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

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September 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Muck, Eigg, Glenfinnan, Morar, Arisaig
West Word ten years ago - Birdwatch
Fishing Focus & Crofting Roundup
Local Genealogy & History

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

The middle of August saw a two day trip to Mallaig by Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Minister for Marine and Natural Environment, to meet fishermen and fish processors to see how fish get from 'net to knife', and discuss why fishing is so important to Britain and the British economy. He also discussed with the Mallaig and North-West Fishermen's Association their views on how UK and European Union fisheries policy can be shaped to ensure a sustainable future for the wider fishing industry and what priorities the UK should have for the forthcoming autumn negotiations.

On Monday 10th August the Minister's first visit after an afternoon arrival was to Mallaig Boatyard, and thence to the harbour. In the evening he attended a dinner in the West Highland Hotel with representatives of the fishing industry. The following day, Mr Irranca-Davies visited local fish processors before attending a meeting with fishing representatives in the Fishermen's Mission. In the afternoon there was a presentation on training given by Lachie Paterson of the Fish Industry Training Association.

Mr Irranca-Davies (centre) with John MacAlister, Chairman of the MNWFA (left) and Mallaig Boatyard owner Finlay Finlayson (right). Photo Iain Ferguson, The Write Image.

Mr Irranca-Davies said 'Fishing is worth more than £620 million a year to the UK economy and seafood is an important part of our diet, so we need a fishing industry that has a long-term future.'
After the visit, MNWFA secretary John Hermse called for a moratorium on new rules from Brussels, to provide some stability for the fleet. He said 'We need to have a long term plan to give them a secure future and Mr Irranca-Davies pledged to give us his full support.' He added that the Minister had shown himself to be very knowledgeable about the industry and sympathetic to its concerns over a number of issues.

A very wet morning didn't deter the crowds who turned out to support Mallaig Lifeboat Day on Saturday 29th August, including Stormy Stan and Charles Kennedy MP. The stalls, competitions and displays, together with the dance in the evening, raised over £5000.

The Lifeboat crew demonstrate how to rescue a casualty from the sea.


With rain every day for the last three weeks the island is now in a soggy state. On the farm we were extremely lucky to finish baling the silage just before the heavens really opened. Sunday the 23rd was the wettest day in any month for many years.
On the social front three events were scheduled for August. On the 5th came Su Coyne from Arisaig and we enjoyed a very interesting illustrated account of her and Ranald's holiday in Morocco. Pictures that gave us an insight into how the people live in rural areas of a land that does not appear too suited to agriculture. On the 13th a young couple from Glasgow, Doghouse Roses, entertained us in the dome. It was a well attended evening and though it was not my kind of music most of the audience found them highly talented and good to listen to. The 15th was the day of the Small Isles Sports. A large crowd had gathered on the pier eager to do battle with Eigg, only to watch Loch Nevis turn and leave without entering the harbour. Very disappointing! However two weeks later Emma Walters organised a repeat event for the children of Canna, Eigg and Muck. Muck won by a narrow margin.
That is all for this month but in September we have the Edinburgh Ceilidh on the 19th for which tickets are selling well. Just before that is Homecoming week, actually three days! Catriona White will be there and a young couple from Cape Breton. If anyone from Eigg or the mainland who is interested in our history do come over on Sheerwater on Wednesday 16th and we will show you round and discuss the past!
Lawrence MacEwen

Having arrived back from 3 weeks of fairly constant sunshine in my native land, it was a bit of a shock to get back to the low temperatures and leaden grey skies the poor Eiggich have had to contend with most of August - what a contrast with July!!! However, I am told that undeterred by such wet weather, the islanders carried on bravely with the Small Isles games to which - unfortunately the Muck folks could not go as the weather prevented Calmac from picking them up on Saturday 15th August. The games did proceed nevertheless, without much competition, since the only outside contestant was Tommy from Knoydart! There was a lot of caber tossing and welly throwing to exercise these male energies in any case… The barbecue and the dance that followed with the young and talented east coast band - the Farm Boys - was a real success: it certainly was a first for Eigg to see a musician playing "the tree" on stage! (complete with roots and all) Whatever next? However, the Muck kids made up for missing the games by coming across to Eigg on Saturday 29th to join Emma Walters and Pam MacDonald for an inter-island sports day on Eigg: the Muck kids were first with 94 points, Eigg, second with 92, Canna third with 86! Well done all of them!
Indian Alba went down a treat also in early August, as well as the Laig Beach Rave organised by Ewen Kirk and friends: their energetic organising paid off as a great time was had by all. Another is planned for next summer, but please Tom, try not to throw your laptop in the harbour next time, we hope it did not come to much damage after the daring rescue operated. Weatherwise, the constant rain has taken its toll on the landscape as the rain sodden ground started to slip in the Cleadale cliffs, with a number of small landslides, the biggest of all occurring behind Eddy and Lucy's… As to the rain that fell as the tail end of Hurricane Bill passed over us, well, the waters of the burn near Maggie and Wes swelled up to such an extent that the stones and gravel they took down the slope with them blocked the culvert, so that a torrential stream ran knee-deep across the road all the way down Laig road, the posh resurfacing of which is now a distant memory: it is even difficult for George to negotiate his motorbike down the track, and that was after he put back Roddy's bridge which had been washed away… the second time in 10 years if my memory is right. Bernie and Dean also suffered water damage in their extension due to the waters coursing down the hills that night. Three loads of gravel and stones had to be removed from the culvert, but the last days' rain have managed to bring some more down, enough to keep our road man busy in any case.
All this has not been without consequences on the Eigg wildlife and here is John Chester's report for the summer: most migrant birds have now left the island with only a few Swallows & the odd Wheatear & Warbler remaining to face the wind & rain. The breeding season is all but over though one tardy pair of Red Throated Divers still have two large chicks on one of the lochans, it'll be well into September before they fly.
Passage has mostly involved waders with a few Golden Plover, Dunlin & Sanderling coming through plus more noteworthy records of a Green Sandpiper on the 17th & a Bar Tailed Godwit from the 27th onwards. Offshore there have been decent sized gatherings of 'Commic' Terns, regular Great & Arctic Skuas & good numbers of Storm Petrels seen.
Away from the shorelines the lonely Moorhen continues to potter around a pool in Cleadale, a Merlin was seen on the 19th & a couple of Crossbills were around the woods late in the month. Midges apart not too many insects have been venturing out in all the rain but the odd sunny spell has shown just how many Peacock & Red Admiral butterflies are lurking around out there. Moth trapping has been very much weather restricted but an effort at Cuagach late in the month produced a new species for the island in the shape of a Pale Eggar.
Back to our trepidant social life: Alex, our artist in residence, has now completed his project which included voice recordings for a digital walking guide, making shadow puppets with the primary school kids on a Mummers theme to do with tourism on Eigg, and the entire sorting of the swopshop contents by countries of origin, the results being 49 countries represented, with very little originating from Scotland, which comes as no surprise in our globalised economy! We also welcomed the new additions to our population: Jenny Robertson from South Africa and the Johnstone family from Scotland via Liverpool (their children will bring a welcome boost to our school numbers)! Then, on Friday 28th, the visit by MSP David Stewart was very well attended, with a tour of Eigg Electric, the school etc: we all lobbied David for cheaper freight (RET we want it now!), and broadband as they have it on the mainland, especially as the GLOW programme is now rolling out to the 4 island primary schools. It seems daft that for the sake of one switch, and erratic government policy, we cannot have access to BT broadband like the rest of the country… Watch this space!
We are now looking forward to the visit of our Canadian visitors in the second half of September, and look forward to, family history, historical walks and tunes from both sides of the ocean with Tearlach Macfarlane from Glenfinnan and Allan Macdonald from Arisaig, Chris Robbins and his family from Newfoundland and Troy MacGillevray and Andrea Beaton from Cape Breton, and of course the Eigg musicians and tradition bearers.
Camille Dressler.

