train that departs Fort William for London Euston has a sitting-up section on it. Previously, if you wished to use this train to get to Glasgow you had to change at Westerton - this no longer happens as the sleeper train no longer stops at Westerton. The good news is you can now go on ii, sitting upright into Glasgow Queen Street low level, without changing trains - a result - if you want it! Up to date details online or a new brochure is available at staffed booking offices.
Jacobite Steam Train Update
The last Jacobite of 2014 is on Friday October 24th. I am pretty sure that there will be an end of season party at Mallaig Station when the train comes in at 12.20 on that day. Come along to the Station, thank the 'team Jacobite' and take a few photos if you can. We, as a village, owe them and West Coast Railway Company a debt of gratitude. Before then, The Jacobite continues ro run Monday to Friday, with extra dates on Saturday October 4th, charter train running to Jacobite timings by Statesman Rail, and again on Saturday October 18th. Sandwiched in between, on Sunday October 12th, as part of a two day photo charter steam weekend, there will be a train in sometime in the morning. No times available yet. Then on Saturday October 25th, the Jacobite stock and engines depart from Fort William at 12 noon, with passengers as part of the Scottish Railway Preservation Society rail tours trip. Full details of this www.srps.org.uk/railtours/
Haste ye back boys (and Florence). Thank you West Coast Railway Company on behalf of all the shops and businesses, restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, taxis - in fact the majority of the village!
ACoRP 2014 Community Rail Awards 10th Anniversary Special
As I write this column (late this month, sorry Ed) on 2nd October, the above named rewards are taking place at a Gala Dinner & Awards Presentation evening being held at The Scarborough Spa in (where else) Scarborough.
ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) hold these awards annually. This year there are twelve categories and the winner in each category is awarded a trophy, cash prize and a certificate. Submitted entries are shortlisted, and in the 'Innovation in Community Rail' category, John Barnes for the Glenfinnan Station Museum Trust is tonight one of the six nominated finalists! The award is sponsored by Network Rail and John's submission is the only Scottish entry to be shortlisted in this category. John and Hege have travelled down (by train of course) and we will know tomorrow how they have fared. We wish them well. They are both committed to their projects at Glenfinnan and deserve the wee bit of time off that this will give them. Good luck to them both.
Christopher Vine's Peter's Railway books always ensure a flurry of entries. Last month was no exception, and the two winners of 'Little' Peter's Railway Holiday at Lunan Bay (having given the correct answer of Bridge of Weir) are Mairi Illsley, Crieff, and Andrew Wilson of Tonbridge. Congratulations to you both, the books will be in the post - enjoy and thanks for entering.
Competition and Book Review
One book prize this month, and it is fascinating. Amberley Publishing have offered a copy of Bradshaw's Guide to Scotland's Railways: East Coast - Berwick to Aberdeen and Beyond. The joint authors are John Christopher, who has written several books on the railway history of Great Britain, and Campbell McCutcheon who has provided local expertise ( he has an extensive knowledge of Scotland and its railways).
Bradshaw's Guide provides an account of his railway travels within Scotland. For the first time, it is presented in a highly readable form in thie new annotated volume, fully illustrated throughout with old and new colour images. Priced at £13.49, the ISBN number is 978-1-4456-3623-8 and is in softback format.
To win this by entering the postal draw, answer the following question:
'Who uses Bradshaw's Guide when he present the television series based on it?
Answer on a postcard please along with your name and address to Sonia Cameron. Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD, to arrive no later than Tuesday October 28th. Good luck!
Date for your Diary
Malcolm Poole, myself and Dr John McGregor cordially invite you to An Evening Presentation, Talk and Book signing at Mallaig Heritage Centre on Wednesday November 19th , from 7- 9pm. The tile is 'Railway Mania in the Highlands? The West Highland Extension', and John will enthusiastically talk for approximately 50 minutes, have documents to pore over, answer questions and sign copies of his three books which will be on sale. What's not to like!!
Admission will be free, tea, coffee and refreshments will be served, donations to the Heritage Centre will be accepted! Malcolm will have the shop open for Christmas shopping. John's latest three books, The West Highland Railway 120 Years, West Highland Extension: Great Railway Journeys Through Time and, in the same series, West Highland Line will all be available for purchase.
