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

List of Issues online

September 2005 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Eigg, Rum
West Word ten years ago
Coastal Ranger Report
Local Genealogy & History

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

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

From 1st September 2005 Mallaig GPs have opted out of providing out of hours care, passing the responsibility to NHS Highland and NHS24.
To complement existing resources and create an early intervention for patients while the ambulance is on its way, the Scottish Ambulance Service is hoping to set up a voluntary First Responder scheme in Mallaig. The First Responders programme will create a team of local volunteers with the necessary skills and equipment to provide an early response to patients. They will be given extensive training in the first aid skills required to give basic treatment to patients before paramedics arrive.
The move comes after a meeting in the Community Centre on 18th August, called at short notice, to inform local residents about the new GP out of hours service for the area as responsibility passes from them to NHS Highland and the NHS24 scheme. Under this scheme, which has been operable across a large part of the Highlands since 1st December 2004, you will phone your own local surgery if you require a doctor out of hours and the call will be automatically switched to NHS24. An operator will ask for some brief details before passing you to a nurse who will ask more specific questions about your condition. It maybe that the advice is all that is required; if not, you may be asked to go to the Belford Hospital or you may need a home visit. If you need to attend the hospital and do not have transport, a taxi will be arranged free of charge. If you need a home visit a doctor will come out from Fort William to your home. For emergencies you will still dial 999 for an ambulance.
Steps have been taken to ensure that there are back-up arrangements in place locally. If Fort William doctors are busy and cannot come out, another doctor will be available locally to attend.
The service will be evaluated on an ongoing basis but will be formally reviewed in two to three months. Throughout this period there will be ongoing discussions with the Community Council and Councillor King. They need to know how people are getting on with the helpline and the new scheme so it is vitally important that you let them know if you have any problems, or if you find it a good system.
Arisaig GPs will continue to offer out of hours care so Arisaig patients will not be affected by these changes.
The First Responders programme has been piloted successfully in Scotland and has been in operation in England and Wales for a number of years in rural areas where the demand for emergency ambulance cover remains very low. Announcing the initiative, Andy Fuller First Responder Co-ordinator commented 'Speed of intervention can often be critical when responding to 999 calls. The new system will create an even faster response for patients and will be co-ordinated with our existing ambulance resources.
'The North and West First Responders programme will be managed locally by the Scottish Ambulance Service and volunteers will receive regular refresher training in first aid and the use of medical equipment. At the moment we are looking for volunteers in Mallaig.'
Community First Responders may choose to elect a Local Co-ordinator and plan their own 'on-call' rota. A minimum of five volunteers are needed to set up the scheme but more volunteers mean better cover. A First Responder may be able to reach a friend, neighbour or relative within minutes, thereby providing a better chance of recovery for the patient.

Community buy-out The local community has rejected an offer to buy out Sir Cameron Mackintosh's North Morar estate, and the Bracara crofters are now in negotiations to buy their crofts from him. The crofters are entitled under crofting legislation to buy their crofts whether the landlord wishes to sell or not, but an agreement has now been reached with Sir Cameron and a visit to the Land Court in Edinburgh has been averted. The crofters are entitled to buy the land at 15 times the annual rent. A statement issued on behalf of Sir Cameron states that the rents have not been reviewed for at least ten years, but to avoid expense and delay a notional rent of 75 pence per acre is proposed for the 4,200 acres in question.

Inverie Primary School in Knoydart, one of the country's most rural schools, has received an outstanding report card from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education. The five-pupil school has been commended for its attainment in English language; an interesting and varied curriculum which helped motivate pupils; an enthusiastic, courteous and very well behaved pupils; high quality teaching; supportive parents; a helpful school board and good leadership and a sense of commitment and teamwork amongst all staff.
In an outstanding report, the Inspectors judged that all aspects of the work of the school represented very good or good practice. They recognised the very high quality of teaching and learning and the very good ethos in the school. The Inspectors also made one recommendation for the school and the authority. The school accommodation and facilities were judged to be good but minor health and safety issues connected with the property should be addressed. The school will work closely with the authority to overtake these.
Commenting on the reports Eilidh Klemm, Head Teacher said: "I am very pleased with the report and I feel it reflects the positive ethos of the school, the opportunities we provide for all children to achieve, positive teamwork and partnership with the parents and community and our commitment to improving the school. Our thanks go to the children, parents and the wider community for their continued support."
Highland Councillor for the area, Charlie King, said he was delighted with the report. "This confirms the high regard in which the school is held in the local community and my congratulations go to the Head Teacher and her staff. My only message to them is to keep up the good work."

