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November 2016 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Local residents, Rail staff, members of the WHCRP and Arisaig Community Trust celebrate the community involvement with Arisaig Railway Station
Photo Steve Roberts
COMMUNITY ADOPTS ARISAIG RAILWAY STATION
The West Highland Community Rail Partnership held its first AGM at Arisaig Station on Saturday 17th September. To mark this new community organisation's first year of existence, we invited the public to join us in a celebratory Garden Party on the station platform. ScotRail-sponsored Royal Scottish National Orchestra provided a wonderful string trio for the event, and their "light classics with a Scottish twist" went down a treat, culminating in Scottish dancing on Platform 1! Arisaig Hotel's catering was yet another treat that went down very well indeed with the 40 plus party-goers.
The West Highland CRP has recently taken over the lease for the Arisaig Station meeting room, which is now available for use by all partnership members. This marks a new chapter in the station's history, and Mallaig-based Sonia Cameron, who has tended the plants at the station for a decade, felt that this was the time to hand over her Station Adopter's duties to someone else. During the Garden Party, Allan Brooking, ScotRail's Community Liaison Executive, presented Sonia with flowers and thanked her for all her work.
The Arisaig Community Trust has now taken over as Station Adopters for Arisaig Station, hoping to engage volunteers from the whole community in developing and tending the station gardens. The West Highland CRP, whose area of operation covers the rail corridor from Mallaig to Crianlarich, are looking forward to working with the Trust and wish the Arisaig community many years of enjoyable station gardening!
Hege Hernes, Secretary
West Highland CRP
BRITAIN’S CHAMPION PRAWN PEELER!
Photo Gerry McCann
Mallaig's first Wild Tasting
The inaugural 'Taste the Wild' food festival was a roaring success on Saturday 10th September when around 1200 people came to try out the various artisan foods on display on the Produce Stalls and Food Alley. There was an amazing variety of food producers proudly showing off their great food and drink produce from natural fruit drinks to chocolates and from venison and beef to cheese. It was a fascinating array of artisan produce from the west highlands which showed how diverse the food and drink from this area can be.
The demonstrations from the various chefs were a popular attraction, covering topics ranging from filleting fish to butchering venison. TV chef Jak O'Donnell from The Sisters Restaurant in Glasgow was an Ambassador for the event and demonstrated her recipe for cooking langoustines. She said "Having it in the fish market was amazing with the harbour as the back drop even for passers-by it must have looked great!"
The talks were informative, particularly the talk by Alistair Gibson, Estate Manager for Glenfinnan Estate, about the stalking of the deer and deer management. The Big Fish Debate was chaired by Shirley Spear, Head of the new Scottish Government Food Commission. Discussions focused on the more serious issue of the problems faced by those in the fishing industry and some positive suggestions for various ways in which the fishing industry can be supported by the tourism industry. Cate Devine, Food Critic and writer, said "The Big Fish Debate was an inspired idea and really put an edge on an exceptional day". Sarah Winnington-Ingram from Arisaig House said "I was delighted that some of the issues surrounding the future of fishing were discussed and that local fisherman were involved - it was important that the issues were aired."
Drew Harris from Knoydart showed his masterly skills as Master of Ceremonies through the day, making sure the speakers and demonstrators kept to the schedule. The inaugural World Prawn Peeling Championships, presided over by Frank and Shirley Stride, were very well attended with more than 70 entrants willing to pit their skills against the clock. The winner was Lainey Bowman from the Steam Inn who managed to peel 10 prawns in just over 23 seconds.
The various food stalls in the Food Alley were busy all day with the visitors trying dishes such as Mallaig Kippers, Langoustines, Game Risotto (cooked in the biggest paella pan you ever saw!), home-smoked salmon, Bar-b-q and of course the tea stall with its home baking was a big hit.
The evening dinner at the Mallaig and Morar Community Centre was an amazing accomplishment: serving over 100 people with a four-course gourmet meal was a big ask. The young musicians from local band Maratime played during the meal which proved to be a great success and the ceilidh that followed it was good fun, the Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band getting everyone up and dancing till the wee hours. Shirley Spear, owner of the hugely successful Three Chimneys Restaurant on Skye, said "The evening ceilidh was brilliant and the food was superb. I loved seeing all the younger teenagers joining-in with service and everyone taking pride in feeling part of the whole evening. It was all fantastic and I hope you pass on my congratulations to everyone involved."
The prize raffle was a great success with some wonderful prizes being won by Emma Milligan, a young couple from Ayr who came up especially for the event, Ann Lamont, Dawn MacPhie, Bryony Bellingham, Fiona King, Joe Blower, Dana Griffin and Tony Kenning.
The festival was organised by members of the Road to the Isles Marketing Group in partnership with West Highland College, UHI and Scotland Food and Drink. The five hotels who were mostly involved in the organisation of the festival were Arisaig Hotel, Arisaig House, West Highland Hotel, Glenfinnan House Hotel and The Steam Inn.
Sarah Winnington-Ingram who is Chair of the Road to the Isles Marketing Group said "I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback that we have had to the Taste the Wild festival, both from the general public and also from the Stall Holders. It was a massive boost for Mallaig and the surrounding area - highlighting the amazing produce that we are surrounded by. It will definitely put us on the map as a Foodies Destination."
