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October 2022 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Photo by Kevin McGarry
TRAIGHATHLON TRIUMPHS AGAIN
One hundred and three fit and fearless local and visitor triathletes from the length of the country turned out on a stunning Saturday morning on 10th September, to swim, ride and run in Mallaig Pool & Leisure's Traigh Triathlon. A spectacular location, and a great spectator course meant that a complete cross-section of competitors from first time triathletes to club and national team athletes could participate cheered on by family and friends.
Overall winner of the Super Sprint Triathlon (400m indoor pool swim, 10km bike ride and a 2.5km run) was Ruairidh Stirling from Triathlon Inverness, and first woman home was Joanne O'Leary from Bridge of Allan, competing in her first ever Triathlon. Traigh Sprint (750m open water swim off Traigh Beach, 20km bike ride and 5km run) overall winners were: first male Alex Hill, and first female Bronagh Wishart, both from Fort William. The Traigh Standard event (1500m open water swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run) overall winner was Scott Walton from Grangemouth Triathlon Club, in a time of 2:32:05. First woman home was Hayley Pearson from Bonnybridge, with a time of 2:44:20. Full results can be found on Mallaig Pool & Leisure website at mallaigleisure.org.uk.
The event raised over £2000 to support energy costs for the Pool this year, which is a great benefit with bills which are expected to escalate over the winter months. Want to give it a go? The Tri will be back next year on Saturday 23rd September.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Thank you so much to Ann for stepping in last month when I had to be away! She did a great job and I really appreciated her taking over at such short notice.
It's been great to see some big local events on this summer - the Marathon, Highland Games, the Traighathlon, and Feis na Mara too - and next it's the turn of the Hoolie! As always, there's an excellent line up of authors and events - if you're in the area for the Festival, we hope you have a great weekend.
As ever, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for working their magic with the printing, and to Jane and Anne for sorting out the envelope labelling.
Well, although September went out with a bang (or, rather, a large gale) it was a really nice month overall, with some of the early days being the best we've seen in a while. It was for the most part, the Indian summer we'd been hoping for. The Community garden open day was a delightful event, with a great turnout and decent weather. There were a range of events for the occasion such as apple pressing, blackcurrant wine tasting (made from previous crops and is downright delicious), cakes and jam competitions and a raffle.
And speaking of Apple Pressing, after a collective fundraising effort from the community and others over the water, as well as generous donations from Frank, Tom Dalziel and the community garden, our community is now proud to own its very own "scruncher", "Hydropress" and 100 litre fermentation tank which will allow us to make Knoydart Cider. We have a lot of apples here, so it's fantastic that they will now be able to be fully utilised.
Tree planting at Bens Wood, Croulin, has now been completed, with 22,197 trees going in. That'll be it now until spring next year, when another 22,000 trees will go in. The hardy foresters were away for three weeks, camping while they planted, with others joining the crew for a few days here and there. Hats off to them all, it's not an easy job. If you haven't already seen it on a bookshelf near you, Ian Robertson has released a book. The Remotest Pint - Craic, Conversations and Highland Hilarity is a humorous and honest account of his 20+ years running the Old Forge back in the day.
Pub Sunday sessions continue to be a favourite evening, and business is going well, though things are slowly starting to slow down a little. Roli and Bettina at Sandaig held a lovely Oktoberfest afternoon to celebrate the end of the season and Doune have also closed their doors on the summer. The Deer stalkers meanwhile are almost at the peak of the rut, working long, long hours, and returning home only to eat and sleep for a brief period…
And on that note, happy autumn folks.
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
The end of October is almost upon us, where has the year gone? Don't worry though, you can still grab a wee cheeky coffee as you travel through Glenfinnan.
A wonderful new hand crafted 'totem pole' bench, which was commissioned by the SCIO as a thank you to everyone who donated and helped in the fundraising and construction of the new car park, has been delivered and is now in situ! It really is worth talking a wander along to see.
September welcomed the wonderful sound of FARA, an Orcadian folk group who performed an energetic and melodic concert in Glenfinnan. A local resident who attended described the musicality as second to none with a welcomed hint of Jazz! Thank you to Fara for coming to the village and sharing your very unique blend of 'chamber music techniques within the context of folk music'. We hope you have much success on your Scottish tour.
Our wee Glen has been a hive of activity all summer and as the tourists leave to head home you would think now would be the time for the village to wind down and snuggle in for winter: oh no!
We have lots of fun activities happening for our residents over the winter months. Here are just a few . . .