I'm pretty sure we will have a raffle. You could even purchase membership or life membership to Mallaig Heritage Centre to pop into someone's Christmas card!! It promises to be a great evening, honestly!
See you on the train
STOP PRESS: Dutch firm Abellio has been awarded the ScotRail franchise for the next ten years. More next month.
A battle of the Big and Small
Right: Matt awaits the arrival of the Jacobite after beating it into Mallaig.
Behind Every Cloud - living with Bipolar Type II
Samantha O'Flanagan, nee Johnston, was born and brought up in Mallaig and now lives in Dublin with new husband Keith and their dog Ozzy.
Diagnosed with anxiety attacks, and subsequently Bipolar Type II, Samantha is passionate about breaking down the negative stigma surrounding mental illness.
When she was diagnosed, Samantha did everything she could to ensure her diagnosis wouldn't take over her life. Bipolar Type II is a debilitating illness which leaves those affected crippled with anxiety, intense highs and dramatic lows.
Samantha runs a successful blog, 'All the Buzz' and won the Blogger of the Year Award 2014 in the Samsung Digital Media Awards, was a finalist in the Best Fashion/Retail Blog in the 2014 UK Blog Awards and is currently nominated for Best Lifestyle Blog in the Blogs Awards Ireland. Through her blogs grew her first book which documents her experiences with her illness, how she copes with living with it and the ways she manages her illness to improve her quality of life.
Behind Every Cloud is a positive account of living well with mental illness, giving an account of Samantha's journey and what has helped her take control of her illness. It has been written to give encouragement and understanding to others, and to bring awareness to mental health issues.
The book has been selling well in the UK, Ireland and abroad. Samantha said 'I've been overwhelmed with the support from people back home who have sent me emails and Facebook messages constantly since the release of the book. It was an extremely scary thought opening up so honestly, especially when you come from a small village like Mallaig where everyone knows you and will be talking about it. But I put my fears aside in order to get the message out - it's okay to not be okay, and that it's important to talk about these issues rather than brush them under the carpet. Shockingly 1 in 4 people will suffer from depression at any time so we need to make sure they know there is support out there.
'Since the publication of my book I've had countless messages from people who have said it's given them the courage to speak to their family about their situation, or that they have gone to the doctor to discuss how they're feeling. I'm now acting as an ambassador for the mental health charity SeeChange to work towards bringing positive change in public attitudes and behaviour towards people with mental health problems which is an opportunity I'm that I'm extremely proud to have been offered.'
All profits from the sale of Behind Every Cloud are being donated to Reach Out Ireland, a charity which provides support to those dealing with tough times, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. Behind Every Cloud can be purchased at store.kissedoff.co.uk/product/behind-every-cloud, on amazon.co.uk or by emailing Samantha at email@example.com.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Overall, September was a very settled month, with few days of strong winds until the last week. Many birds on the move through the area.
One of the more unusual sightings was of a Barred Warbler seen briefly in a Morar garden on the morning of the 17th. They breed from Central Europe eastwards into Asia and are migratory, wintering in tropical East Africa.
It is classed as a rare migrant in Britain, most turning up on the Northern Isles and down the east coast of Scotland and England. This Autumn there have been several sightings from the west, including Barra and Tiree.
Other warblers noted in gardens included Willow Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Blackcap, including three together on the 28th feeding on elderberries in another Morar garden.
Two Spotted Flycatchers were seen in a garden near Woodside, Morar, on the 2nd.
The first skeins of Pink-footed Geese were seen and heard flying high over Arisaig and Morar on the weekend of the 20th -21st. They don't usually stop here, but two were seen in company of Greylags, one by Traigh golf course and one on Morar games field, both on the 29th. There were also six Canada Geese on the same date by Traigh golf course.
Many waders heard flying over at night but few stopping to feed in this area, although on the 25th, one of the few wet and windy days, there were at least 37 Golden Plover in a field at Traigh plus 5 Redshank on the shore there. Several sightings of usually single Greenshank from Rhue, Traigh and the Morar Estuary.