Funding was provided by the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, The Highland Council, Sir Cameron Mackintosh and a grant from the Community Food Fund (£6850) which is financed by The Scottish Government and has been created to promote local food and drink, in line with Scotland's National Food and Drink Policy. The small amount of money that was made through food sales, raffle and dinner/ceilidh ticket sales will be carried forward to use for the next festival.
In addition to the five hotels above who put in a lot of time and money to the event, there were a lot of sponsors who provided an amazing amount of support without which the event could not have taken place: The Harbour Authority who provided the facilities for the festival free of charge: Scottish Sea Farms who provided the salmon for the dinner and sponsored drinks at the meal; Western Isles Cruises; Letterfinlay; Wellocks; Mallaig Fishermen; Andy Race Fish Merchants; Johnston Brothers, L'Art du Vin; Gram UK; Induced Energy Ltd; Angus MacDonald; A. Mathieson; Mallaig Art Gallery and Crafts; Fishmarket Restaurant; The Chlachain Inn; The Three Chimneys; and all the stallholders who donated items for the food hamper raffle prize.
All in all, thanks to the whole community pulling together, the event was a big success and the Road to the Isles is hoping to stage 'Taste the Wild' again soon. Another example of a fantastic community event - well done everyone involved.
This enormous paella pan, tended by Sara Winnington-Ingram, was purchased for community use with money given by Sir Cameron Mackintosh.
Photo Moe Mathieson
There's certainly been a lot going on here this month! We started off with the Annual September Garden Day, which was a nice, but quieter than usual day as a lot of locals were off gallivanting at the time. Drama Dave won the prize for this year's Giant Courgette and it was a whopper for sure.
We've been doing a bit of fundraising this month, with the school doing a silent auction to raise school funds and that has been very successful, in total amounting to approximately £2000! Alongside some really great prizes up for grabs we also had some really generous donations, particularly from Cameron Mackintosh and Greg Milligan. Much appreciated in our wee school so I would like to say a big Thank you to everyone who got involved. The annual Macmillan Cancer Sipport coffee morning and quiz night also did well, raising a grand total of £473. And still on the topic of money, it was good news for Gabriela as she obtained funding which allows her to stay and carry on as assistant ranger for another year! Just as well because no one else strims as enthusiastically! The Foundation has also recently purchased a new Landrover, which means that the ranger service and the stalking lot are no longer fighting over the other one…
Veronika is still doing a fantastic trade in fish and chips, which will hopefully carry on into the winter months. She also turns out to be a fantastic birthday cake maker! There was a few birthdays this months, mostly in the youngest generation, with Rossa (3), Innes (4) and Maja (5) all sharing the same birthday week. McKenzie and Will followed suit and needless to, there was a decent party or two (and in case anyone is wondering, pizzas on the beach from the homemade pizza oven are awesome!). The Tearoom has stopped doing evening meals now and the pub is shut for the foreseeable future (Not that it's any great loss for the majority of us locals these days. We've found better things to do and also discovered how much fun dinner parties can be, especially in the Big House). We had a fun night of Beer Pong and other silly games in the hall one night, as well as a gig by Ross Ainslie and Ali Hutton which were both great nights. We also got famous this month, on the BBC (BBC Breakfast: Wild Britain - get it on iPlayer) which was a short piece to do with our hydro system… But, did anyone see how efficiently Alice was chopping that veg in the Tearoom?! (Sorry Alice, but you did want a mention….)
And, finally, the last bit of excitement this month was Anna Wilson's return after nearly 2 years off in New Zealand. We're all so very, very glad to have her home.
Happy October Folks.
ISLE OF MUCK
As the inhabitants of Muck and friends on Facebook must be well aware: Dave and Julie are leaving us to start a new life on a small farm in SW France. Hoping that the move would be fairly straightforward Dave booked a removal van from a nearby town scheduled to arrive on Muck on 7th September. Unfortunately this date coincided with an extra cautious captain on Loch Nevis and the prospects of the van reaching Muck looked bleak. Ever willing to assist in time of need Marine Harvest motored to the rescue with Ben Aerean and a plentiful supply of plastic bins. With the help of a team of islanders the furniture was soon packed and sealed from the elements with the aid of large plastic bags. The telehandler soon had Ben Aerian loaded and in a few hours it was all sitting on the peir at Mallaig awaiting the arrival of the van from France. Well done Marine Harvest! Now Dave and Julie are living in an almost empty house awaiting for the French bureaucracy to allow them onto their farm.
On our farm the sale season is almost over. No record prices in 2016 and the only record was the number of lambs sold-over700 in total. And 2016 has seen the start of a new project to control lameness in the ewe flock by vaccination. It will take time to find out how successful this has been.
At the school the vacant post of 'early years practitioner' or nursery teacher has now been filled by Phoebe Haigh who has been on Muck for several years and has been a volunteer in the classroom for a number of weeks. Well done Phoebe! The other good news is that main teaching post has also been filled by a family who should be in position by January. More details in future West Words.