Despite the wet weather the Glenfinnan Games was a great success for locals. The village team won the tug-o-war in a display of brute strength and teamwork. Well done to coach Iain MacFarlane and his assistant Joe Gillies with his tai-chi inspired moves. The trophy is on display in the bar at Glenfinnan House Hotel.
The MacRae boys did very well at the games. Connor was 1st in the adult high-jump and Farquhar broke the under 16's record in the high jump at 1.49m. Well done boys! At night, The Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band played in Glenfinnan House Hotel for the Games Dance. The evening started off quiet but soon revved up. The band came dressed in cowboy gear prompting Joe to sing a few country numbers to the delight of the crowd who all helped with the choruses.
There was a fishing competition on the loch on 30th August. Lachie Ramsay won with a 7lb trout. Iain MacKellaig and Joe Gillies came close with a 12 ouncer!
That's it!
Eileen O'Rua

Thank You
First of all we would like to say a big THANK YOU to all who organised or helped at the stall on Mallaig & Morar Games Day. £750 was raised in aid of the Trust, a great achievement! Without your help we could not have done it. Thanks!

Invitation to our first AGM
All members are welcome to the AGM on 8th October at 7.30 pm in Morar Primary School. This is your chance to have your say!

We have reached a MILESTONE!! The Trust received a grant of £25,000 from the Third Sector Enterprise Fund. This is a Scottish Government fund. Earlier in the year a grant of £10,000 from the Investment in Ideas Big Lottery fund had been awarded. With another £2000 in-kind contribution and funds from the Trust the total funding is now in place for the first phase of building the Pavilion in the Morar & Mallaig Playing Field.
This means we can start on the architectural and engineering studies and design! The architect we have chosen for the project is John Renshaw from Edinburgh. John works with renewable energy and one of his projects was the Tobermory Lighthouse. He has been up to view the location and met with the members of the Building Group to discuss the design issues. Should you wish to take part in the process regarding the design and you are a member of the Trust you are very welcome to do so. Please contact one of the following numbers. Keith Elwell 460216, Eleanor Read 460007 or Gemma van der Zanden 462876.