The over 50's can shake their booty in a new keep fit class but if you feel like taking the energy levels down a bit there is also T'ai chi, a Chinese martial art consisting of sequences of very slow controlled movements. If you would rather sit with a good book, the community book swap has a great selection of genres to choose from, go grab a leabhar and a cupa tí and have a good bleadair with the village librarians!!
So if any future offending traffic violators are reading this beware . . . we will have in our community arsenal the newly honed athleticism and strength of our over 50's, we will dazzle you with slow controlled hand signals of where you should in fact be parking, and if these new measures fail, we will read you the riot act!
Tha ám air an achmhasan, is tráth air a' chéilidh.
(There is a time for rebuke, and a time for gossiping!)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . Well the time of year has come to begin battening down the hatches and hunkering until Easter I guess. With the October holidays just about upon us already where has September gone? The season, which seemed quieter this year, was cut even shorter with the Loch Nevis going off line for two weeks; surely either end of tourist time would have been the more sensible option but hey what do we know or have a voice in, although there are still some diehard travellers out and about . . . the Farm and Croft have been away to the sales to get new tups and breathe new blood into their respective flocks and the cycle will start once more. Hugh and Tara have been over on Eigg to attend school for a spell to get used to larger class numbers before trialling in Mallaig at the 'Big School' in readiness. Lodge shoot season is just ramping up at the moment with some clay sessions but it won't be long before flight birds are ready which is much more exiting for the dogs. Fish farm has been harvested and cleared ready for restocking so the waters around have seen some serious activity . . . apart from this wee paragraph we don't really have a lot else on, just getting winter ready, maintenance and forward planning and awaiting what CalMac timetables have been drawn up after the 10th draft.
Well guys that's our minimalist news for this episode!
ISLE OF CANNA
At the start of September, we held the Canna 10K Trail Run - the first time it has been held since the pandemic. We welcomed 33 runners to Canna and the weather was overcast and not too hot: perfect weather for running. The route took runners from The Square along out to Tarbert where they doubled back and then headed over to Sanday on Finlay's Road towards Point House next to St. Edwards Church. The runners then came back along the old tidal road, across the bridge and the finish line was outside New House.
First place - Jonathan Turnbull (38m 45s), second place - Graham Allison (46m 52s), and third place - Samuel Cosford (49m 29s).
All the runners did exceptionally well to get around the course including one lady who had had knee surgery six weeks previously and walked the entire course! She had taken part in the Canna 10K back in 2019 and wanted to participate again. Hats off to her!
Ceilidh band Riska provided the music at the evening event and they introduced the crowd to The Witches' Reel which was very energetic and caused a few minor scuffles with chairs, and one chair has gone to the great Ikea patch in the sky.
Huge thanks go to Pete Holden and Anna Merrick for their organisation of such a successful event. The farm has had the first of the lamb sales which Gerry reports went very well. It was amazing to witness the loading up of the lambs onto the lorry down at the Pier. There was an immense amount of concentration on the faces of Sandy Taylor, Murdo, Caroline and Isebail counting the sheep as they went through each gate. It was a very smooth operation with Gerry opening each gate in turn and walking around the pens in a calm, specific direction to get the lambs to where they needed to be next. The lambs mostly did as they were bidden with some additional plastic bag waving and hollering to get them up the ramp. Sandy's dog, Gary, spent the time exploring the pier and making pals with those watching the operation.
Canna has welcomed to the island a new fishing business. Craig Martin's new boat arrived, and it was all hands on deck to unload some 300 creels and endless ropes onto the Pier and transport them over to Sanday. With Craig and The Red Man (Peter Banham) on the boats loading four creels at time onto the winch, it was all island girl power (and Gareth) on the Pier unloading the creels from the winch, stacking them on the Pier and loading them onto the vehicles and transporting them along the island. It was a supreme Team Canna effort! The sun was shining and all seemed to enjoy the physical, hard graft. We enjoyed a few drinks afterwards to celebrate and Caroline certainly won't forget this particular birthday in a hurry!
With the arrival of Craig's boat comes the departure of a very familiar boat. Peter Banham aka The Red Man is retiring and passing the baton over to Craig. Peter has taught Craig everything that he knows and he will be sorely missed on Canna. He will no doubt be back to visit us but not until after he has jetted across the globe for a much needed trip to Australia to visit family. We held a fantastic dinner for Peter and his wife Carla in Cafe Canna to bid him farewell . . . for now.