Lastly I will be at the Mallaig Book Festival. Will you?
ISLE OF CANNA
September has been a busy month on Canna as we approach the end of the season. To mark this we had a very successful "Big Fat Ceilidh" in the shearing shed. Unfortunately due to bad weather the band we had booked could not get to Canna however there was enough musical talent on the island to ensure we had a great time with some members of the community still dancing and singing at 3am.
Café Canna has now closed for the season but not without discovering that they have been shortlisted for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards.
We wish Chris and Anna good luck at the Awards' Ceremony on the 4th November in Inverness.
Islanders held a Macmillan Coffee Morning in the community shop and raised the remarkable sum of £264.50. Thanks to Denise for organising the event. The end of September saw the welcome return of the Lochnevis and to mark its first visit back to Canna the pier was decorated with bunting and some flags were produced. To show its appreciation the Lochnevis replied in true nautical fashion with a series of blasts on the horn.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
September has been busy with lots of planning for events and projects over the winter months. Archivist Fiona attended an interesting "Scotland Sounds" seminar in Inverness with National Trust for Scotland Head archivist Ian Riches, looking at how to pull together and share, all the sound archives of Scotland . A presentation was undertaken by the Tobar an Dualchais project who were responsible for the digitisation of the Canna House sound archive. Canna was. interestingly, held up as one of the most interesting and important of all the sound collections the organisation had ever worked with.
An inaugural singing course "Sing on Canna" was held towards the end of the month with archivist Fiona teaming up with well known Scots singer Christine Kydd to produce a singing programme designed to explore the connections and themes common to both the Scots and Gaelic song traditions. A waulking song session was held in Canna House kitchen where once Peigi and Mairi Fthe weather affecting travel plans, the course produced some exciting cross collaborations and potential plans for the future. The succeeding ceilidh in the Shearing Shed was legendary…..:0)
September saw Michaelmas Day, Sepember 29th, and Fiona made her usual Struthan cake to Margaret Campbell's recipe, with a few amendments. It went down well at the Macmillan cancer care Coffee morning!
In the course of her preparations for a forthcoming trip to deliver a paper at Harvard University, Fiona came across an amusing wee anecdote in one of Margaret's notebooks. She was obviously disturbed by Pooni the Siamese, walking across her work one morning…..! Look carefully…
"Pooni's tracks…never erase……
More stories and pictures of the Boston trip next month.
ISLE OF EIGG
A nice month full of late sunshine, bursting brambles and enough equinoctial weather to remind us that on the islands life is never a simple matter of getting on the ferry and arriving when you want.
A big thank you to Cal Mac for their improved communication strategy as MV Loch Nevis goes for its annual refit. Much easier to deal with the changes this year . We still would like the possibility of booking passengers on line though, as it seems unfair that the "first come first served system" does not discriminate in favour of locals. They should to see how it is done on Fair Isle (it's called waterproofing over there…), something to discuss as part of our dialogue with Cal Mac.
A cultural highlight this month was the Archaeology survey project organised by well kent figure locally, Jill De Fresnes, now working for Historic Environment Scotland, who brought a team of heritage trainees and archaeologist to explore some of the island's less well known cultural spots such as Am Braigh and The Oracle Cave alongside 5 Pennies and Grulin. There was a really good attendance for all the walks and the 'cheese and wine meet the specialists" evening at the Learning centre. Locals were able to ask questions about some of the mysterious cup marks which have been spotted on the rocky outcrops near the pier: they are apparently bait grinding cups, where people gathered to prepare their bait and pass the time of day: "fancy a bit of mussels and limpet grinding, a' Graidh?" must have been a popular invitation, from the Neolithic to more recent times as there are a hell of a lot of these!
Anyway, watch the Kildonnan project Facebook page for details of what went on. All this makes us think that our idea of setting up a yearly Small Isles archaeology weekend needs to be put into action using what LEADER funding we can get our hands on before EU funds disappear altogether.
It was lovely to welcome little Finlay Ardagh (just a few weeks old) to the island, with proud mum Eilidh and dad Jamie, not to forget little sister Isla, back from down south. As to big cuzz Maggie, her grand plans for a 7th birthday Gods and Goddesses party came to fruition thanks to her mum who duly obliged by turning Barbie into Venus for the requested themed cake . Damian said he was the best god by far with his Mexican get up, but we all know it was Paloma as Ganesh, or perhaps Owen as Zeus with a fairly precarious and shall I say revealing toga? Marina was a pretty good Persephone and she totally enjoyed her last party on Eigg before departing for further adventures in sustainable living back to Spain.
September was certainly a busy birthday month as there was also a very well attended pirate party on the beach for Teaghan McCarthy, who is really enjoying his first year in Primary school with his pal Ben, son of the new school head Andrew Murray whose family is now resident with him on the island.
The grand finale was of course Sharon King's Firehorse 50th birthday, with a red clothing theme of course! Courtesy of the Western Isles which braved the inclement weather, lovely Sharon was able to welcome her nearest and dearest pals onto her favourite island to celebrate in the style that she has accustomed us to: flamboyant yet gentle, loads of different soulful musical genres, with of course our very own DJ Dolphin Boy! I hesitate to wish her the traditional Thespian "break a leg" as she is rather prone to accidents, but this is to wish her the best for her tourism course in Edinburgh and a speedy return to Eigg in the summer months.