The Produce Fairs have been received very well, with lots of lovely fresh food and plants, and the groups doing the refreshments have found it worth doing - over £500 for Marie Curie Cancer Care in July and over £300 for the Pool in August. The last Fair for this year is on Thursday September 17th, and we have tables with jams and pickles, home baking, fruit and vegetables, herbs and plants, as well as smoked and vacuum packed fish, on offer, refreshments in aid of the Canoe Club. If anyone has a surplus of any produce, of whatever sort, then get on touch with me to hire a table at £5, or to arrange table share if you only have a wee bit. If you can't come along yourself to sell it, we can arrange for someone else to do so.
Next year we aim to start in May and have them every month right through to September, so why not plan your garden/production accordingly. It's not just the sellers who benefit - the buyers get the freshest food available. Prices are low - come along to see!
We are planning to have a Christmas Produce and Craft Fair at the end of November so keep an eye out for that. If any group wants to do refreshments for it, let me know. The Fair was only one thing in a busy Hall timetable last month. Concerts by North Sea Gas and Stephen Quigg of the McCalmans were well attended, and Fiona Knowles was as funny as ever in 'Fur Coat and Magic Knickers'. As always, she played three parts, with quick costume changes, and the laughter becomes tinged with pathos as the story unfolds. There was also a very successful Family Ceilidh run by the Friends of the Pool.
This month we have the BLAS festival concert on the 12th - accompanied by so much paperwork, instructions and organisation that it's a wonder the rest of us manage to promote anything by ourselves during the rest of the year.
The Mull Theatre brought 'Island Nights' and transformed one end of the hall into a ferry boat - actually the Vital Spark, crewed by Para Handy and Dan MacPhail! It was their usual set up, with the set at the far end of the hall with seating on the stage. Not a big audience though - just under forty. Where were the folk who will travel many miles to see plays in other places? I heard that some people 'didn't know it was on' - then I don't know what else to do, there were posters everywhere, four hundred hall flyers have gone out all over the place, and it was in last month's West Word.
We have had a new fridge and dishwasher for the Hall on order for a while now. I've just discovered that the dishwasher went to the wrong depot and the fridge has been nicked!! Well, it was delivered to an address somewhere and signed for by a P McCreadie. The carrier has now to go to where he delivered it and see who has it while a replacement is on its way here. I'm of the opinion it didn't even make it to Arisaig and has gone to Ardrishaig or somewhere far distant. Meanwhile the dishwasher is meant to be delivered today and it's mid afternoon there's no sign of it...
The visit by the Battle of Prestonpans 1745 Heritage Trust on the 15th September should be an unusual evening!
In the village, the new housing scheme is now looking nearly finished, with front gardens grassed and roads and pavements tarmaced and street lights up - the latter aren't all functional yet but I was pleasantly surprised at their effectiveness at reducing 'light pollution'. The houses will be allocated very soon now, here's hoping that all the locals who need one get one.
We did not need an election for the Arisaig Community Trust directors, which is a pity in that we wanted a democratically elected Board. However all members had a chance to stand and six did so - see next page for details.
This is only the beginning of the Trust, and although we have our hands tied at the moment as to progress until we get the Memorandum and Articles finally sorted, there are some useful things in the pipeline. And we will continue to urge for local residents to join as members if they haven't already done so. There will never be a 'closing date' for membership, it's will be a continuous, ongoing process.
Ann Lamont

There will be no need for an election as only six people were nominated to be Directors of the proposed new company, one short of the required number of seven.
Returning Officer Charlie King chaired the meeting on Thursday 29th August, and announced the six elected: Gordon Stewart, Ann Martin, Joyce Wilkinson, Ian Buick, Ranald Coyne and Bill Henderson.
Mr King then conducted the election of office bearers, as follows:
Chair - Ann Martin: proposed Ian, seconded Ranald.
Vice Chair - Ian Buick: proposed Gordon, seconded Ann.
Treasurer - Gordon Stewart: proposed Ann, seconded Ian.
Minute Secretary - Hilary Trodd, proposed Ann, seconded Ian.
Membership Secretary - Alison Stewart, proposed Ann, seconded Ian.
Our thanks to Charlie for acting as Returning Officer, and for conducting the meeting. We would also like to thank the members of the 12-strong Steering Group who have helped us to get to this stage, and we hope they will continue to give support to ACT.
Our Memorandum and Articles (which are still being examined by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) state that we have a maximum of ten directors, seven of whom must be Members, and three of whom can be co-opted from members and non-Members. At a later stage then we shall be considering who to co-opt for these vacancies.
We could register the company without charitable status, if it becomes imperative to take the playing field lease forward - however that matter is still with Bidwells, and discussions are still going on.
Other projects are also on hold until we have legal status, which surely can't be far away now!
Our next meeting is on Thursday 24th September, and all are welcome, members or not. Shortly we shall begin to use the red noticeboard in the village for minutes and notices. Meanwhile, the Hall and Post Office have copies of a publication by the Development Trust Association Scotland, all about community trusts and what they can do, so please take one.

Unique catering opportunity on the Island of Canna

Café /Restaurant for lease together with residential accommodation

An opportunity has arisen to lease Canna's cafe/restaurant.
Applicants must have proven catering experience
and be able to open the business by Easter 2010.

Canna is a remote island and has only 17 permanent residents.
The community is interested in any additional skills applicants are able to offer.

To request an information pack and application form
please e-mail Deb Baker, (Secretary, Canna Community Association) on debbaker21@yahoo.co.uk

Applications to be received by 2nd October 2009

FOR SALE - 3 Bedroom Bungalow
Views over Mallaig Harbour, to Eigg, Skye and Rum.
Large lounge, fully fitted modern kitchen, large bathroom, conservatory.
Gardens front and back.
Oil central heating and gas fire in lounge.

For further details or to arrange viewing Tel: 01687 462623 or 07786 196221

photo photo

Above: These photos were taken at Deruyter Lake in upstate New York. I am Chris Glendening, and the lady is my mother Kathleen Glendening. We will be in Arisaig in September and can't wait. Best wishes.

Top right: John McKenna, Bavaria....enjoying 'the Word' on Cres in Croatia!

Middle right: Angela O'Donnell has moved from New York to Austin, Texas and on the way there took her West Word to Graceland. Angela writes 'I always look forward to the West Word arriving in the mail every month.'

Below right: Roslyn Currie took hers to Peru! Ros writes: 'This West Word, twenty four 17 year olds, 4 teachers and a doctor made it round most of Peru working in street boy shelters and helping to build new facilities in two of the orphanages with The Vine Trust. We all made it back a bit crumpled but in one piece. It headed to Lima, Iquitos (two hours upriver by boat in the Amazon jungle), Yungay in the northern mountains then back down to Cusco and Macchuu Pichu where we took this at four times the height of The Ben on our last day.
The kids and staff who went on the trip (from Berwickshire High and Eyemouth High) would really like to thank everyone that helped support our trip and work with the boys through sponsorship'

Where do you read yours? We want to know! Either at home or on holiday, please send us your photo!