The weather was the main topic of conversation before the Knoydart Games, with some unsettled conditions in the days leading up to the weekend. Indeed, the Saturday itself dawned overcast, leading doomsayers to mutter about the madness of selling ice-cream in the highlands. Luckily, conditions improved about mid-day, with the midges quickly disappearing in the sun.
Visitors started arriving on the Western Isles, although there was a notable lack of other vessels - strict rules and regulations (and those enforcing them) rumoured to be the cause. There was certainly a down-turn in numbers compared to previous years, which is a pity. However, there was enough of a crowd to create a large queue at the burger stand, and plenty of partakers in the various activities, including the horizontal bungee run, the raft race, the dog race, and the hill race (never again…I've really, really got to give up smoking!). Stalls inside the marquee included Isla and Rhona's card creations, the ever-popular tombola, and the raffle. Which leads me to the run-down of local organisations who generously donated items: Travis Perkins Fort William, Got It, Eclipse, The Tea Garden, Co-op Mallaig, Spar Mallaig, Johnston Brothers, John Sellars, Inverguserain Farm, Roger Trussell, and the Toy Shop in Mallaig. Many thanks to everyone for donating, and buying tickets. £211 was raised from the raffle. £100 was donated from the Games fund to the Seaman's Mission, £100 to the RNLI and £100 to the Niger Appeal.
The ceilidh that night proved as popular as ever, with Tam the Banjo's Squashy Bag Dance Band doing the honours, followed by DJ Dolphin Boy with some full-on music which produced some of the most exuberant and, frankly, bizarre dancing ever seen in Knoydart. And that's saying something. Dolphin was followed by local DJ Jim Brown, whose Banjo Breakdown mixing could be heard from the Post Office well past the wee small hours. A great day, followed by a largely friendly and energetic evening. It's not all about the Games in August, though - as you can probably tell by the length of the article still remaining!
The village front has been busy, with pier vehicles vying for space with tractors transporting wood sourced from the area cleared for the new road near Arisaig. Knoydart Forest Trust have purchased a quantity of felled wood from Scottish Woodlands Ltd., and are now in the process of milling it for local building projects. You may wonder why Knoydart needs to import wood when we plainly have an abundance of the stuff here: the reason is that we have an "embarrassment" (as Grant calls it) of Sitka, which is not as durable or attractive as the Douglas Fir, Scots Pine or Evergreen Larch from Arisaig. The Trust have been dealing with Neil Stoddart of Scottish Woodlands, who has been very helpful. He will be talking at the Forest Trust community meeting on 8th September, and will be discussing methods of clear-felling and extracting the spruce from Knoydart.
Well, I think I have to write about the Fire Brigade. Knoydart's wee brigade is now even smaller, with only two current members. Much of this is to do with the controversial new role that the brigade is expected to play in the community. The brigade has been trained in conducting household visits to assess buildings for fire risk. This also involves installing smoke detectors, which have undeniable benefits in alerting residents of fire. Most of these visits have now been carried out - although not by the local brigade: locals were somewhat surprised to meet a shiny new vehicle on the Airor road carrying two smartly-dressed men who looked a bit too similar to policemen! The scare-stories which circulated about these visits involving "snooping" by those in authority are, I think, largely over-stated, and are a result of the Brigade simply being very aware of its obligation to share reports of incidents and situations which are likely to result in people being at immediate risk.
The aspect of Knoydart Brigade's new role causing most worry concerns actual fire incidents. Along with the other 30-odd small brigades, Knoydart was informed that we would still not be allowed to attend road traffic accidents, or enter burning buildings due to lack of appropriate training and equipment. This was qualified with the assurance that, alongside five other extremely remote brigades, we would be able to attend building fire incidents and set up pumps and equipment ready for Mallaig Brigade, organise transport for Mallaig, and prevent fire spreading to neighbouring properties. Many members were aware of this dispensation when they signed the new contracts - but hadn't read them thoroughly enough to realise that this allowance had been removed (including myself). Indeed, Knoydart Brigade are no longer to be informed if there is a building on fire! This is bordering on the ludicrous. The official line now is that if, for example, a house three miles down the road were to catch fire, and the residents to phone 999, only Mallaig Brigade would be called out. Once they eventually arrive on the lifeboat, or whichever vessel has been commandeered, there would be no-one to meet them at the pier to transport them to the incident, and no local information on the best places to set up water pumps.
We were told that the reason we would not be informed of building fires was that we couldn't be trusted not to enter burning buildings, perhaps to rescue occupants trapped inside. This reflects badly on Inverness's perception of the professionalism of the Knoydart Brigade, and totally disregards the absolute necessity of us being able to be there to set up equipment and perhaps use it from the outside in the way we've been trained to over the past years. We were also told that the fire safety checks that have now been carried out mean that full local cover is no longer needed as homes are much less likely to catch fire. This is clearly a false premise: fire is, by its nature, unpredictable. And now, in Knoydart, we are no longer immediately covered for such events. Rant over. But this is an important issue, and one which is not going to go away. Highland and Islands Fire Brigade are now recruiting new members in the Knoydart area to cover those that have left. It remains to be seen how many people are willing to step into the old Brigade's wellies.
What else…the end of the month closed with the highly successful Feis na Mara (great to finally meet West Word's esteemed editor - sorry it took me so long to work out why Ross was so keen to introduce me to his mum!). I'm afraid I was the only Knoydart representative, along with Tam the Banjo, who I think will still be recovering by the time Bob's big birthday comes around this weekend. Happy Birthday Bob - have you opened your strangely-shaped present yet? Should prove useful on those dark winter nights when you can't find your way home.
Good news: Congratulations to Sam Humphrey and Cara Gray, who are both expecting. Jackie has returned refreshed from New Zealand, with Struan and a talkative Anna. All of which should guarantee a thriving Inverie nursery and primary school in years to come - the real future of Knoydart.
Tommy McManmon