Last but not least, it was Marie and Colin's 40 years Wedding anniversary and Marie's birthday at the very end of the month! Many happy returns, all of you!
And now let's have a wee rest now that the busy summer season comes to an end…
ISLE OF RUM
September on Rum is the month of many birthdays - some big ones celebrated this year - young Dougal turned 1, Clare had her 30th. Davies was 16. It was also Ranger Trudi's birthday and honorary Rum resident Kirsty who came to Rum to celebrate. Other socialising included the monthly bring and share meal., this month with a Mexican theme... the food was good but we struggled a bit for music!
Still busy with visitors - lots of stalking guests and walking groups, volunteers, a visit from the Kinloch Castle Friends Association. The red deer rut is well underway with roaring stags keeping us awake at night and Sean and Ali busy over at Kilmory with their team recording all the action. A farewell to Mike Ingram who left his post as SNH reserve manager.
A month of mad ferries with the Nevis off for its annual dry dock - despite always anticipating it taking longer than CalMac suggest it still felt like a really long period of disruption. Always good to see the crew of the Bhrusda who seem such a cheery bunch but a lot of green faces emerging off the Staffa which seemed to rock about rather a lot on the rather stormy seas we 'enjoyed' in late September. The last Sheerwater visit of the year with the regulars from Rum who always head across on the Thursday cetacean and seabirds trip to Soay alongside visitors clutching their copy of Anne's fantastic book 'Island on the Edge' hoping to get it signed as Anne rowed out to collect the post, only to find Anne is off on the mainland at a book fayre!
Bramble season draws to a close, on Croft 3. Nic & Scarlett hit their target of 300 jars (plus 150 mini jars). Also on Croft 3 a new addition to the livestock in the shape of three sheep, brought over from Muck. They are settling in well and although they have escaped their pen a couple of times it has only been inside the croft fence.
A fairly quiet month for the IRCT, particularly as Development Officer Steve has been off on paternity leave - massive congratulations to him and wife Mel on the birth of their daughter Molly.
News in Brief
A holiday maker was thrown from a horse during a trek with Silversands Trekking Centre in Morar on Sunday 2nd October. It is believed a passing car caused her horse to throw her, causing head injuries. She was airlifted to Glasgow but died three days later.
Sleat Community Council has won a Rural Innovator Award organised by the Scottish Rural Parliament following a public vote online. Kate Forbes MSP has tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating the group on their success, which has been supported by ten MSPs. They have been recognised in particular for their fight to restore proper ferry inks between Armadale and Mallaig.
Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac Ferries Ltd, and Chief Executive of its parent company David MacBrayne Ltd has announced his intention to step down from the company at the end of March 2017. His decision comes in the wake of the company successfully securing the £900m contract to operate West Coast ferry services for up to 8 years, and David MacBrayne Ltd's successful joint bid with GBA Ltd, for the £1 billion contract to operate the Marchwood Military Port in Southampton for the next 35 years. Mr Dorchester came under considerable criticism of his handling of the removal of the Coruisk from the Mallaig/Armadale run.
The £900m contract to operate ferry services on the west coast of Scotland, awarded to CalMac Ferries Ltd by Transport Scotland in May this year, came into force on October 1, 2016.
Cutomers travelling by ferry from the first day of the contract will also see a new 'operator mark' which has been produced to show that Caledonian MacBrayne is operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd. It will not replace the familiar iconic lion rampant heraldic device on ships but will be rolled out across the network in a variety places including on uniforms, on ships, in ports and in printed material, as part of a tender requirement set by Transport Scotland.
Tuesday 23rd August 2016 Fishing Vessel Froach Gael
Launched at 05:00hrs to the assistance of the fishing vessel FROACH GAEL by Stornoway Coastguard. Whilst on passage to the north of Ardnamurchan Point the Froach Gael's engine failed due to fuel starvation. Froach Gael's crew tried to rectify the problem, without success. The skipper radioed the Coastguard for assistance who then requested the Lifeboat to launch. On scene at 05:50hrs the Lifeboat passed a tow rope and had the casualty under tow bye 05:53hrs. Alongside at 08:30hrs in Mallaig. The casualty was safely moored in the inner harbour to await repair to a faulty fuel pump. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 09:00hrs.
Sunday 4th September 2016 Grounded Pleasure Craft
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a pleasure craft that had grounded east of Mallaig at 15:40hrs. A local pleasure craft was returning to Mallaig from Loch Nevis when it struck a rock just west of Earsaig Point. The sole occupant attempted to beach the vessel but she began to flood rapidly. Before he abandoned to the life raft he managed to contact a friend ashore by mobile who duly informed the Coastguard before the vessel sank. Once on scene the Lifeboat was about to launch the Y-boat when one of the crew arrived on scene with his own boat and recovered the casualty and the life raft back to the Lifeboat. Rescue 948 who had been exercising in the area also arrived on scene but was stood down as not required. The Lifeboat conveyed the casualty back to Mallaig berthing at 16:20hrs. The vessel was later salvaged that evening and lifted out of the water for damage assessment. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 16:30hrs.