Little reported in the way of sea birds. A few Great Skuas still around at the beginning of the month, many predating the juvenile Kittiwakes and Manx Sheerwaters. On the 30th a single Arctic Skua and a Stormy Petrel were seen from the MV Sheerwater.
Due in part to the settled weather and mainly south easterly airflow, it has been a comparatively quiet month for Manx Shearwaters grounding at night in this area. At the time of writing, at least 176 birds had been ringed and released. A big thanks to all those who report or hand in grounded birds.
Several sightings of various raptors during the month, including a female Hen Harrier by the 'Lily Pond' between Mallaig and Morar on the 11th and several sightings of both a male and female from the Gorten area. Kestrels were seen in Arisaig and near Tougal, Morar. Several reports of Sea Eagles from various locations throughout the area.
Some nice flocks of finches seen, including Goldfinches, Twites and Linnets. Still good numbers of Lesser Redpolls visiting garden feeders.
Green Allies - healing plants in the forest, garden and kitchen by Tim Robinson
Blackberry was our featured plant last month, and what a year it's proving to be for them, our paths and roadsides brimming with plump, delicious fruit, just begging to be picked and turned into smoothies, jam, pies and crumbles. Both blackberry and another of my featured herbs, meadowsweet, are in the rose family, so it's about time we took a closer look at the parent of the family, the wonderful rose itself.
Rose - Latin name Rosa spp.; Gaelic name ròs, muca-faileag
The wild rose (Rosa canina), also known variously as the dog rose, hedgy-pedgies, puckies, choops, hawps, hippans, and buckie-lice, is most easily identified by its bright red hips. This is one of the more regularly foraged plants, as it's fairly common knowledge that the hips contain high amounts of vitamin C, as well as vitamins A, B, and K, and plenty of anti-oxidants. In fact, rose hips contain up to 40 times more vitamin C than oranges, and for this reason they are highly valued during the cold and flu season, and for supporting those of us with weak immune systems. This property of rose hips really came into its own during the Second World War, when supplies of oranges dried up and the Ministry of Food turned to the humble dog rose as an alternative. During the war around 450 tonnes of rose hips were collected and turned into syrup, then rationed to the nation's mothers and children. Today rose hips are still an extremely valuable immune tonic.
As we saw with meadowsweet and blackberry, rose family plants have a tightening and cooling effect on the body, and rose is no exception. Rose hips are invaluable for helping to reduce heat and inflammation in the digestive system, and to tighten the tissues, particularly in long-term conditions such as irritable bowel, diverticulitis, and haemorrhoids (piles). Heat and irritation in the respiratory system, such as sore throats, chesty cough, and sinusitis can also be treated with rose, where it will cool and soothe irritated tissues. As such a great cooling herb, rose hips can also help to relieve the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Rose water, which is a by-product of the essential oil industry, can be used as the basis for a daily mouthwash, or a healing eyewash for styes and conjunctivitis, and is by the far the best skin toner, gently tightening the skin and balancing oil secretions. Diluted rose-infused vinegar is one of the most useful cooling treatments for sunburn.
Rose petals are one of my favourite herbs for the nervous system. Rose is the plant of love, and in herbal medicine it's invaluable for people who have difficulty in expressing feelings of warmth and affection. Often this stems from a deep psychological hurt, and when I'm working with a patient who has experienced significant emotional trauma such as abuse or grief, either recently or in the past, more often than not I reach for the rose. It encourages the expression of feelings, smoothes out the emotional wrinkles, and helps us to accept ourselves and others. Through rose the nervous system is strengthened, sleep is improved, and we are better able to process and move on from historic problems. Put simply, rose can help heal a broken heart. It also comes into its own in first aid scenarios, where its deeply calming and reassuring nature make it one of the best remedies for mild to moderate shock.
Here are a couple of easy ways to bring the rose into your life. For a soothing, anti-inflammatory and immune boosting syrup, simply put some halved, ripe rosehips (wild rose or cultivated rugosa) in a jar, and cover with honey. Strain through muslin after a few weeks, and take a teaspoon if your throat is sore, your digestion irritated, or if you fancy something delicious. Make a beautiful rose tincture by gathering one part fresh, unsprayed, fragrant rose petals, and mixing with two parts of vodka. Give them a quick blast in a blender, cover, then strain after two weeks. Use by the drop for when you feel hurt, blue, or like a pressure cooker ready to blow.