As readers of West Word will know Muck was host to the Small Isles Games this year. Once again the weather behaved itself but we were disappointed that no schoolchildren from the other islands attended. So we had to rely on adults to fill the events and there were plenty of children on Muck anyway. Muck won the shield but not without a lot of help from visitors. Rum were in second place and Colin Carr took part in the hill race to the top of Ben Airean which was commendable. An excellent bar-b-que followed and then in the barn there was the Harris Tweed Brogues tho' at least one of the players had been in Muck for the previous ceilidh.
The perches are back! A team of divers from Highland Council, utilising one of the highest tides of the year managed using floats to raise the poles to vertical and bolt them to the bases. It was a good effort as there was a lot of swell. Very bare poles they are too and they won't provide much resistance to the seas whenever the next storm comes.
Has it been a record summer for visitors? It probably has on Muck. The Craft Shop has had record sales - the reward for excellence! Certainly there have been more short stay visitors --those which visit several islands in a week. So camping, the Bunkhouse and B&B have been more popular perhaps due to the Loch Nevis calling at the pier. Definitely down has been day visitors on Loch Nevis on Tuesdays. Only twice have we had double figures so most visitors must feel that an hour ashore is not worth coming for.
Lawrence MacEwen

I will do my best to fill in for Camille who is away in France visiting her family and no doubt enjoying the sun and the warm sea. Meanwhile back at the "ranch" we have had mixed experiences.
On 23rd July we said goodbye to Joy Whiting & Ruth Wyss. They had been staying in Pascal & Catherine's caravan for three months and proved to be of great assistance on the island, helping at the Barn, in Pascal's lovely market garden and working at other jobs where required. Joy of course took hundreds of photographs and was working on another article for the "Scots Magazine." Ruth practiced her Shiatsu on several willing Eigg residents including one of Liz Lyon's horses! We hope to see them both back next year.
Mick Brett brought his Rock Band to Eigg for their annual ceilidh in spite of Mick having recently broken his wrist (by falling through a roof into his neighbour's flat!). This made playing his guitar extremely painful but he manfully succeeded in entertaining us as usual. During the evening Joe & Ben Cormack supported the band on their guitars, also Angus on the button box. It was nice to see Amber's Mum Jackie and sister Faith and her family here for a few days' holiday. Since then Amber has joined her father in acquiring a damaged arm, which is really carrying family loyalty a bit far!
Referring to the August edition and the "West Word ten years ago" column: the "Lonely Scottish Fisherman" recently reappeared after working in Fort William for a while, complete with his partner and two small girls, the youngest born in February. Kathleen does not have a boat, by the way!
In answer to Flora Thomson (August Letters Page). The lady may like to know that the old chapel at Kildonan has been cleared of under-growth and of the trees growing out of the walls. For this we must extend our thanks to Susanna & Peter Wade Martins who perform this task regularly when they come to Eigg three or four times a year. Also the graveyard has now been fenced against animals although it is intended to allow sheep in periodically to keep the grass down.
The whole island was shocked to hear of an elderly visitor falling to his death while climbing alone on the Scurr. This was on the same day and at almost the same time as the Westminster M.P. Robin Cook died on Ben Stac. Our thanks to Ronnie and the Sheerwater for making a third journey from Arisaig that day to bring the police and return them, the dead man, and his companions to the mainland.
Another sad occurrence was the news that Jim Wilson has suffered another stroke and will not be returning to Eigg. Jim came as a volunteer and lived here for over a year. He loved the island so much he was trying hard to find a permanent place to live. He was such good company and would have been a tremendous asset, he was useful in a hundred and one ways and had lots of work lined up before he became ill. He is much missed.
But there is always something to be happy about - Bryony is still waiting to hear when the final audition will take place for the part of Katie-Morag. We are all hoping to see her on television, even me, who does not possess a television!
David & Jenny Sharp, mine hosts at Cnoc-na-Faire Hotel and a real asset to Arisaig by organising many and various local occasions to benefit the area, celebrated their Silver wedding recently, by an evening sailing to Eigg on the Sheerwater, a much happier trip for Ronny than the one mentioned above. They brought with them a large party of guests; a couple of pipers and other musical accompanists and of course some liquid refreshments. The music began on the boat and, with the assistance of many Eigg residents, who as everyone knows, love parties, continued in the tearoom joined by the island musical entertainers. Before leaving David made a short speech thanking everyone whom had supported him and Jenny in their activities while they have been at Cnoc-na-Faire, he said that the party was really a "Thank You" for them.
Joy Williams