Tuesday 6th September 2016 Fishing Vessel Claytonia
Whilst the Coxswain, Mechanic and other crew members were at the station for morning tea break, a conversation broke through on the station's VHF between the creel boat Claytonia and Stornoway Coastguard. The catamaran Claytonia was reporting that they had taken onboard water in their starboard hull and that they could not get access due to the hatches being under water. As the vessel was fishing in the Sound of Sleat, it was obvious that the Lifeboat would be tasked to assist. With that in mind the crew in the station were already in on their way to the Lifeboat before the pagers were activated. Three further crew responded and the Lifeboat was underway to the casualty at 11:00hrs. Once on scene the Lifeboat found the Claytonia listing heavily to starboard. The only hatch that could give access was indeed inches below water and rendering any pumping operations out of the question. It was decided to attempt to get the casualty to Mallaig Harbour under tow in the hope of saving the vessel. Once the tow rope had been attached the two crew were brought on board the Lifeboat and the tow for Mallaig commenced. Shortly after commencing the tow the Lifeboat was joined by another vessel, the Spindrift that had also responded to the casualty's call for assistance. As the tow approached the harbour it could be seen that the list was increasing and that items of equipment were being washed off the vessel. The Spindrift, which was shadowing the casualty, recovered any items that were floating about. Regrettably only about a half mile from the harbour the casualty capsized to starboard but did not sink due to enough air being trapped in the hulls. On consulting with the Harbour Authority the Lifeboat was advised to bring the upturned hull into the outer harbour. A fish farm workboat berthed at the pier was prepared to attempt recovery with their crane once the Lifeboat berthed the casualty alongside. Unfortunately the workboat could not get good tying points on the hull of the upturned craft. The Harbour Authority had in the meantime organized the boatyard's crane and divers to assist and by early afternoon the Claytonia had been righted, pumped out and lifted onto the pier for damage assessment and repair. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 12:50hrs.
Wednesday 14th September 2016 Powered Boat Failure
Launched at 18:50hrs by Stornoway Coastguard to the Loch Harlosh area on the west coast of Skye. A person ashore at the village of Roag on the shores of Loch Harlosh reported to the Coastguard that he had sighted a small vessel showing a distress flare out in the Loch. As the Lifeboat proceeded to the scene it was reported by the Coastguard that another vessel nearby had responded to the vessel who had set of the flare. The casualty, a small vessel with two persons on board, was now under tow towards shore and no further assistance required. Lifeboat stood at 19:39hrs and returned to Mallaig, berthing at 20:30hrs.
Tuesday 20th September 2016 Medivac from Isle of Eigg
Call to transport ambulance personnel to Eigg to attend a person with a severe head injury. Patient attended to and transferred back to Mallaig to a waiting ambulance for further transport to hospital in Fort William.
On and Off the Rails
Time for change as British summer Time ends and dates for your calendar...
Friday, October 28th
Last day of the very popular Jacobite Steam Train Summer Season. There will be a Thank You Party on the platform of Mallaig Railway Station at 12.25 (observing all Health and Safety rules of course) to say farewell to the crew for delivering safely and happily all the passengers to and from Mallaig this year. There have been meals and boat trips to be sampled, days on the pier to enjoy, events in the Community Hall, land slips to get round... The list goes on! The local establishments will have contributed to the obligatory cake - on order from The Bakehouse - and there will be balloons and bunting. Any contributions of baking on the day can be delivered to the booking office, and will be appreciated and consumed heartily by the crew!! Just come along yourself.
Saturday October 29th
Departure from Fort William at lunchtime of at least one of the 'stabled' Jacobite locomotives (44871 Black Five) with SRPS carriages, crew and passengers - dining on the line - to Polmont.
Sunday, October 30th - alter the clocks!
Remember to put your clocks back. British Summertime ends at 2 am! Then at 12.20, welcomed back into Mallaig the steam hauled Jacobite/Statesman!! Day two of a three-day rail tour from London King's Cross. The guests will have stayed overnight in hotels around Fort William, and will again on Sunday night before travelling back to King's Cross on Monday. The Promoter is Statesman Rail (now under ownership of the Statesman Rail/WCRC). The two journeys from and to London will be diesel hauled by two Class 47/57. The locomotive to Mallaig will be a Black 5 45407. Also on this day, Abellio/ScotRail services ON A SUNDAY will only run out of Mallaig 16.05 and into Mallaig 23.35, until probably next March. Again an hour and lose six service trains on one day!!