Tim Robinson is a medical herbalist living in Acharacle. He is available for private medical consultations, health MOTs, talks, and herb walks. Visit Tim's website at www.timrobinsonherbalist.co.uk, or phone him on 01967 431694.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
We never fail to be amazed at where people take their copy of West Word! Thank you all!
Was New York ready for this? Thirteen local worthies travelled to New York this September and are pictured here on the bleachers (red steps) at Times Square. They are: Eileen and Brian Ferguson, Simon and Jacqueline MacDonald, Ruth and Duncan MacDonald, Iain and Marina Muir, Margaret Addison, John Macqueen, Aimee MacDonald, Angus MacNaughton and David MacDonald - they say a fantastic and memorable time was had by all.
Subscriber Pam Ross from Morayshire took her copy to the Hoover Dam. Pam, husband David and family holidayed in Arisaig for over 30 years and when David died eleven years ago, the family erected a Memorial Seat at Back of Keppoch looking over to the Small Isles, the view David loved.
Pete Harbridge and wife Billie (behind the camera) came from New Zealand to travel and work their way around the world. They stopped off to work at Arisaig House for some months before heading off again and have reached the US via Iceland. Of course they took a West Word with them! Pete is seen here outside The White House in Washington and says 'They now refer to The West Word not the West Wing!' We look forward to more of their travels.
John Sims celebrated his 90th birthday with a flight in a Tiger Moth at an airfield near his home in Derbyshire. It was advertised as the aircraft in which Spitfire pilots trained, and as John has flown aircraft from Spitfires to jets it was a great present. He had the flight and all the old skills returned - he went from a 90 year old to a 19 year old! Wife Eve says 'We have very fond memories of our 30 years' association with Arisaig.'
Betty (Ritchie) and husband Victor Wands took their copy when they visited the Tyrol region of Austria. Betty says 'We crossed into the Italian region and the background of this photo is the steeple of the 14th century village church. The village was submerged when the valley was flooded in 1950, the people were rehoused in new houses further up the mountain side. The valley was flooded to make way for a Hydro Electric scheme.' A somewhat poignant photo we feel.
Audrey McKay and Karen McLeod from Mallaig took not only West Word to Kos in the Greek islands but also Audrey's duck Quack. Quack caught up with some reading while the girls enjoyed the beach!
We received a great photo of West Word waiting for the Tour de France cyclists to come past - we have the photo but can't find the words!
Humble apologies-please, lovely couple who sent the photo, write or email us with the details for next month!
Kin Connections by Marlene MacDonald Cheng (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
In earlier columns we have looked at Gillis families who came from Morar, Scotland, and settled in Antigonish and Pictou Counties on the mainland of Nova Scotia. This month we will head to Cape Breton for a look at another Gillis family and one particular member of this family who has left indelible and special marks on the music and culture of the Gaelic-speaking area of South West Margaree, Inverness County, Cape Breton. His name was Malcolm Hugh Gillis, known by one and all as "The Margaree Bard".
Malcolm's offspring today, spread far and wide (including Cape Breton), are proud that they are able to recite their male lineage back at least seven, if not more, generations. That is due to earlier generations memorizing their sloinneadh (male lineage) and passing it on to each generation. The farthest back ancestor that they knew of was Duncan Gillis, born in Morar, Scotland, in the 1600s, who most likely lived into the 1700s. Donald Gillis, Duncan's son, was born in the late 1600s and lived into the first half of the 1700s. Donald's son, Malcolm Gillis, might have fought at Culloden, but he definitely did not leave Scotland.