When I first arrived on Canna and heard tell of The Red Man, that name always reminded me of The Reddleman from Thomas Hardy's novel, The Return of the Native. Reddle was the red ochre dye that The Reddleman sold to farmers to mark their sheep, and he travelled the countryside stained red from head to foot, giving him a devilish look. In the novel he functions as an image of the heath and its denizens, with love, faith and a proximity to the natural world. I think this sums up Peter and his boat perfectly; crossing the seas to deliver his catch, an iconic image of the sea and of Canna, the faith required of all those at sea, the love of those waiting for them and a connection and closeness to nature. All of this done with Peter's wry, devilish smile.
We all wish Peter and Carla a happy retirement and the very best for the future whatever the next adventure may bring. The nights are drawing in and the first of the Autumn gales has landed on our shores. The skies above Canna have been spectacular with jewel-like sunsets of ruby, garnet and fire opal. Na Fir Chlis (The Nimble Men) have danced across our skies night after night putting on a show of emerald and amethyst to rival any Hatton Garden shop window.
Autumn is my favourite time of year. It's nature's way of reminding us that it's ok to let go of what no longer serves us, to prepare to sit with endurance through the darker, winter months, and look forward to the renewal that Spring brings and affords us.
In the past week, the sound of Canna has changed once again. As I walk my dogs through the woods, the smooth, quiet grass has given way to the crunch and rustle of leaves underfoot. The curlews have come back to the shoreline. The seals have been singing more. The herons are holding silent, sentinel posts filling their bellies for the approaching chill.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
As the shadows lengthen with the season, I like to walk up beside the Celtic Cross on Canna at A' Chill. The lower light casts unusual shadows of the Cross and somehow it looks completely different to the way it makes its presence felt in Spring and Summer!
A frequent visitor to Canna House was poet Kathleen Raine, born 1906 of an English father and Scots mother. She was a close friend of John Lorne and Margaret Campbell and her name appears frequently in the Visitor's Book. She also had a very close relationship with author Gavin Maxwell.
She wrote many poems either on, or about her time spent on Canna, including her well known 'Canna's basalt crags' but I thought that will the lengthening rays over the cross, I would include a wee bit of her poem entitled The Island Cross here this month.
Here she is (left) in the woods above the Cross around 1965, captured by Margaret Fay Shaw.
Page from "Notes on the Old Cross at Canna" by John Cargill
The Island Cross by Kathleen Raine
Memories few and deep-grained
Simple and certain mark this Celtic Stone
Cross eroded by wind and rain.
All but effaced the hound, the horseman and the strange beast
Yet clear in their signature the ancient soul
Where these were native as to their hunting-hill……
Their features wind-worn and rain-wasted the man and woman
Stand, their rude mere selves
Exposed to the summers and winters of a thousand years
The god on the cross is man of the same rude race
By the same hand made from enduring stone;
And all the winds and waves have not effaced
The vision by Adam seen, those forms of wisdom
From memory of mankind ineffaceable
ISLE OF RUM
The weather is turning a bit chilly now, the nights are drawing in and the leaves are turning brown and falling to the ground. Chanterelles and brambles have been collected, chutney has been made, and the tomato harvest is still in progress. Conkers have been gathered in a frenzy of excitement. The sea is starting its turn to colder temperatures but that hasn't stopped the few wild swimmers taking a dip.
Alex has organised volunteers for the bunkhouse over the winter to help with an assortment of village tidying projects and assisting other local businesses with jobs too. He has been monitoring the sky for its darkness and has had readings of 21.25 and 21.6 in the village, which are ideal scores for the International dark sky association criteria for a dark skies reserve. Alex has to continue monitoring until the end of May 2023.
Rum primary has been busy with activities; the school run is so much busier nowadays. This week there was a visiting storyteller and quilt maker and on Friday, for the end of term, we are all invited up for tea and cake. Looking forward to it. The high school kids have come home for the holidays early; with a stretch of bad weather approaching, they caught the boat back on Wednesday morning or they might not have got home until next week.
The stag shooting is almost finished and the rut is well under way everywhere! There are some very noisy stags roaring in the village woodlands. The Kilmory deer study folk are busy with the rut and visiting film crews; also Fiona Guinness has made an appearance - she hasn't been over since 2019 I think.
The Castle situation is still a bit of a stalemate. And a shambles. We are all pretty much agreed that we don't have enough information about the sale, or enough reassurances that it is in our benefit other than vague promises of employment. It's still a very rushed process and a lot of the concerns we have raised have not been addressed despite asking for reassurance several times. Issues range from job opportunities, access restrictions, future public access to the castle, community empowerment and consultation, land ownership models and what the castle will be after restoration. You'd think with a laid out engagement protocol written by the Scottish Land Commission, that it would be fairly straight forward to follow, but that hasn't been our experience.
September happy birthdays to Dougal (7) and Alfie (4).