Time for change - part two
For the past ten years, I have had the privilege of holding the mantle of Voluntary Railway Station Adopter at Arisaig Railway Station for First ScotRail, now Abellio ScotRail. Seven years ago, I also became a volunteer Factotum of the Station building for Hi Trans, and what pleasure it has been to develop both to the lovely station it is now. Hi Trans (with regret) decided to hand back their lease this year. It was a regional transport hub that they could no longer justify. Plans were quickly put in place for the Station building (not the Signal Box) to be leased to the newly formed West Highland Community Rail Partnership (WHCRP). I had previously been in talks with Arisaig Community Trust with the view to one day handing over the Station Adoption of Arisaig to them should we all be agreeable. So it was that on Saturday, September 17th Steve and I were invited (prior to the first AGM of the CRP on that day at Arisaig Station) to a Garden Party at which ACT, CRP and ourselves would meet, greet and hand over my responsibility. The day was glorious, the catering superb and the bunting, tablecloth and nearly the chairs, fluttered in the breeze. The company was good, the musicians played beautifully, and I have now handed over the volunteer gardening to ACT and the responsibility of the lease of the building to the CRP from Hi Trans. I truly am happy with the handover and wish everyone involved the same happiness and pride that I had.
Sonia receiving a bouquet of flowers from Alan Brooking, ScotRail Abellio Executive.
Photo Steve Roberts.
On the day of the Garden Party, two ScotRail officials arrived by train from Glasgow and made a speech and gave a presentation of flowers to me with many thanks for my previous work at Arisaig. I was totally overcome with embarrassment and was rendered speechless!! I had arrived on the Royal Scotsman train from Mallaig to the event, and departed on the Jacobite, so it was a perfect day. Thanks to all who contributed and attended.
Over the years, I have developed the tubs and gardens to a level that makes it easier to take it forward. I have added the double-headed wooden barrel planter, eight whisky cask planters, developed the start of a larger border which contains wild garlic, date palms, brooms and other future delights. I will continue to look after Mallaig and Morar Railway Station platforms as a volunteer for ScotRail/Abellio. I intend to do much more work at Morar next year!! I will look out of the train window at Arisaig with fondness. I already like net curtains replacing the blinds at the Station Building. Nice touch!
See you on the train.
Congratulations to Shaun Millar, front of house at the Arisaig Hotel, who cycled a cumulative total of 19,447 feet on Wednesday 14th September. This was done by cycling up from the hotel entrance to the Kinloid junction and back again, 114 times. The height was chosen as it is the same height as Kilimanjaro.
Shaun raised around £730 for Mallaig Pool & Leisure and it took him a mind shattering 14 hours 10 minutes!
The public phone box will remain! At least for the foreseeable future...
As highlighted in last month's West Word, BT were intending to remove the public phone box in Bracara, saying it hasn't been used for twelve months and that as there is a mobile signal there it is not needed.
As the kiosk is on private land, BT would only communicate with the land owner - who didn't want it removed - and would not discuss the matter with Morar Community Council, saying it was nothing to do with them. Morar CC Chairman David Newnham sent out a plea for people to email Jim Blanch at BT, to tell him the box could be a vital lifeline in hat is a vast wild area with no mobile signal.
Now Mr Blanch has contacted David again, to tell him that after information received from the landowner he had the mobile signal in the area checked and found there was none. As a result, although the Community Council and the Highland Council are not allowed to raise objections, the kiosk will stay. He seems unamused that he had received a number of emails on the subject! The situation however will be reviewed and may change.
If you're passing that way - why not make a call so that BT can no longer say it has been unused for a long period!
Incidentally, you can 'adopt' a kiosk for £1. It will be stripped out, you move it to where you want and use it as you wish. Growing tomatoes?!
From 'Personal Angle'
A cracking photo here of a fish special down on the Mallaig Steamer Pier - in the days when the railway line ran down the entire length of the Pier. Note the lack of housing on the hill, the funnel of the steam drifter, the wooden fish boxes bearing the name D & A McRae, and the jib of the railway crane.
The platform to the left of the engine, with steps access, was where the vans were loaded from. The steam crane would sit on the inside rails and lift the barrels and boxes up from Jary's Wharf over the wagons and set them down on the platform from where the wagons were loaded by the Railwaymen. When I started work with David MacBrayne Ltd at the age of 16 in 1964, I used to rise early to meet the Loch Seaforth as she docked about 7am from Stornoway, allowing passengers to catch the early morning train to Glasgow. The platform (or fish table as it was also known) was still in situ then and was used for the transhipment of goods (bales of Harris Tweed, salmon, etc) which I had to check either onto or off the steamer. Those were the days, when cars were lifted ontot he steamer by the boat's derrick. No Ro-Ro then!
Highland Cattle were sometimes discharged from the boats up via the subway into the wagons, and I was always intrigued by the noise and smell and sight of the cattle when they were penned in at the Cattle Bank in one of the railway sidings close to the Railway Buildings.
BIRDWATCH by Stephen MacDonald
As usual in September, wader sightings dominated the report, although sea birds and wildfowl featured also.
The juvenile Ruff and Black-tailed Godwits stayed until the 3rd in the 'Games Field' at Traigh and also Gorten until the month end. A Bar-tailed Godwit was seen on the golf course and shoreline at Traigh for a few days mid-month. Sanderling were seen regularly at Traigh and also Camusdarach, where up to 9 were seen on several occasions. A single Greenshank was seen regularly on the Morar Estuary and Redshank were reported from Traigh and Invercaimbe. Singles of both Knot and Grey Plover were seen at Traigh, and Turnstone were reported from there and West Bay, Mallaig. Golden Plover were reported from Traigh where up to 33 were feeding in fields on the 12th. In poor weather on the 27th, 30 plus Golden Plover flew south past West Bay car park, Mallaig, in small groups, in less than 20 minutes watching.