West Word - ten years ago
There's nothing new about our headlines or our stories - ten years ago this month we proclaimed '£500,000 scheme brings Mallaig up to date'. Not a marina project though, but the go ahead at last for the new clinic and medical centre for the village. There had been many snags and hold ups - problems with acquiring the site and putting in roads were helped by a donation of £100,000 from Sir Cameron Mackintosh, and proposals had to be scaled down by a third when tenders came back too high.
A number of community buildings were in the pipeline in September 1999. the £900,000 resource centre which was later named the Mackintosh Centre was nearly ready, and work was soon going to begin on the proposed £600,000 Mallaig & Morar Community Centre, incorporating a study centre and library. The £161,000 Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig had been opened the month before, and work was soon to start on the £490,000 renovation and refurbishment to the 106-year old Astley Hall. There were also nebulous ideas for a new surgery in Arisaig. The new NHS Trust health centre meant a farewell to the little corrugated iron hut (it's still there!) which had served as a surgery since presented to the community 80 years earlier by the Morar and Knoydart Nursing Association (M H Bird and V Shaw Stewart) in memory of Lieut. J H Caldwell, killed on active service in Mesopotamia in January 1918.
Also on the front page was a line drawing of St Mary's Church, Arisaig, dated 19th August 1849. The community was celebrating the 150th anniversary of the building of the Church - and this month we report on the 160th anniversary service.
The Scottish Executive Deputy Rural Affairs Minister John Home Robertson, visited Mallaig to 'talk fishing', and was pictured with Hugh Allen, Peter Coull, Peter Brady and John MacAlister. And this month we picture the visit by the Minister for Marine and Natural Environment, to 'talk fishing'.
We reported on the 'explosion' of ragwort everywhere and urged people to be aware of how poisonous it is. A campaign had been mounted by a number of bodies, including the RSPCA, the National Equine Welfare Council and Railtrack - even the International Tortoise Association had expressed concern! Ten years on the ragwort continues to spread.
Feis na Mara was gearing up for the third Mallaig Music Festival, programmed for October 1999.
The Letters page contained three long letters, one from Andrew Simpson as Secretary of the Mallaig Chamber of Commerce to the Scottish Tourist Board expressing members' concern over falling numbers of tourists visiting Scotland, and the other two the replies from the STB and HOST.
And what was this? Lachie Robertson celebrated his 40th birthday at the end of August? Then it's happy 50th this year Lachie!
We also congratulated Eleanor MacVarish and Keith Read happiness on their wedding - so happy 10th anniversary to them! And also to Ian and Jackie Robertson of the Old Forge, Inverie. There was some talk of the eclipse of the sun, and Fr Michale had organised a 'Creation Mass' at Morar Church, with wine and a picnic proceed for all comers. The Flower Festival had been on in St Mary's in Arisaig, tied in with the 150th anniversary.
We had a feature on Knoydart's Eda Fransen, which had been lying at Greenock and her crew had come to the aid of a Danish casualty of the Tall Ships Race which happened to berth beside her. The bowsprit of the Jens Krogh has broken off - and on board Eda Fransen were three experts who could not only repair it but could source the raw material too! By another coincidence, the piece of Douglas Fir was brought to the pier by a Greenock bus driver who happened to be a Dane and a friend of the Jens Krogh's skipper! In yet another happy chance, photos were taken of all this by West Word reader Betty Wands of Greenock before she realised the Eda Fransen came from Knoydart. Serendipity… (Betty was pictured with husband Victor in West Word two months ago, reading their copy of the paper in Austria).

New addition to Mallaig Heritage Centre
Curator Malcolm Poole has taken possession od a small '00' gauge layout of Mallaig Station and surrounding area from York rail modeller Alan Garratt. Alan had spent the last ten years creating the layout at his home in York, and finally in July this year it was completed and handed over to the Heritage Centre. Although the layout is small, it is fully functional and features in detail Mallaig Station as it was in the 1950s.
Thanks go to Alan and his wife Christine, who kindly donated it. In the past few years, Alan has been in poor health, and it is a credit to him for his efforts and generosity to our Heritage Centre.
When you get a chance, call in to the Heritage Centre and take a look at it. It's well worth a visit.
We all hope that Alan makes a speedy recovery, and look forward to welcoming him and Christine back to Mallaig sometime.


Occupants of a small inflatable boat spotted a basking shark entangled in a rope from a lobster pot buoy. The sharl was too big for them to help so they called on Sandy MacDonald from Gorten, Back of Keppoch, to help. In due course a policeman arrived and it seemed that the RSPCA were unable to give any practical help. Rib owner Derek Smith, after discussion with the constable, went out to the shark about a mile off shore.
Derek and his friends, Adrian and Richard, found the shark well and truly trapped with the creel rope wrapped about 20 times round its tail! A rope was passed around the base of the buoy to hold the shark relatively still while the creel rope was cut. At least five attempts were made and abandoned due to the shark's frantic struggles, but eventually the shark seemed to tire and the loops around the tail were cut, freeing both the shark and the buoy. The shark departed at speed and the buoy was brought ashore, and a report was made to the waiting policeman.


Once again a group of serving Gurkhas have left Mallaig to go to Knoydart to start their march across Scotland to Stonehaven.
The annual march is undertaken by the young Gurkhas, accompanied by a British officer, to raise funds for the Gurkha Welfare Trust. They take a week to walk the 200 miles, stopping off at the Spean Bridge Memorial where they laid a wreath.
The Gurkha Welfare Trust maintains that Britain owes a debt of honour to the 250,000 Gurkhas who served the British Crown during World War II. Although recently the government has made concessions towards Gurkha veterans after a successful campaign by actress Joanna Lumley, there are still 10,000 veterans and 5,000 war widows who receive no pensions.