ISLE OF EIGG
The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is upon us on Eigg and with it comes beautiful autumnal sunsets, the hedges heavy with brambles, and our community orchard giving us an amazing yield of apples, pears and plums this year. Well done to all the community who helped out on orchard days and left lots of lovely apples for all to take away from the Isle of Eigg Shop.
Speaking of the shop, we are all so very proud of Jacqueline and the team who made the decision to remain open on the Bank Holiday this month and to donate a percentage of their daily sales takings to the Lochaber Food Bank in light of the food bank closures across the country. Jacqueline and the Eigg community and visitors helped to raise £440 between customer donations, coffee pot donations from the old shop and donations from sales on Monday 19th. Alex from Lochaber Food Bank was very grateful for our efforts adding that the donation would go a long way to helping those in need at this difficult time.
A great night was had by all at the 'It's a Boat Time Ceilidh' a few weeks ago when the students of Mallaig High School and their tutors gave an absolutely brilliant concert. We were blown away by the talent of the young people involved (and the oldies too!) It was truly a fantastic night. I think there were a lot of young Eigich who felt very inspired by the musical brilliance on display. Well done to all involved and we hope to see you back again next year!
A big thank you to all of our sponsors and all of those who donated prizes and bought tickets for the Fèis Eige raffle. The prizewinners have all been informed of their lucky successes and we made some vital funds for continuing the brilliant Fèis activities that go on throughout the year. A special thank you to Tamsin for her continued hard work and for her efforts in organising the raffle this summer.
A Write Highland Hoolie Mallaig Book Festival: 11th - 13th November 2022
Our exciting Festival has a big emphasis on poetry this year as well as wonderful storytelling, with established and new poets taking the stage amongst the authors!
We're delighted to announce the winner of The Deirdre Roberts Poetry Competition - drum roll……Rafael Torrubia, whose poem lamb was chosen by judge Marjorie Lotfi as the best of a very strong field of entries. Rafael will be reading their poem when they receive their prize from poet Hugh McMillan after lunch on Sunday 13th November.
Two Highly Commended entries will each receive £50 in Highland Book Tokens; Morag Anderson with Observing weather, Rackwick and Leonie Charlton's A walk to the 'cuckoo stone' with John MacFarlane. We'll print all three in a future issue of West Word.
This was our first adult competition and we named it in memory of our much missed colleague, Deirdre Roberts, who passed away last year.
When we announced the competition at last year's Hoolie, we immediately attracted two very generous sponsors who between them offered a valuable prize; regular Festival attendees and well kent in Mallaig, Don and Mary (Manson) Michie and the Highland Bookshop in Fort William.
Don came forward with the idea of a quaich engraved with the winner's name, plus £250 in cash, to respect the many, long-standing links with Mallaig that his wife Mary's family has - the Mary Manson trophy. The Mansons have been an important name in Mallaig for several generations, involved in fishing and also the hospitality industry. Sarah Lou of The Highland Bookshop and her team have been indispensable to the Hoolie in providing books, art materials and book tokens as well as being lots of fun, and want to affirm that relationship by giving the winner £250 in book tokens and a bottle of whisky so they can toast their success in the quaich! We are immensely grateful to them all for enhancing the competition in this way. Poet Hugh McMillan will award the prize to Rafael.
Our schools' competition was also poetry, with the theme of Amazing Beasts. The entries are being scrutinised by our independent judge as we write, and we think you're in for an entertaining treat when we print the best in a month or two. More poetry! Prior to the exciting opening event with poet Jackie Kay and musicians Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey, Polly Pullar will pay a tribute to the late Lawrence MacEwen by reciting the poem she wrote in his memory. Saturday afternoon will close with the wonderful Tearlach MacFarlane, who has delighted the nocturnal amongst us to his supreme recitation of the story of the S.S. Politician, reciting it on stage to ensure no one misses this brilliant monologue.
We mentioned sponsors earlier, so we'll take this opportunity to publicly recognise the grants we have received to enable us to put on this year's Hoolie and Hoolets, as we are required to do.
We received a Magic Little Grant through the partnership between Localgiving and People's Postcode Trust. People's Postcode Trust is a grant-giving charity funded by players of People's Postcode Lottery. Localgiving is the UK's leading membership and support network for local charities and community groups. Our project received £500 towards the junior festival, the Hoolets. Your group can apply for funding too - go to www.localgiving.org/magic-little-grants/
We are also grateful to The Logan Charitable Trust, MOWI, Scottish Sea Farms, The Gower Trust and Lochaber Community Fund.
We also receive support from The Scottish Book Trust & Creative Scotland's Live Literature Funding.