Unfortunately the main focus of interest recently hasn't been on what has been seen but what has not. The almost complete lack of seabirds offshore at a time of year when the sea should be full of adult and juvenile Auks, Kittiwakes, Terns etc points to yet another catastrophic breeding season. With whales and even porpoises also largely absent it is apparent that something is going badly wrong out there.
One sea creature that certainly wasn't scarce during July was Moon Jellyfish with vast numbers of them present around the island during the first half of the month. Counting them was impossible but there were certainly tens of thousands off the East Coast on the 5th and an estimated 3000+ washed up at Laig Bay on the 12th.
Many of the summer migrants, having successfully raised their young, moved off and by the end of July even such as Common Sandpipers and Wheatears were scarce
On the island itself July and August were typically quiet for birds with only a few waders, principally Dunlin & Greenshank, moving through. Offshore only a few Storm Petrels and the odd passing Great Skua were of note. While a White Tailed Eagle over Castle Island in late August caused some excitement for the resident Geese & Gulls.
Botanically Orchids gave a great show early in July with large numbers of Greater Butterfly Orchids particularly prominent in the croft land.
John Chester

Work underway to restore Rum's biodiversity
A major project is underway to restore the native biodiversity on the island of Rum. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) which has ownership responsibilities for the island and manages it as a National Nature Reserve, is carrying out the work over the next ten years as part of the reserve's current management aims.
The 'Habitat Restoration Programme' (HRP) will involve the planting of around 750,000 trees and shrubs at five locations around the island, with species including birch, willow, rowan and hazel. This will create pockets of native woodland similar to those which previously existed but were lost due to a combination of clearance by former inhabitants and grazing pressure from previously kept sheep and the island's existing artificially large population of red deer.
The work will also involve a comprehensive review of current grazing on Rum, looking at deer, feral goats, Highland cattle and Rum ponies, and the development of a plan for future grazing regimes. To achieve the woodland restoration without erecting deer fencing, which is unsightly, unnatural and restrictive, the numbers of deer will be reduced to a more sustainable level.
If feasible, a redundant tree nursery on the island will be restarted to help supply the trees for the project. Wherever possible island residents will be encouraged to get involved in the work; from seed collection, tree nursery work to planting and monitoring the plantations. Deer monitoring will also have to be done continually to ensure trees are not damaged, and there may also be opportunities in the service sector such as accommodation provision. It is hoped that all of this should help stimulate economic benefits on the island for the community and foster the feeling of ownership and inclusion among members of the community. SNH's reserve manager on Rum, Ed Hawan, said the work was all about restoring the natural balance on the island. He added: "Since the days of private ownership and aristocratic sporting activities on Rum, the island has been dominated by an artificially large deer population. While this has been extremely useful in the very detailed research into the species that has been carried out on Rum over more recent years, it has also taken its toll on the island's biodviersity, particularly the native woodland. Previously the standard technique for woodland establishment has been to plant within fenced areas. However the long stretches of deer fencing, in addition to looking unsightly, can restrict the freedom to roam and is contrary to the spirit of the new access legislation. "The Habitat Restoration Programme seeks to address as much of these issues as possible, while maintaining a sustainable population of deer on the island.
As a result the island will look more natural, the native biodiversity will flourish, access and the visitor experience will be improved, and we will see more opportunities for social and economic development, another of the island's important aspirations." Preparatory work on the project is already underway, with a view to the first trees being planted next spring.

Bullough Mausoleum, Harris, Isle of Rum
Badly needed repair work on the Bullough Mausoleum, expected to begin this summer, has been delayed. D S Gray on behalf of the Bullough Trustees has written to the Friends of Kinloch Castle to explain they had been informed that the road from Kinloch to Harris is impassible for Land Rover transport. It is necessary for the contractor to take scaffolding for the building work, and the road is regarded as being unsafe at the present time. Scottish Natural Heritage have no funds to repair the road at present and therefore no work will be carried out this year. It is hoped that progress will be made next year.