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Waders and sea birds dominated the bird sightings this August, the frequent strong winds and rain giving an autumnal feel at times.
As usual the Traigh/Back of Keppoch area had the bulk of the wader sightings. There was a steady trickle of waders throughout the month, some just stopping briefly to feed and rest, while others lingered for a few days.
There were at least 40 Golden Plover at Traigh on the 17th - 19th, 14 Sanderling present from the 24th - 26th. 3 Black Tailed Godwits were feeding along with Oystercatchers in a field at Traigh on the 20th, while a flock of 15 were seen flying south over Back of Keppoch the following day. Bar-tailed Godwits were also at Traigh later in the month, with 3 lingering at Silver Sands until the month end. Knot were seen on several occasions, 15 the highest count on the 15th at Traigh boat shed.
Up to 25 Redshanks were by the North Channel into Loch nan Ceall on the 22nd, while ones and twos were seen at Traigh and the Morar Estuary on various dates. Greenshank were present all month on the Morar Estuary, with 4 on the 14th the highest count. Dunlin and Ringed Plover were ever present at Traigh with 36 of the former and 65 of the latter the highest counts. On the 3rd, a Ringed Plover with coloured bands and a metal ring on its legs was seen on the shore at Traigh golf course. After the details were reported, it turned out the bird was a female, which had been ringed as a breeding adult in 2004 near Achiltibuie, north west of Ullapool. It is a part of a study group of more than 50 colour-ringed birds and has bred within a few hundred metres of the ringing site every year since.
Lots of Gannets close inshore all month and good numbers of juvenile Arctic and Common Terns reported. There seems to be reasonable numbers of young Kittiwakes plus Common Guillemot and Razorbill chicks about.

Kittiwake with ringed leg - photo by Stephen MacDonald

Storm Petrels were seen frequently in the Sound of Sleat with between 20 and 30 feeding behind a prawn trawler off Arisaig on the 22nd, with good numbers seen between Mallaig and Sleat Point from MV Lochnevis on the 29th.
Arctic Skuas were seen close inshore at Arisaig, Eigg, Traigh and Mallaig, mostly chasing Terns and Kittiwakes, while Great Skuas were seen throughout the Sound of Sleat tackling anything, including the Gannets.
By mid month Swallows, House and Sand Martins were already gathering in quite large groups, preparing to leave for warmer climes.
Earlier in the month, 5 Swifts were seen feeding along with Swallows over Traigh Farm on the 9th.
Goldfinches seem to have bred well this year, with flocks of 25-30 birds at Back of Keppoch and Traigh containing many juveniles. Also good numbers of Linnets in the same area.
A Peregrine Falcon was seen hunting over Mallaig Harbour on the evening of the 24th, while another was seen chasing waders at Traigh on the 26th. Sparrowhawks were reported from Morar and Traigh and a Sea Eagle was seen over Arisaig near the end of the month.

Fishing news by John Hermse, Secretary, MNWFA
Proposed Nephrops Cuts: We along with other Associations are questioning the credibility of information and research carried out by scientists working for the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas. Recent recommendations from ICES advised that the west coast nephrops TAC should be cut nearly 50%, because the stock was in danger of collapse. STECF the EC's own advisers don't wholly agree with the ICES advise and modified the proposals to a maximum 15% cut. The nephrops west coast TAC for 2009 was set at 18,891 tonnes, with the UK getting the majority of the TAC, 18,445 tonnes. ICES scientists recommended, after carrying out underwater TV assessments and monitoring landings, that the TAC should be cut to 9,000 tonnes.
They also proposed that three west coast functional units should be created - North Minch, South Minch and Clyde, each with its total allowable catch of 1,000 tonnes, 4,100 tonnes, and 3,900 tonnes respectively. We can't see that this sub-dividing of areas for prawns makes any sense because the boats move from area to area. Making the areas smaller might tempt some of them to report their catch as coming from a different area, depending on the TAC in each area, and how much of the TAC was left. That would be a backward step and the way the TAC has been set up over the past 20 years has worked well on the west coast and this would weaken the system, if it were to change now.
We wrote to ICES asking them to explain the assessments, which we found absurd. The Northern Irish fishermen also complained and we urged the UK fisheries minister Huw Irranca-Davies to do the same. We are now facing a cut of 15% at worst if the latest recommendations go through. We could probably work with this, if we get other concessions, but the whole principle behind the way this was done, is wrong. If they have used the wrong methods with one stock and reached the wrong conclusions, it could be the case that they're doing the same with other stocks, and all their recommendations are skewed.
Scottish fishermen are getting no credit for two rounds of decommissioning, or for using selective gear, or for having voluntary closures and closed areas. We have agreed closures in the windsock north of Lewis, the Clyde cod box and in the Inner Sound of Raasay. What we need is a deal that sets things on a firm basis for a period of five years to give us some stability. That would give us the confidence to manage the fisheries. But this year on year salami slicing of the industry creates instability and increases costs. Every time there is a change, we have to buy new gear to comply with cod-end or escape panel rules. We need some certainty about the way ahead.
Effort: It would appear that the proposed 25% effort cut will not affect vessels which catch less than 5% cod. This means that vessels should be given baseline days for 2010 which, going by 2009, should mean about 200 days per vessel.

At a meeting held in Mallaig on Friday 7th August 2009, five groups representing the communities of the Uists and the west coast mainland met to discuss the introduction of a ferry service between Lochboisdale and Mallaig.
Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle na Eilean Siar said, 'We support all initiatives to improve transport connections to the islands and welcome this opportunity for mainland and island communities to work together on the development of the Lochboisdale-Mallaig ferry service.'
John Laing, Chairman of Transportation with Highland Council said, 'Improving links between the mainland and the island will benefit communities and businesses across Scotland and we are pleased to be working with CnES and Stòras Uibhist to achieve this ambition'.
It was agreed that each organisation present; Comhairle na Eilean, Highland Council, Mallaig Harbour Authority, Mallaig Community Council and Stòras Uibhist would take the following actions:

The group welcomed the comments by Angus Brendan Mac Neil MP for the Western Isles in supporting the initiative and getting agreement from the Scottish Government and Caledonian MacBrayne to commence consultation on the proposal.
Angus MacMillan Chairman of Stòras Uibhist said, 'This is an important initiative at a time of overwhelming increase in traffic as a result of RET and when economic conditions and challenges in the Uists have never been so great. The introduction of this service will deliver benefits for the whole economy of the Western Isles.'
John MacMillan, Chairman of Mallaig Community Council, said 'This new ferry would strengthen and enhance existing ferry services and increase passenger numbers on the already existing good transport links from Mallaig, complementing the train service and newly completed Road to the Isles.'