Some of this funding enables us to put on the junior Hoolets festival, which brings in no income as all events in the school are free. This year it kicks off on Thursday 10th with the second Hoolie School of Music Sessions when Ross Ainslie and Tim Edey will collaborate with the High School young musicians and hopefully produce an original composition. On Friday morning, there are sessions with poet Jackie Kay, vet Romain Pizzi, and a workshop for senior English pupils with literary agent Jenny Brown. Author Angela Proctor will be talking to all the primary pupils from the base in Mallaig PS. On Monday morning High School pupils will be treated to a workshop with poet Hugh McMillan and a talk from the Red Shepherdess, Hannah Jackson. Meanwhile author Chae Strathie will be in Mallaig PS entertaining all the primaries, with possibly music, puppets and storytelling.
As always, the weekend will end with the prizegiving for the children's art and poetry competitions, with tea and cakes provided by Mallaig Primary School parents. Alan Windram of One Button Benny fame, who entertained us so hilariously last year, will be here again to give a fantastic ending to the Hoolie.
The Hoolie team
Programmes are now available in the Library, Mallaig Heritage Centre, Kenny's Book Shop, The West Highland Hotel,The Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig, and the VisitScotland iCentre and Highland Bookshop in Fort William. Tickets MUST be booked in advance because numbers are limited. Due to limited capacity, only ticket holders for the Jackie Kay and Graeme Hawley events will be able to attend the evening ceilidhs, and dinner both nights is only available to hotel residents.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
1st September 2022
Launched at 13:55 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of an injured female in the area of Loch Coruisk. The female was part of a boat trip from Elgol when she slipped and fell hurting her ankle. The Boat operator requested assistance from the Coastguard to get the casualty back to Elgol. On-scene at 14:55 three crew proceeded ashore in the Y-Boat to the Landing steps at Loch Na Cuilce at the top of Loch Scavaig. Once located she was administered Entonox as pain relief. Her location was beyond the steps but fortunately above a beach that was easily accessible. The Lifeboat and Y-Boat relocated to off the beach, the Lifeboat anchoring thus freeing up all the crew. Once placed in the stretcher the casualty was brought to the beach by the crew and other willing members of the shore party and placed onboard the Y-Boat. Once alongside the Lifeboat the casualty was lifted onboard using slings. She was kept suspended whilst the stretcher was repositioned onboard and lowered into it once more. With the casualty's daughter, crew, Y-Boat and anchor recovered the Lifeboat departed for Armadale at 15:55 as the tide was too low to land at Elgol jetty. Arriving at the Armadale ferry terminal's linkspan at 16:45 the patient was transferred to the awaiting ambulance and taken to Broadford Hospital. Lifeboat back at her berth and ready for service at 17:20.
1st September 2022
Launched at 22:40 by Stornoway Coastguard to search for missing yachtsman in Loch Scrisort, Isle of Rum. Rescue 948 also tasked to incident. The yachtsman was last seen by friend on Rum near midnight the previous Tuesday evening heading to his 23 foot yacht anchored in the Bay. At teatime on the Thursday the friend found it unusual that the yacht had not departed and the tender was nowhere to be seen. Duly concerned the friend rowed out to the yacht but could not find any sign of the yachtsman. Coastguard requested Lifeboat to convey Coastguards to Rum and for the Lifeboat to carry out a shoreline search for the tender and its occupant. After a thorough search of the shoreline nothing was located by either Lifeboat or the Coastguards who were experiencing difficult conditions on very uneven ground above the shoreline. Rescue 948 itself also carried out a thorough search along Rum's north coast and into the Loch, sighting nothing. Once Coastguards returned to the pier they boarded Lifeboat, departing for Mallaig at 02:30. Lifeboat fueled and ready for service at 04:10.
2nd September 2022
Launched at 17:55 by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a small dingy off Silver Sands campsite, Arisaig. The dingy with one person onboard had sheared the pin that links the propeller to the shaft. A friend paddled out in his with a spare, which also broke. With a freshening off-shore wind the man in the dingy could not row against the wind nor was his friend able to tow him. With his chances of getting blown further off the man's wife called the Coastguard for assistance. On-scene at 18:15 the Y-boat was launched to aid the casualty back to the beach and safely ashore at Silver Sands by 18:35. Y-boat recovered and Lifeboat departed scene for Mallaig at 18:48 and alongside pontoon at 19:05.
16th September 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 00:45 to transfer Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg. Heli-med2 from Inverness was also dispatched. On-scene at 01:20 the Medics were met by local Coastguards who transported them to the casualty's location at Cleadale. Heli-Med2 arrived on-scene shortly afterwards. After assessment by both teams the casualty was transferred to the Helicopter and flown to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness for further treatment. Paramedics returned to Lifeboat at 02:30. Lifeboat back at the pontoon and ready for service at 03:10.