Brent Geese were heard flying over on the night of the 6th, and a family party of 5 fed and rested on the shore at Morroch, Arisaig, from the 24th to the 27th at least. Pink-footed Geese were seen and heard flying over Mallaig in gale force winds on the night of the 28th. A female Scaup and female Tufted Duck were seen with Red-breasted Mergansers on the sea at Gorten on the 29th.
Good numbers of both Gannets and Kittiwakes, including many juveniles could be seen feeding quite close inshore at times.
With predominantly south and south east winds, numbers of grounded Manx Shearwaters were relatively low, with 150 birds ringed and released by the month end.
A Golden Eagle was seen over Arisaig House on the 5th and Sea Eagles were seen over Morar on several occasions. A Peregrine was seen chasing a Common Gull at Traigh on the 24th.
A Long-eared Owl was seen at the golf course on the evening of the 4th.
A group of 5 Jays was seen near Glen House, Arisaig,, on the 23rd.
Two Blackcaps were seen in roadside bushes near Woodside, Morar, on the 13th and Goldcrests were reported from a Woodside garden.
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Jane was wondering what newts do to survive the winter.
Newts are amphibians and are related to frogs. They partly breathe through their skins therefore newts need to live in a damp or wet environment. They feed on tadpoles, wee fish and invertebrates in water; and animals such as slugs and worms in the soil.
Newts spend the winter hidden in places like compost heaps or under deep leaf litter, or in the mud in ponds or slow-flowing burns or rivers. These are places which are damp but where they should be sufficiently insulated from frosts. A newt's metabolism is likely to run very slowly in the lower temperatures of winter, partly as it gains heat energy for activities such as digestion from its surroundings, and partly by staying inactive, this will save its energy resources.
For the hawk-eyes amongst the readers, you may remember reading a similar article several years ago when Johnny asked a similar question!
Dr Mary Elliott
MY SIXTY YEARS INVOLVEMENT WITH THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH’S AWARD by Roger Lanyon
Of late there has been a lot of publicity in the press and on TV about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Perhaps the Countess of Wessex taking up the Jubilee Challenge with her successful cycle ride from Holyrood to Buckingham Palace was one of the most publicized, but this was just one amongst the thousands of other challenges undertaken to celebrate the Award’s Jubilee Year. If you put “Duke of Edinburgh’s Award” into Wikipedia, it will tell you that the award was launched in 1956 and “… in the first twelve months 7,000 boys had enrolled for the scheme.” Well, I was one of those 7,000 boys.
Thinking about the Jubilee year took me back to 1956, when, as a lad of 16 years, I noticed with great interest details in the papers of a new programme called The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. The more I read about it, the more certain I became that I wanted to have a crack at what seemed a superb challenge. A few months later, I saw on the notice board of my one-night-a-week youth club that a course, “Operation Discovery”, was being offered the following Easter to introduce boys to the scheme and let them undertake an expedition in the New Forest. I went to Salisbury Plain, learned about the scheme, hiked my first 15miles with a pack on my back and so started my sixty year involvement, man and boy, with this exciting and fun challenge.
Then, as now, the scheme was offered at three levels, bronze, silver and gold, with participants needing to satisfy the authorities (whoever they were) that they had reached standards and achievements in four different sections.
- Section A. “Rescue and Public Service Training” which required you to train for and then volunteer your services;
- Section B. was enticingly labelled “Expedition”;
- Section C was called “Pursuits”, which I learned in due course was all to do with having a hobby; and finally there was
- Section D “Fitness”, which challenged you to train to achieve certain fitness standards in physical activities, e.g. running, jumping and throwing.
It all seemed moderately exciting, but most of these things I was already engaged in, either with my school, army cadets or youth club. The real hook for me, and for many of my contemporaries who took up the Duke’s challenge, was the Expedition section.
Roger (right), aged 19, on his Gold Expedition on the Isle of Mull Credit: Tom Weir who used this in a Scots Magazine article he wrote Sept 1959.
Over the coming years I gained my Gold Award and was presented to Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace in November, 1959 to receive the gold badge with his cypher and the accompanying illuminated certificate on parchment. I remember vividly that the journey from Birmingham to London was almost as exciting as my visit to the Palace, for the M1 motorway had been opened only days before.
By the time I was awarded my Gold, I had introduced two cohorts of younger lads from the youth club to the Award and the first group had already completed and received their Bronze Awards. This all happened through an outfit called Endeavour Training which was an off shoot of the National Association of Youth Clubs (NAYC). As I gained experience as a volunteer staff member, I moved up the volunteering hierarchy of Endeavour Training to end up directing what would later be called “Open” Gold Expedition Assessments. This involved gathering individuals together who wanted to be assessed for their Gold Expedition, but had no cohort with whom to offer themselves for assessment. I remember very clearly the weight of this responsibility. I and my staff had a week to form the young men into functioning groups of six or seven individuals, give them a range of preparatory activities through which we could assess their readiness to undertake an unaccompanied, but assessed, foot expedition across the mountains of Wales, from the borders to the sea. Inevitably there were those who had to engage in an accompanied “practice expedition” because they had failed to convince us they were safe to let out on the hills. However, the majority of lads were able to complete their expeditions and they presented their projects at the final dinner of the two week course. I used to reflect that my full-time, paid job offered me but a fraction of this responsibility.