The William Riley, a century old lifeboat which has saved lives in the North Sea, journeyed on the Caledonian Canal last month to raise funds for the RNLI. The Whitby based open lifeboat was launched into the Canal at Corpach and Ales Angels, a group of Yorkshire drinking buddies and fund raising enthusiasts, enlisted the help of volunteer lifeboatmen from Mallaig, Loch Ness and Kessock stations to assist them in the fundraising 60 mile row along the canal.
Crew members of the Mallaig Lifeboat, Alan Eddie and Martin Currie, assisted by Chris Murray and Ian Cairney, helped row the historic lifeboat from Corpach to Laggan Locks on the first day of a four day challenge which was expected to raise a sum in excess of £5000 for the RNLI and other charities!


Last month we reported on the proposed development of Mallaig's East Bay to provide berths and moorings for yachts, reached after a thorough consultative process had been completed. It is hoped this phase can become a realistyin the next 2 - 3 years.
This month you can read about the second phase, proposed to be implemented if funding can be found.


Phase 2
It is proposed to alter existing buildings to provide support facilities for visiting yacht crews and for the general public. There is an opportunity in making this provision of incorporating it into a high quality development that radically improves the character and appearance of a substantial length of foreshore that is currently unsightly and excluded from public access.
The purpose of the development would be to produce an extended area of waterfront that celebrates rather than ignores its maritime location, and provides recreational and other facilities which will serve local residents, tourists and yacht crews alike.
The over-riding objective throughout the Phase 2 works would be to enhance and promote Mallaig's maritime heritage in a way that is attractive, inspirational and inclusive while providing essential facilities that can be enjoyed by people of all ages whether visitors or local residents.

On and Off the Rails by Sonia Cameron
Recession busting First ScotRail 'Club 55' offer is back in the rails again. Just in time for what must surely be a decent Autumn weather-wise (aren't we due one!!), First ScotRail have reintroduced the return travel rail ticket anywhere in Scotland for persons aged 55 and over for £15.
Commencing on September 1st and running through until December 13th 2009 inclusive, you can travel between any two stations in Scotland and to and from Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed (Standard Class) on all rail operators' services, except Caledonian Sleepers and Jacobite Steam Train services for £15 return, just by virtue of being 55 years of age or over. If you are a Senior Railcard or Disabled Persons Railcard holder, you qualify for a further £2 discount. You are required to carry proof of age when you travel, to validate your ticket. If part of your journey includes First Class travel for any part of it, by purchasing 'Club 55 Premier' tickets you can use the First Class seating (with complimentary refreshments whilst on-train). This ticket costs £19. seat reservations are made at the time of purchase and these are complimentary. First Class travel is available on the following routes: Aberdeen to Inverness, Aberdeen to Edinburgh, or Glasgow or Inverness to Edinburgh or Glasgow. Your return ticket is valid for travel up to one month from the date of outward travel. Outward travel must be completed by 13th December 2009. on the £15 ticket, complimentary seat reservations are optional.
I would advise that, if travelling from Mallaig it is always a good idea to make use of this facility for at least the return journey, i.e. forward or back facing, window seat, table or airline seat - especially from Glasgow. 'Club 55' and 'Premier Club 55' tickets can be purchased in the following ways: online - www.scotrail.co.uk/club55; telephone - 08457 550033; at a staffed ScotRail station; on a ScotRail train when boarding at a station where no booking facilities are available at ScotRail stations explaining full terms and conditions.
What are you waiting for - see you on the train.

The West Highland Steam Express three day steam hauled tour around the Western Highlands of Scotland will visit Mallaig on Saturday 26th September. On that day, the tour departs Glasgow Queen Street at 7am, hauled by LNER K4 61994, The Great Marquess. After a short lunchtime break at Fort William and a change of engine, LNER K1 2-6-0 62005 hauls the coaches to Mallaig where, (according to the itinerary), visitors will have 'a long break' where they can enjoy the 'excellent traditional fish and chips' (please note the date, restaurant owners!), before returning to Fort William to spend the night in hotels. The tour details can be perused further by going online to www.railwaytouring.co.uk or for a brochure telephone 01553 661500.