16th September 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 13:00 to the assistance of a small inflatable dinghy in the mouth of Arisaig estuary. The dinghy with two persons onboard had suffered engine failure whilst returning from the islands in the estuary. On-scene at 13:20 the casualty was located anchored next to a small island. The Y-Boat was launched with two crewmen to the casualty. As the area was well sheltered from the NW wind it was decided that the Y-Boat merely tow the dinghy and its occupants to the slipway at Arisaig Marina. Owing to low tidal conditions the Lifeboat remained in the mouth of the estuary until the Y-Boat's return. Y-Boat recovered onboard and departed scene at 14:40. Once refueled the Lifeboat was back at the pontoon and ready for service at 15:30.
Mallaig Harbour News
The good weather now seems a distant memory - with wind and rain forecast for much of the first week in October, and most of the boats tied up this afternoon. Thankfully, it was still relatively mild at the start of September, when we welcomed Jasmine Harrison and her support crew to the marina on 7th September. Jasmine set off in June to swim the length of Great Britain from Land's End to John O'Groats. As I am writing this on 3rd October, she has currently rounded Cape Wrath - so not too far to go in the scale of things! You can read more about Jasmine and track her progress at www.thefulllength.co.uk.
The Loch Nevis has returned from its refit, and the Loch Bhrusda is now away to cover the Sound of Barra run for October. The Lord of the Isles is not running to Mallaig at the moment, while repairs to the linkspan in Lochboisdale are being undertaken. These are due to be complete by 8th October. CMAL held a public webinar on 31st August to share an update on the Small Vessel Replacement Programme, which includes the Loch Fyne and the Loch Bhrusda. You can access the slides and watch a recording of the webinar at www.cmassets.co.uk/project/svrp/ . The winter CalMac timetables have now been published, and while the Loch Bhrusda will not be undertaking the additional sailings between Mallaig and Armadale during March that she has for the last three years, there will be two afternoon sailings Monday-Saturday from 24th October until 5th November and then from 16th to 30th March. There are also some changes to the Small Isles sailings, due to the turnaround time on each island being increased to a minimum of 20 minutes.
After two really good months of fishing, August's landing figures were down to around £650k. However, that still means that landings for June, July and August of this year were higher than the total landings for the year to March 2022! The challenges for the fishing industry are ongoing though. The Delivery Plan for the Fisheries management strategy 2020 to 2030 has recently been published, and the Chair of the Inshore Fisheries Group, Simon MacDonald, hosted a meeting for interested parties in Mallaig on Wednesday 28th September.
Things have really quietened down at the Marina, so it will no longer be staffed at the weekends from now until the end of the season. It's been a busy year, and we were pleased to feature in a list of the ten best UK boating destinations, as chosen by a 'sea-faring mum who has spent the last five years exploring Britain's coasts' - Heather Kemp. The article named Mallaig as a 'must-visit location, known for its stunning sunsets and wildlife including dolphins, whales and sea eagles.' We can't disagree with that!
On the 1st September I attended the Scottish Ports Group meeting, organised by the British Ports Association and hosted by the Port of Ayr. It was great to be able to go and meet people working in similar jobs again, and we were given a tour of the port in Ayr. They operate in a very different way to Mallaig - with mostly bulk cargos being loaded and unloaded. This included huge wind turbine blades when we visited - something we'll never have the space for in Mallaig!
I then finished off the month talking to Board Members and staff of UHI about the Harbour's development plans, and the potential for the proposed Marine Training Centre to support these plans. It's always great to be an advocate for the marine training that goes on in Mallaig - there are so many people involved in marine industries around the Harbour who have started their training over at the Learning Centre, and so many other opportunities that could be available locally if there was a dedicated centre. Again, it comes down to space! If UHI's plans come to fruition, the new centre would be in the area of the old Marine World - which is the first area you see as you come to the roundabout to enter Mallaig - and it would be great to see this redeveloped.
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
I had intended to commit pen to paper five days ago, but four days of unfolding rail events later, and now late at night, it is now-or-never deadline time. So, with a storm raging and howling outside the window - here I go.
Since my last column there has been a turmoil of strikes amongst us locally and nationally. Currently no end is in sight. Locally this Saturday (8th October) there will be no trains operating between Glasgow, Oban, Fort William and Mallaig for 24 hours. The RMT national rail union members across Britain in 15 train companies and ASLEF (but not Scotland), and Network Rail will strike in what will be the eighth day of action, over pay and terms and conditions of employment, this season. Unite Union members working in Network Rail's control rooms will also strike on this day.