Hello, I am your new 'stringer' for Glenfinnan. My name is Eileen and I live in the village with my husband Colm and 11 month old daughter Áine. Most of you will know Colm as he is often seen around these parts playing his banjo.
I was brought up in Fort William and left at 18 for an exciting life in the city of Edinburgh where I studied and worked. I returned to Lochaber 8 years later to get married or in other words, settle down! That was 3 years ago and I have enjoyed making the village my home.
On first appearances Glenfinnan seems like a rather quiet wee village but there is always something going on so I thought it was about time it had a corner of the West Word dedicated to it. I will be writing a piece each month and I will be pleased to hear from anyone who can help by giving me news or information. This could include family news such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, achievements, social events, work going on in the village, or anything else of interest.
Eileen O'Rua

Mallaig & Morar Games
The Games were held in beautiful weather on Sunday 31st July, held for the first time in over thirty years in Morar, on the newly named Lovat Games Field. The Lochaber Schools Pipe Band led Lord Lovat and a procession of villagers from Morar Station to the field.
Photo courtesy of Calum MacMaster
Photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson
Photo courtesy of Moe Mathieson

The summer seems to have disappeared suddenly as the children went back to school. Still the odd lovely day, warm in the sun, but it feels and certainly smells like autumn all of a sudden. One minute we were enjoying summer holiday activities, the next we're finding bits and pieces that will do for the bonfire in November.
As part of the HC summer playscheme, there was a Withy Sculpture workshop in the Astley Hall - I had been half promised a large sculpture for the hall, while participants made smaller ones, but - nothing! Anyone got any photos? Did you have a good time? What did you make? I didn't even find a bit of withy! Meanwhile Tricky Ricky enjoyed one of his best visits and there's a photo in these pages of the Balloon Crufts that resulted. The Hall was also in use for three days by the Wing Tsun Organisation who took advantage of the good weather to practice their martial arts on the grass. However our promised 'Ionan Tales' was cancelled at short notice when the Scottish tour had to be abandoned because two venues went bust!! Hopefully we will have the poet back in the Spring - lots of people have told me they were disappointed and had been intending to come - hmm! Now we're gearing up for the big Blas concert - book early to avoid disappointment! It's surely going to be a sell out-two from Blazin' Fiddles! Four Hendersons!! A MacDonald piper and Olivia too! Book early for Dannsa as well on the 29th, because they use up a lot of the floor space and there's not much room for seating.
Apart from all that activity there have been two wedding receptions in the Hall during August! Congratulations and best wishes to subscribers Neil and Marianne Love and to 'local' girl Flora and new husband Tony Gaughan.
I never know quite what to say when we have had a bereavement in the village but I'll try. This time we've had to say goodbye to Alex MacEachern and we won't see his like again. Known as A. J. to some, as Seagull to others, but known to so many, as shown by the attendance of folk from all over Lochaber at his funeral on the Thursday 1st., most with an amusing and affectionate anecdote to tell. The singing in the church of 'Ave Maria' by Scottish Opera 'local' Fiona was truly beautiful, and the piping by Allan Henderson added to the emotion of the day.
Fiona will be performing an 'Opera Gala' in the Hall on the 2nd December, with four colleagues from Scottish Opera - more on that next month. She'll be asking for requests for favourite songs, so think on!
Ann Martin

The second boat to be donated by the local communities with money raised for the Tsunami disaster has been given to Mr Wimalasena, seen here with his wife and two children, in Sri Lanka.
The boat called 'Arisaig' was given to Mr Wimaladasa, a single man who looks after his extended family.

West Word - ten years ago by Robert MacMillan
Two photographs adorned the front cover of the September 1995 West Word. Mission Superintendent Murray Campbell is seen presenting the Captain of the Kaugari - a Latvian Klondyker - with a bible, while Billy Connelly and Jackie MacKellaig are pictured enjoying the sun at the Mallaig & Morar Games.
The Klondyking theme was continued inside via a two page spread of text and photographs provided by Editor Jill de Fresnes, entitled 'East meets West Word.'
Jill's editorial comment was tainted with a slight touch of sarcasm as she described how the mock advert in the previous month's West Word, 'Fisherman Wants A Wife', had attracted a media frenzy with Radio Scotland, Radio Highland, Radio Clyde, The Big Breakfast TV Show, The Scotsman and The Sun all contacting her for the background to the advert which was placed by Scruff (Stuart Miller) from Eigg.
A report was carried on the meeting that decided to formulate The Knoydart Foundation, while Charlie King's Council Corner informed readers that the Lochaber District Council would provide a £1500 grant to the Foundation re a feasibility study on the future of the Estate.
Councillor King (and others) revealed that the Hi-Point Unit was now operational and, located in the Fishermen's Mission, would allow greater access to council Departments and officials via the video phone link.
Two wedding photos displayed in the middle pages means it must be happy 10th wedding anniversary to John (Kojak) MacDonald and Anne Thursby, who were married at Gretna Green, and Sine Mackellaig and Gavin Davies, married at St. Cumin's Church, Morar.
There was news of a Brownie Pack starting up in Arisaig and sporting items on Traigh Golf Club, Mallaig Swimming Pool, Glenuig Yoga and a Road Race at Lochgilphead.
Ross Campbell whalewatched from the Shearwater and his article was illustrated by Archie Lawrie's photo of a whale off the island of Eigg, and Eigg resident Neil Robertson continued his 'Down to Earth' column, this month dessert apples being the main topic. Rum Primary School provided West Word readers with an exclusive preview of the new 'newsletter for Rum', while Jimmy McLerie, a Scots exile in Australia provided a pen picture of his arrival in Mallaig in 1929.
Wonderful, splendid, great - just some of the adjectives used to describe the VJ Day Anniversary Party held on Mallaig Pier to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that great day, and also on that page of Issue 11, Vol 1 of West Word, Gunner Robert Leckie talked of his time in Burma.
A couple of snippets caught my eye…Tony Blair (Labour) seen trying to read someone else's copy of West Word while travelling on a train from Cambridge...is Bob Burt going batty?...
Well, anyone with the answer to that final question or or if anyone has found the Super 8 movie of The Stars v Glenlochy FC at Mains Park, Arisaig, please get in touch with me c/o West Word's office.