In 1995 I retired from the Highland Region (as it was then). On gaining this freedom I resolved two things. First, I was going to fully engage myself in sea kayaking and, secondly, I wanted to volunteer to return to Expedition Assessing for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Both these activities have filled many of my days since then. Note from this point on, the change from “boys”, “lads” and “young men” to “participants”, “teenagers” and “young people”. At first there was just the “Boys’ Scheme”, then a “Girls’ Scheme was introduced and eventually in 1969 the two schemes were amalgamated.
I had a great run of twenty years assessing in Lochaber's wild country, but last year decided to retire from assessing any more expeditions. At first I had been involved in assessing foot expeditions, many of which ended in Inverie, Knoydart. This happened because many of the young participants chose to hike west from the Great Glen, and would end their journey on the coast. Now most of the other Lochaber Wild Country Panel (LWCP) assessors lived along the Great Glen, so they could easily start groups off, but rarely could they undertake the essential and sometimes fateful debrief when the young people learned whether or not they had fulfilled the twenty requirements for a successful DofE expedition. Of course there were the other three sections of the award, or four in the case of Gold level, but most groups left the expedition section until last. Thus these young people had already trained for and volunteered their services to the community, had worked on physical training and an interest or hobby for a significant period of time, as well as having undertaken the training, planning and preparation for the expedition. Most presented as spirited, enthusiastic and idealistic, despite their obvious fatigue after completing their hike across the “Rough Bounds”. All in all, they were quite unlike the usual media representation of teenagers and they certainly reminded me of my personal experiences, now more than fifty years ago. Each Summer expedition season saw me reinvigorated through my contact with these groups of four to seven teenagers, who often hailed from cities from all over the United Kingdom. Spending four days and three nights either exploring or journeying across the Wild Bounds was certainly not for the faint hearted.
In time I came to recognize that, regardless of my familiarity with our hills, my solo traipsing, combined with my aging knee and hip joints, put me at considerable risk of becoming "an incident". Fortuitously, this realization coincided with the development of the Great Glen Paddling Trail and the LWCP started to receive increased numbers of requests for assessors for Great Glen expeditions. That suited me fine, for kayaking was my passion and, happily, done properly, it is an activity which is kind to one’s hips, knees and lower back. This heralded my second retirement chapter: and one which was largely filled with school groups who undertook their Great Glen journey from Fort William towards Inverness. Sometimes storms on Loch Ness forced a change in plan and the young people had to resolve prudent courses to enable them to fulfil the “four days, three nights camping in wild country” requirement. In addition to my refreshing contact with each new cohort of young people, I enjoyed meeting their leaders and supervisors and this added a satisfying additional dimension to the assessing task. At the inception of the award it was deemed applicable “to boys after their 14th birthday and up to their 18th birthday”. Over the sixty years this applicability has spread to “up to their 25th birthday.” Two years ago I had the pleasure of assessing a group of young Scout Leaders from Lancashire, some of whom needed to complete their expedition section because that 25th birthday was fast approaching.
When I tendered my resignation to the Wild Country Panel last year, the Panel Co-ordinator tipped off the DofE head office about my intentions. Great was my surprise, and pleasure, when my wife and I received an invitation to a reception in the Holyrood Palace Gardens. The main event was the Gold Award presentations to hundreds of young men and women in Scotland who had achieved this distinction, but the event was also to be a part of the Jubilee Year celebrations and I was one of a number of adult volunteers invited to be presented to Prince Philip. This all took place on July 4th, when I was, once again, meeting the Duke of Edinburgh, but this time to receive a long service certificate to commemorate my many years involvement with the Award. What an honour and what a way to signal the end of a personal era of commitment to the Award. However, as we all know, "The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men, Gang aft agley".
Roger receiving his long service certificate from the Duke of Edinburgh.
Little did I know that a few weeks later I would receive a request that I felt I simply could not turn down: the Mallaig Canoe Club and High School needed a paddling assessor for a group of local youngsters who wanted to complete their Bronze Dof E expedition. Readers of my article “High School Kayakers Expedition Success” can learn there about the joys of my assessing swan’s song.
Because, yes, honestly, I really do mean it this time, I am retiring.
Wide World West Word
Noreen, Robert, Helena, Jennifer, Allan, Iain and Lawly packed a copy of West Word in Mallaig and had a look at it in the Ice Bar, Amsterdam.
We wait two years for another Wide World West Word photo from Arisaig's Thomas MacKinnon and then two come along! Last month Tom was sailing from Opua, New Zealand, to New Caledonia on the SV Dona Catarina - this month he's on the 37ft yacht Esperence offshore of Pele Island, Vanuatu island chain. Tom says 'It's the clearest water, I could see the bottom 15m down easily. All the best to West Word readers!'
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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