In Scotland on Monday 10th October ScotRail trains will not be able to operate due to a 24-hour walkout by ScotRail members of the RMT union. ScotRail has been in talks with the union again this week and a revised pay offer was put to the union on Tuesday 4th October. On Thursday 7th October the RMT rejected the (so far undisclosed) offer, after advising members not to accept it. The RMT appear to be holding out for more. Its members who will walk out include conductors, hospitality staff, engineers, and ticket office employees. ScotRail ASLEF drivers are not involved, but cannot work without everybody else!
Throughout all of this debacle, common sense says that reforms must be agreed to afford pay rises, but the assorted unions keep calling for government to engage and act in talks. Currently this is not happening. You cannot get money without reform that allows profit to pay more wages - if that is the way forward. Or have I got it wrong? All I know is that it's a sorry state of affairs, and the unions are muttering about a winter of discontent.
As I see and call it, national disruption on all railways is expected, and planned, for the autumn. RMT and Network Rail's staff include signallers and when they strike they can stop all the rail companies from working. Is that fair on the fare-paying public?
My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all proud railwaymen: all three of them used to say to me, 'There's a right way to do something, a wrong way to do something - and then there is the railway's way of doing something!'
Emergency Speed Restrictions on the line
ESRs as they are called have been operating in sections of the extension line and the main line for a week now, with Network Rail engineers taking possession of the line between trains. It started last Sunday 2nd October and is ongoing.
It means that most (if not all) passing trains are being held up at sections of the line where they can pass. The restrictions (I believe) are mostly due to the really stroppy weather we have been experiencing. Staff and passengers are experiencing hold-ups that must be losing ScotRail revenue as the few travellers that there are can claim all their fares back. The restrictions in the affected sections are to run at 20 mph where they would normally run at 40 mph (e.g. Arisaig to Glenfinnan). Each night this week the late incoming train to Mallaig has not driven in until 1am or 1:30am instead of 11:30pm. The incoming lunchtime train has been arriving into Mallaig at 3pm instead of 1:30pm. It increases the stress levels and tiredness for the drivers in particular. To drive a train frequently for 9.5 hours each shift with only a break to change ends at Fort William and Crianlarich and perhaps a leg stretch at Ardlui - it's a long time to concentrate. I'm tired just writing about it! Thank you on behalf of us public who you protect. The concentration must be hard. Well done to the staff driving our trains safely. Thank you.
In fact, timings were so adrift 10 days ago that an incoming tourist train to Fort William, going to and from England in one day, was rerouted to Oban instead! But I think that wasn't due to the ESRs, but a broken down piece of machinery blocking the line much further down the line that day!
All too soon it seems the afternoon service has ended for the season. The last afternoon was on Friday 30th September. That day was a strike day, so the finishing locomotive Black Five and coaches returned to WCRC at Carnforth on Sunday 2nd October, leaving Fort William at 12.15pm. The following day in the not too bad weather conditions a WCR special train travelled from Carnforth and has been in the sidings at Glenfinnan all week, I believe. Or maybe with the poor weather conditions it returned to Carnforth! Nice when you can take your own train home with you. Haste ye back, special guests. On the day of Her Majesty's state funeral both Jacobite locomotives ran with a wreath of white roses and local herbs on the front of the trains, respectfully pulling a long, low whistle and observing the two-minute silence in the case of the morning train. I do believe a few glasses of champagne were supped as well. Nice touch. Thanks WCRC (and Florence, and Ian Riley) for fixing it.
The final day of this year's Jacobite is on Friday 28th October. I wonder if the crew (on and off board the train) will dress in Halloween costumes? They did last year - and looked great! The contribution - financially, and in bringing Mallaig back to life after Covid, has been very welcome. Haste ye back!
Before The Jacobite departs for the season let's also say thank you to the touring coach firms, drivers and couriers; also the fare-paying passengers, all of whom choose to bring financial help into our area. It is a rare day that there are not two or three coaches on West Bay car park in Mallaig. As the late Jane MacPherson used to say, 'Hats off to them!'
Another date for the diary: if you are a MacKellaig, or want to have a bit of fun, be at Mallaig railway station when The Jacobite comes in on Friday 21st October. Carol Kirkwood (nee MacKellaig), BBC Weather presenter, author, previous performer on Strictly Come Dancing and genuine local lass will be hosting a four-day holiday with guests in the Highlands of Scotland. They are on The Jacobite on day two of the tour. Organised by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, I'm sure Carol would be thrilled if friends and family turn up to see her back in Mallaig. If you've got a copy of her books, I think she would love to sign them. Just a thought - sometimes I think too much!