Crofting roundup by Joyce Wilkinson, SCF Area Representative

Draft Crofting reform bill
The Scottish government is committed to put forward proposals for the reform of Crofting to 'make it fit for the 21st century'.
These proposals include a new Crofting Bill. The consultation period for this is now closed and all the views and suggestions received will be analysed and used as part of the decision making process. The Bill will then be prepared for introduction to the Scottish Parliament sometime later in 2010.
There are some particular parts of the Bill that have been condemned in crofting circles, the first being the opportunity for tenant crofters to use their crofts as a standard security for a loan or mortgage. It is seen as setting dangerous precedent where there is potential for a Crofter to lose his security of tenure through banks using the tenancy as an asset where they could foreclose on an overdraft or loan There seems little point in having this included in the Bill as it is unlikely banks would ever be willing lend on the value of croft land, although they have agreed with the Scottish Government in principle on the 'idea'. If the Bill team decide to exclude this part from the Bill then they will have to find something to replace it as they are committed to support housing on croft land . The common consensus is to bring back the loan element of Crofter housing Grant and Loan Scheme. There is also concern over the inclusion of an 'Occupancy requirement' which is proposed to be introduced in an effort to reduce speculation .The Shucksmith Inquiry gathered information and comments from many crofters and individuals concerned with the increase in speculation in house sites and houses on croft land. In response to this they proposed to introduce 'burdens' which would tie working the land to living in a house built on croft land or land that had been decrofted after 12th May 2008, but these were considered by the SG to be too complicated to enforce as it would hardly be possible to work a tiny area of house and garden ground to agricultural standards. Now they have proposed to introduce an O/R which on the face of it seems a fair way to encourage local housing and reduce speculation. However it also means that effectively, houses built on croft land, [or land decrofted after May 12th 2008], will become devalued, which would seem to give an unfair advantage to other Landowners living in the same area. However the Bill team are faced with the task of tackling speculation and must come up with an alternative. If the Occupancy requirement can be dealt with on a case by case basis by a combination of the CC and Local boards of Assessors then it may be a fairer way.
The Scottish Government want to make attempts to help Crofting for several reasons but the main one is to use land that is not of prime Agricultural value to grow houses and communities.
The SG are committed to matching EU population growth targets and they see Crofting as a way to retain and grow communities . While this sounds like a good thing there is a likelihood that the real needs and wants of crofting families and crofting itself are not being considered.
The reform of Crofting has to go hand in hand with changes to the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme that classify the Highlands and islands as a mountain area and changes to the SRDP that give small units a head start so they can qualify for funding. The SG have also commissioned research into new crofting specific measures that can be included in the SRDP. All these measures. if they are implemented. would help Crofting have a future, but without them, and with the proposed New Bill looking to charge Crofters for being regulated, there is not much to look forward to.

Scottish crofting foundation conference
The annual gathering is to be in Grantown this year and runs from lunchtime on Monday 28th September and closes after lunch on Wednesday 30th Sept. To book a place telephone or email the SCF at Auchtertyre - 01599 566365
The theme this year, with it being held in Grantown, seems to be orientated towards small farming units as opposed to just crofting, so would be of interest to farmers and larger scale crofters in the Highlands. There is also very much a European feel to the menu, with an EU perspective, and comparisons between Crofting and small scale land management in the Pyranees and Portugal. The conference also concentrates on the Local food ,quality products and on farm tourism side.

Crofting Community and Community trusts
It is important for members of the Crofting Community to support Local Community trusts as although at this moment in time there is no urgent need for members to be proactive there may come a time where members may find is necessary to form a crofting sub branch within the trust and will appreciate having had the complicated process of forming a constituted body already approved . For instance the Crofting Community right to buy, which differs from the community right to buy, allows for a constituted crofting body to compulsory purchase croft land such as a common grazings.
Funding for paths, access or forestry projects can be match funded if you apply as a community body.
Grazing committees are being encouraged to provide Crofting development statements, although at the moment it is not compulsory. However. Local Authority planning and Councils will be obliged to take development and environmental statements from Communities into consideration if Local Crofting boards of Assessors / Commissionaires are formed when the proposed Bill becomes law. Through the Community Trust the Crofting community / Grazing committee can have their views listened to as they will be able to articulate through a development and environmental statement. By joining the trust there is no need to do anything at present but it would give the Crofting community a stronger voice if it ever needs it.

The Curacoa disaster
In June's West Word Allan MacDonald wrote about the graves in Arisaig Cemetery of sailors who died when HMS Curacoa went down in 1942, rammed by the Queen Mary .
Last month we were going to print more about the incident but space prevented us. By sheer coincidence, during the month the History Channel showed 'Deep Wreck Mysteries' which graphically told the story of the collision.
Alistair Munro of the Kyleakin Environmental Group wrote to us just after Allan's piece went online, again completely by coincidence. He had come across a mention of the graves in West Word from two years ago and hadn't realised there were later issues.
Alistair has sent us more information and suggests that if you want to know more about the disaster, go to the Kyleakin Environmental Group's website, www.skyekeg.org.uk and look under 'Let Us Remember'. There is also a lot of detail on the Royal Naval Association's website, www.royal-naval-association.co.uk including a list of the casualties.
The collision happened off the coast of Ireland, but casualties are buried not only in Arisaig but 12 in Ashaig and 2 in Portree cemeteries on Skye, and possibly on Eigg. Thank you to Alistair for the links.

A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: ealasaid6@btopenworld.com)
The Silver Family of Arisaig and Eoghan Dubh MacEachen