It was Malcolm's son, Angus (along with other family members), who emigrated from Morar, Scotland, to Pictou, Nova Scotia, in 1821. Many people were being forced off the land by rich landlords who wanted sheep, not people, to attend to. They must have stayed with relations or friends in Pictou or Antigonish County for two years before arriving in Cape Breton in 1823. Most of the good land had been snatched by earlier settlers, so Angus settled his family on a lovely little mountain close to the Upper Margaree River. When the land was cleared of trees, they could see beautiful scenery all around. Being on the hill guaranteed that they would not be victim to the flooding of the Margaree each spring. They felt safe and cozy on their little mountain.
Angus Gillis, son of Malcolm Gillis, was married to Margaret Gillis in Morar, Scotland. They had the following children: John, Hugh, Duncan, Donald, Malcolm and Catherine. Of these, Hugh was the father of Malcolm Hugh Gillis, the Margaree Bard.
Hugh, being born on the 12th of Nov 1819, was almost three years old when he arrived in Nova Scotia in 1821, and only five years old when his parents settled the family at Upper Margaree in 1823. Hugh grew to adulthood working on that little hill. We can picture him doing small chores at first, and then helping his father in the fields during the day, and enjoying the tales and songs and music about the land they left behind in the evenings. In about 1852 Hugh married Mary Gillis (daughter of Angus, son of John Gillis). Mary was a sister of Janet (Jessie) Gillis, who was married to John Gillis (Tailor), brother of Angus (Hugh's father). Two brothers married two sisters, in other words. Hugh and Mary Gillis moved to a spot not far from his father's place, called Young's Bridge. Thereafter he was called "Hughie Bridge". Hugh and Mary had five children: Angus, Malcolm, Angus Jr., Margaret, and Catherine. Mary died about 1864. Sometime before 1871, Hugh remarried to Mary MacDonald, daughter of Alexander MacDonald of "Glen" (now Glenville). They had no children. Hugh died 3 Jan 1903 at SW Margaree, and Mary (#2) died 1 Dec 1906.
Malcolm Hugh Gillis, son of Hugh and Mary Gillis, was born on 5 Sep 1856. He went to the school closest to his home for his early education, and for secondary school he attended high school at Dunvegan (formerly called Broad Cove). His teacher there was Malcolm MacLellan, a renowned scholar who had been born in Morar, Scotland, and who had studied in Paris, France. Mr. MacLellan certainly gave Malcolm, and all the children entrusted to his care, a most excellent education. While at school in Dunvegan, Malcolm stayed with his father's sister, Aunt Katie (Gillis) MacLellan, wife of Neil (mac an Tailleir - son of the Tailor) MacLellan (of whom I spoke in an earlier column). After High School Malcolm obtained a Diploma to teach school from the province, and found jobs in Dunvegan and Margaree, and in 1875 he taught in Cheticamp for a year. He was a pleasant looking young man and I'm sure all the girls would have been seeking his favour. He fell in love with Mary MacFarlane from Margaree Island. They married about 1886/1887. Their first and only child was born on 28 Sep 1888. Mary died within a year and Malcolm had to look after their child, Mary Catherine, called 'Catherine'. The little one stayed with her grandparents while Malcolm was teaching.
Malcolm set his hopes on marrying a good woman who would help him look after his little girl, Catherine. It wasn't long before he found Margaret MacFarlane and they married on 9 Feb 1891. Margaret was the best partner for Malcolm. She was a strong woman and an excellent manager. They had seventeen children together and Margaret raised young Catherine along with her own, making it 18 children in total. Malcolm was happy that Margaret felt comfortable taking over the familial reigns for him. In addition to his teaching, he loved to spend his spare time playing music on his violin or on the pipes. Although he was willed the family farm, he wasn't the least bit happy when doing farm work. He was always dapper and well dressed and hated to wear farm clothes. Margaret, on the other hand, was right at home farming, while looking after the children at the same time. Everyone was put to work, and things ran smoothly. Malcolm enjoyed making violins and tinkering with fixing clocks and watches. After school hours he taught religion in his home. When done the lesson, he would play the violin for the children and many times he would sing for them. He was diligent at ensuring that all children got a good education, in religion as well as in their culture. They worked well together and they loved each other dearly, no matter what.
In the next column I shall tell you more about the lives of Malcolm Hugh Gillis and his wife Margaret MacFarlane. Stay well and happy.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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