Serco Caledonian Sleeper trains survival
Breaking news this month has not only been about Rupert Soames - who is Sir Winston Churchill's grandson, and CEO of the outsourcing firm Serco who currently hold the franchise to operate the Caledonian Sleeper trains which run six days a week from various stations in Scotland, meeting up to form a 16 coach train to Euston, London and return.
Not only has Rupert Soames announced his intention to serve 12 months' notice of pre-retirement from Serco (he quipped, 'It is now time to outsource myself, at the age of 63, and I will not be seeking to take up any other executive role.' I'm sure he will still use the Sleeper though!) In the seven years of being CEO of Serco he has turned the company around financially and has been such an asset to them. I wish him well; long may he continue to visit us.
But also, in the last 48 hours, the breaking news is that on 25th June 2023 Serco will hand back - or have taken away by the Scottish government - the franchise to operate the Caledonian Sleeper service. The contract had been due to run until 2030. This is huge news for the Fort William based section of the train, with all the local staff who work for the service. I understand that the ending of the contract came about following talks with Serco who, as was their right mid term, could not obtain a 'rebate clause' that meant it could present 'alternative financial arrangements' to ministers for the remainder of the franchise.
Now Jenny Gilruth, Transport Secretary, has stated that a new contract with Serco does not represent 'value for money'. For whom I ask? Is it for Serco who wanted at one stage to run the six nights a week sleeper train from Oban - not Fort William? This would be a shorter fuel journey, with possibly less difficult weather conditions by missing out Corrour, Rannoch etc. I don't think so, but it could sound the death knell for Fort William? Is it that the Scottish government want to take it 'in-house', like taking away the Abellio contract for ScotRail. As yet it is not clear (by a long way) who will take over the service. If so let's consider this - we may need to fight either way for Fort William to keep the sleeper - again!
I have a 'cunning plan', but not for this issue; also to talk about ScotRail body camera issues, resuming of alcohol on trains, etc., etc.
See you on the train,
BIRDWATCH September 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A mixed bag weatherwise, with some fine dry and settled spells early in the month, a northerly air flow for a few days and some strong westerly winds and rain.
The first migrant geese and swans were reported this month. On the 16th two small groups of Whooper Swans (six and seven) were seen heading south just off Eigg. On the 26th a herd of 25 flew south over Arisaig. Late on the 14th over 100 Pink-footed Geese were seen over Loch Ailort with several skeins heard flying over Morar as darkness fell. The following day several skeins were reported from around the area, including 86 over Invercaimbe early evening. Passage dried up for a few days until the 26th when at least 80 were seen over Loch Ailort heading south east.
Large groups of Greylags were seen at Back of Keppoch, Invercaimbe, Traigh and Camusdarroch during the month, but they are probably locally bred birds. Several small groups of Canada Geese were seen at Traigh and Back of Keppoch.
Curlew sandpiper - photo by Stephen MacDonald
Some wader passage was evident during the month with small numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Golden Plover, Turnstone, Redshank and Greenshank reported from the usual haunts. The most notable wader was a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper that was first seen at Traigh on the 5th and was still present on the 8th, feeding with a group of Dunlin. This small wader breeds no closer than the Urals in Russia and is normally a fairly scarce passage visitor to the UK but several reports this Autumn, especially from the West Coast.
Red-breasted Mergansers were seen in Loch nan Ceall, Loch Ailort and the Morar Estuary, with at least 40 at the latter site on the 26th. Wigeon were seen back on Loch Ailort from the 28th. A Moorhen was seen on Loch nan Eala on the 19th, possibly the same bird seen earlier in the year.
Still plenty Gannets and Manx Shearwaters reported early in the month. Several reports of Great and Arctic Skuas in the Sound of Sleat and also of Storm Petrels. A juvenile Little Gull was seen between Eigg and Rum on the 5th. An Osprey was seen fishing on Loch nan Ceall on the 4th. Sea Eagles were reported from Morar, Arisaig and Loch Ailort. At the latter location an adult bird was seen chasing Herring Gulls on several occasions.
Several reports of Jays, seen and heard around Loch Ailort.
On the 15th a Kingfisher was seen near Invercaimbe where the bridge crosses the river.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Arisaig's Richard and Ann Lamont took their copy with them on a recent holiday to Donegal.
Arisaig's Robert MacMillan took his West Word to 'The Cavern' in Liverpool last month. Here he is pictured alongside the statue of a young John Lennon, situated just outside the famous venue.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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