The Mallaig & District Canoe Club will be celebrating this month with a weekend of activities for everyone. At 9pm on Friday 16th September there will be a slide show in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre of club activities. On Saturday 17th there will be canoeing taster sessions at the Mallaig Pool for different age groups, and the evening sees a buffet dance at the Community Centre.

Moidart Sailing Association Regatta Arisaig 5th - 7th August 2005
The weather started off with Force 7 winds on the scheduled cruise in company to Tobermory and in the end only Alana II went down with a complement of the Grigor family, including 11 year old Amy. Saturday's saw the Round the Marks race with a fleet of 6 boats on start line. Bluefin from Glenuig joined the race late as she had just sailed in as the fleet started, so she sailed up to the start line, turned round and sailed back out again! The wind direction during this race varied, but the fleet had a good afternoon of sailing. The commodore's reception at the end of the race was held on the pontoon. Commodore Simon Macdonald welcomed everyone to this inaugural event and the Bluewater Trophy for the Tobermory feeder race was presented to Hugh and Amy Grigor by Gus Chowan of Bluewater, who came over from Aberdeen specially for the presentation.
Mishnish of Tobermory arrived on Saturday evening after finishing West Highland Week in Oban the evening before. It was good to see Robert McLeod and crew in Arisaig again. Robert very kindly presented a new trophy to the regatta -the Mishnish and Arisaig Friendship trophy.
Sunday morning saw the fleet assemble on the Skerries for a barbeque breakfast. The conditions for this event were fabulous - azure blue water, clear blue sky and silver sand. Who could want to be anywhere else? Around 30 people, adults, children and one dog, enjoyed, bacon rolls, fresh mackerel (thanks to crew of Bluefin) and kippers for breakfast. Such a good time was had, that the start of the race had to be delayed by half an hour!
The race was pretty good too, excellent wind direction and strength gave ideal conditions for an exciting afternoon's sailing for all with a nail biting finish. The Barry family and friends on Luinga were the most successful boat in the Regatta this year, with a haul of 3 well deserved trophies, the Arisaig Marine Trophy for winning the Eigg and Spoon Race, the new Mishnish trophy for the best boat over 30 feet and another new trophy in memory of Charlie Williamson, the Sound of Moidart Trophy presented by Carole Jamieson. This trophy is not about racing, it's about entering into the spirit of the event, and with a crew of ten of all ages on board, that will take some beating!
Simon Macdonald won the Round the Marks race in Merrydancer and Pete and Sue Barrett's boat, Pasha, took the new Foinaven Trophy, presented by Lorna Renshaw of BP, for the best boat under 30 feet.
The event was voted a success by one and all and the Committee express their grateful thanks to John and Marie McLennan for their invaluable contribution of Marie Grace as Committee boat and to sponsors who donated a variety of prizes and refreshment for the reception and breakfast. Sponsors of the event include Andy Race Fishmerchant, Arisaig Hotel, Morar Hotel, the Clachain Inn, Ginger, Talisker Distillery, Ben Nevis Distillery, West Word, Mallaig Harbour Authority, The Old Forge. And last, but certainly not least, a special thanks to Susan and Graham of Arisaig Marine for their ongoing support of the event and the endeavours of MSA.

Some time ago, a Mr Gillies wrote to West Word asking about the Easter tradition of Goilleachan and recalling his boyhood memories of such picnics at Rhu. The following is an article written by Allan Gillis in Ottawa. The tradition of the Goilleachen was still practiced in Arisaig until fairly recently and I shouldn't be surprised if some local people still have a Goilleachan on Easter Sunday. Gaothe Dail was a favourite destination for this outing. Elizabeth MacDonald