Catherine MacLachlan from Surrey, has been in touch with us, looking for information on her ancestors John Silver and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, whose family was born in Arisaig. John Silver, b. in Arisaig in 1815 was the son of Duncan Silver, a plasterer by trade, birthplace unknown but he has been recorded, as living, sometime, in Lochbroom. Duncan's wife was Mary MacIsaac. NFI.
John Silver b. 1815 married Margaret MacDonald of Arisaig.b. 1814, (see footnote 1) and they had ten children. (1) Mary b. 1835. (2) Flora b. 1838. (3) Catherine b. 1839, (4) Ronald b. 1841. (5) Isabella b. 1843. (6) John b. 1845. (7) Colin b. 1847. (8) William b. 1848. (9) John b. 1851. (10) Allan b.1853. Note: There appear to be two Johns in the family. (4 & 9) John Silver, senior, and his wife, Margaret lived for twenty, or more years, in Moss of Keppoch and for another twenty years in Keppoch, Arisaig. In 1891, they were in 1 New Buildings, (The High Land) Arisaig village. John died in August 1892 , aged 76 years and Margaret died in July 1895, aged 81 years. Their g.g.g.granddaughter, Catherine MacLachlan, on her first visit to Arisaig, in 2009, unknowingly, stayed in 1 High Land, the old Silver home, with Jo Markland, the present owner.
Of the children of John and Margaret, we know Catherine, Ronald, John and Colin never married and in 1891 were living in 3, High Land, Arisaig.
Catherine has found William, living in Greenock with his wife, Isabella MacLean, daughter Annie Silver, aged 3 months and step-son, Donald MacLean, aged 14 years. William and Mary, who was a widow, married at St Mary's Church, Greenock, on 25th September 1890. In 1901, William is missing from the records and Annie is aged 10. We must presume that William died and that, there were no other Silver children of that marriage.
Catherine has also traced (9) John Silver, a mason, with his wife, Catherine MacDonald and two children, Sarah, 12 and Margaret, 10, living in Oban in 1901. Catherine died in Oban on 22nd August, 1920 and John died there on 15th April, 1927. Local folklore has it that John Silver worked with the (Lighthouse) Stevensons who built the Skerrie Mhór and Barra Head lighthouses. Local tradition, also records, that one member of that Stevenson family, Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame, based his character, Long John Silver, on John Silver of Arisaig. Now, in anticipation of the possibility that the national press descends scornfully on us, once again, we firmly believe that there is substance to this story! The older generations of this area were very knowledgeable as to their history, which was passed down from their elders and they possessed excellent recall. Why would they say it if it were not so? John Silver's residence in Oban and his occupation, are entirely consistent with this long-held belief.
We cannot trace Allan Silver after the 1861 census and think that he may have died in another district as there is no mention of his death in the Arisaig Death entries of the time and he doesn't reappear anywhere else.
That leaves the three girls, Mary, Flora and Isabella who all married.
Mary Silver married Allan MacKinnon from Eigg, a brother of my paternal g.grandmother, Mary MacKinnon (Allan) who married John MacDonald. John and Mary were the progenitors of the Tigh na Mara family of Back of Keppoch. Mary Silver and Allan MacKinnon had, at least, 7 children. John, b. 1862, Christina, b. 1864. Catherine, b. 1868,. Allan, b. 1882. Hector, b. 1884. Ann, b. 1887 and Donald,b. 1890. I think that a family of MacKinnons, living in Kinlochleven, is descended from Hector who went to work in the Aluminium Factory when it was built ca. 1907. Catherine MacKinnon, b. 1868. married James MacDonald of Arisaig and their son, Ronald MacDonald married Flora "Aoghnas Anna" MacDonald, Port na Luchaig. They had three sons. James, who married Chrissie Pringle of Arisaig, the late Angus, who married Carmine Mulligan of Mallaig and William (Billy) who married Jane Martin of Mallaig.
Flora Silver went to Barra to work in the Northbay Inn in 1854 and married Archie MacNeill from Barra, on 4th May 1858. Their daughter, Mary, married Malcolm Buchanan of Barra and their daughter, Kate Buchanan was Catherine MacLachlan's grandmother. Kate married William MacDougall and their twin daughter is Catherine MacLachlan's mother. Kate's sister, Elizabeth Buchanan married James MacDougall (Jimmy the Post) of Mallaig Bheag and their children were Donnie, Calum, Alistair, Mairi Catherine, (Mary), Flora and Ann MacDougall.
Isabella Silver b. 1843, married William Gillies, b. in 1851, from Craigmore, Arisaig, in July 1875 and they had one son, John Gillies, b. 1885, as shown in the 1891 census. (See footnote 2.)
Footnote 1. Margaret MacDonald's parents were Ronald MacDonald and Kate MacLeod. They don't appear in the census records, possibly, because they were deceased by 1841. In 1841, Margaret's siblings, John, Betsy, Mary, Catherine, Allan and Alexander, are living next door to the Silvers in Moss of Arisaig.
There is nobody of the name of Silver in Arisaig today, as the three sons who remained here, never married.
Footnote 2. William Gillies who married Isabella Silver, is in the 1861 Arisaig census aged 10 years. He is living in Kinloid with his father, John Gillies, b. 1810 in Arisaig, mother, Isabella, b. 1813 in Glenelg (North Morar) and three sisters, Mary, b. 1842, Christina, b. 1846 and Isabella, b. 1847. Another sister, Ann Gillies, married Charles MacEachen on Jan. 30th, 1850 and they have many descendants in Arisaig. William Gillies' mother, Isabella Gillies, b. 1813, was a daughter of William Gillies of Scamadale, South Morar.

Bernie Chisholm re MacEachen
In response to our article in West Word July 2009, about Eoghainn Dubh MacEachen, we received this reply from our friend Bernie Chisholm in Nova Scotia. Bernie has visited us here in Arisaig and here is his update on Eoghainn Dubh.
Good day from Port Hood, Nova Scotia. It is called Seastico in Gaelic. In the last issue of West Word you wrote about MacEachens that lived in Mount Young, Cape Breton. There were two 200 acre lots. They had two homes close to each other. That area was really called Melrose Hills. Mount Young is a little higher up the hill.
The land that they lived on was next door to my ancestors . Archibald "Sandy Dubh" MacDonald and Flora " Aonghas an Araich" Campbell. They were my great-great grandparents. They were born in Cape Breton and this was not the homestead they were born on. In 1882 their sons Angus "Dubh" and Alexander MacDonald bought 80 acres of this land from John MacEachern who would be a grandson of Hugh "Eoghainn mac Dhughaill" MacEachen. They paid $360.00 for the land. At this time the owner John MacEachern was living at Mabou Harbour.
My sons Kenneth and Marcel now own this land. They have a total of 188 acres. It is about 20 miles from our home in Port Hood. We get our firewood and we have a sawmill that we make some lumber with. They go overnight camping there with my grandchildren. We use the water from the well on the MacEachen homestead. They also cool their beer in it. When you count my grandchildren it means that seven generations of our family have been on this land.
Bernard (Bernie) Chisholm

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