The Goilleachan, A Gaelic Easter Tradition
Allan J. Gillis, 1991
Before the Second World War some people in the Mabou/Judique/Glendale areas of Inverness County celebrated on Easter Sunday with a minor festivity that they called the Goilleachan. This was not an approved religious observance; rather, it was a lingering remnant of a much older pagan practice.
After learning about it from my uncle Johnnie MacDougall in Sudbury, Ontario, I happened to mention it to the late Sister Margaret Beaton (Sister St. Margaret of Scotland), C.N.D., who assured me, "Dear, there's no such thing." Of course, this only compelled me to double-check my source and to look for further information. I did manage to find a number of people who remembered the Goilleachan in various forms. In a subsequent conversation, Sister Beaton graciously allowed that such a celebration might have indeed existed.
Essentially, any Goilleachan was centered around the boiling of eggs - the egg having long been associated with Spring, birth and renewal. The earlier pagan rituals and practices have been incorporated into our Christian tradition in various forms. The Ukrainians have their intricately designed and coloured Easter eggs, which are almost an art form, and modern North American children have their dyed hard-boiled eggs as well as chocolate-covered eggs delivered by the Easter Bunny.
Whatever the origin, the Goilleachan was a convenient outlet for the young people's high spirits after the rigours of the old-time Lenten observances and the long harsh Canadian winters. Adults or, more often, young adults took care of the preparations for the Goilleachan. A small clearing in the woods would be selected and, in some cases, be sheltered with spruce boughs. Firewood and kindling would be brought there in advance, along with one or more large black iron pots. Each person or family attending would bring along as many eggs as could be found and these, as well as tea, biscuits, bonnach and various other treats would be shared at the Goilleachan. This made the Goilleachan a happy neighbourly gathering. I'm told that sometimes liquids other than tea might be in evidence at the festivities but I won't touch that one!
In Judique Intervale the Goilleachan was usually held after Mass on Easter Sunday. Those participating would meet at the selected location and then proceed to see who could manage to eat the most hard-boiled eggs. According to Charlie McIsaac in Halifax, one Intervale resident disposed of a record 21 eggs. This "record" is disputed by my uncle, Dan Robert MacDougall in Michigan, who claims that two fellows from Little Judique each surpassed that number at a Goilleachan which had been held at Archie "the Garanaich" MacDonell's at Judique Intervale.
Donald A. Rankin of Ottawa, formerly of Mabou Ridge, remembers that his family ate the boiled eggs at home and that the number of eggs each person consumed on Easter Sunday was compared with fellow students on the next school day. Often, too, any leftover eggs would appear in school lunches in the next week, either whole or in sandwiches. The odorous results must have been one of the many trials for the old-time teachers!
Although a Goilleachan was usually fairly informal, a few got a bit more elaborate and required more planning. On one such occasion in Judique Intervale (around 1925 or 1926), a group of young men decided to hold their celebration in a nearby house that had become vacant. It seems they had put by quite a few eggs and a good supply of bottles. Somehow, the word spread around and Father Ronald MacDonald, the new priest in Judique, got wind of their plans and rushed up to the Intervale to put the damper on that particular "clambake". As far as I know, the last Goilleachan in Judique Intervale was organized in the late 1930s by my mother's youngest brother, Hugh Angus MacDougall.
Most people who spoke to me about the Goilleachan mentioned it only in reference to Easter Sunday. However, one informant, the late Mrs. Marcella (MacLellan) Gillis of Craigmore, mentioned that in her youth a goilleachan could mean any noisy or boisterous gathering of young people, but particularly the one on Easter Sunday.
I have not come across any other Easter traditions from the Highlands. However, on the Isle of Skye (and perhaps elsewhere) young men would have races on the beach, rolling hard-boiled eggs along before them. A similar egg-roll race is held on the lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. each Easter. My son Alasdair was invited to take part in it one year during the 1980s. English immigrants to London, Ontario, also had this tradition. One printed reference to a goilleachan-like celebration appears in Alexander MacKenzie's book Highland Superstitions:
"Di-domhnuich-caisg (Easter Sunday). This period is observed in the Highlands by preparing and eating certain kinds of pancakes made of eggs, milk, meal, or flour. Together with this the young people provide themselves with large quantities of hard-boiled eggs, which they roll about, and finally eat."
None of my Inverness County informants mention rolling the eggs but the rest of the tradition is consistent with MacKenzie's short description. His mention of the hard-boiled eggs leads to the origin of the term goilleachan. In Dwelly's Gaelic dictionary the word goil is translated as "to boil, as a liquid" or "to cook by boilng". Dwelly also mentions goile, meaning "appetite" or "gluttony", as well as goileachd, which also means "gluttony". Any of these terms might relate to this Easter activity which, perhaps deservedly, has fallen into disuse in the past fifty or so years.
It would be interesting to find if more people have recollections of the Goilleachan or other Gaelic Easter traditions.

Dyking and International Skills Exchange - What's The Connection?
S.W.R.I., that's what! The Scottish Women's Rural Institutes runs an annual Summer School for members from all over Scotland. This year it was held in Strathallan School, Forgandenny, where Heather Simpson from Mallaig and me, June Cairns from Arisaig, had signed up for a class in drystane dyking. Other courses available were golf for beginners and improvers, digital photography, flower arranging, patchwork hand sewn, patchwork machined, fabric colouring and Romanian point lace.
Heather and I arrived at Strathallan on the afternoon of Monday 15th August. After registering and settling in to our rooms we had dinner, were welcomed by our National Chairperson, Alison Bayley, then met our class and tutors. There were twenty ladies in our class with two tutors. The tutors were Norman Haddow, who looks after the dykes on the Balmoral Estate, and Joyce Henderson, both members of the Drystane Wallers Association. What a pair they were! Joyce had a pawky sense of humour and Norman made the perfect foil. That evening we were given a talk on Health and Safety matters and a general outline of drystane dyking and the DSWA after which we agreed arrangements for travel the next day and retired to our common rooms to see who was new to Summer School and who was here from previous years. This is a very important part of Summer School as regular attenders soon find they have a network of friends from Shetland to the Borders.
On Tuesday morning the gang set off to a field on Windy Edge farm, Tibbermore, where we were to demolish and rebuild a stretch of badly damaged wall. When we saw the length of it and remembered that we really had only two and a half days to do it we thought, "They must be joking!" especially when we found the tutors had arranged for another stretch to be done if we finished that one. Anyway, in teams of ten, one team to a tutor, we set to to haul stones off the remaining wall and sort them in rows according to size and were amazed to find we had reached and cleared the foundations by morning break. By lunch time the new foundations were in place and hearted up -filled with small stones to give strength and a level bed for the next layer. Back to work again and the first lift and "through bands"- large stones that reached right across the structure to tie everything together - had been laid. We were very surprised and very pleased with ourselves when we stood back and saw the progress we had made. It was strong, too. I had walked on our stretch at each stage and there was no shifting or grinding of the stones at all.
Wednesday was a half day at the site as some of us were going to the Edinburgh Tattoo that evening and dinner was early. Even so, by lunch time we were well up the second lift. In the afternoon we had a quiz then saw some slides of ancient stonework and some of Norman's special pieces including a beautiful arched bridge for which he had won a prize. The Tattoo was wonderful and the forecast rain held off for us so we could enjoy it in comfort.
By Thursday lunch time the wall had its cheek end tied in and some of its capstones on, despite working in the rain, but more were needed. Norman reckoned he could get some from another site so some ladies volunteered to stay on and wait for their arrival and finish off. The rest of us returned with Joyce to the classroom where she showed us how to make miniature walls as ornaments. Later we were joined by the others and each one was given a prize for something different. Heather received a candle for laying the best foundations and I got a rather nice mug for winning the quiz. When we left on Friday morning we went by the wall and I paced it out. It is about twenty-five metres long and really solid. What a feeling of satisfaction that job gave us! "But what about International skills?" you are probably asking if you are still with me. Well, as a millennium project S.W.R.I. decided to fulfil our motto - "If you know a good thing, pass it on". To do this they agreed with the Associated Countrywomen of the World with whom we are affiliated to help renew craft skills in Romania where traditional skills had been lost under the Communist regime. Ladies' groups there were asked what they would find useful and they asked for patchwork as so many things can be made with it that the women could sell. Material was gathered, tutors were found and funds raised and at last two tutors went off to hold patchwork classes in several centres. They were very well received and had a wonderful time. However there was quite a lot of money left and the decision was taken to fund some ladies from Eastern Europe to come to Summer School instead of sending out more tutors. As a result delegates from Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Romania joined in our patchwork classes and two of the Romanian ladies actually tutored our class in Romanian point lace. The ladies will hold classes in their own areas when they go back home.
A few of them had good English, but most had very little. Nevertheless they were drawn in to our goings on and made friends with some of us. They gave a presentation of their own countries and their women's organisations, reading the talk if they could not speak English, which was very brave and clever of them. After that we saw an exhibition of their own traditional work. It was very beautiful and varied. They came with us to the Tattoo, joined in the dancing at the final evening ceilidh and are spending a week with different hosts around Scotland before going home.
The whole week was really enjoyable and quite exciting and all ladies in S.W.R.I. should try to go to Summer School some time. Next year it is in St. Leonard's school in St. Andrews when the classes will be gardening, digital photography, drama, the history of St. Andrews, wine tasting, tatting, pastel drawing and singing for pleasure.
June Cairns

Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Feel free to Sign our Guestbook

List of Issues online

The paper version of West Word contains 36 pages (A4 size) including:

  • Reports from the local communities
  • Reports from the coastal ranger, lifeboat log and weather
  • Columns on local sport and politics
  • Poets corner, letters, snippets
  • Feature articles, local events, festivals and games
  • .....and lots more photos!

West Word
Morar Station Buildings
Inverness-shire PH40 4PB
Tel/Fax: 01687 462 720
E-mail: editor@westword.org.uk

Sign our Guestbook or Read our Guestbook
(Your comments may be printed in next month's issue)


Copyright © 2002-2005 West Word
Page last updated: September 2005

Site designed by
The Internet Guide to Scotland