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

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September 2013 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat log and harbour news
Railway and crofting news
Local Genealogy

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

Dancers (l to r) Anna MacKellaig, Molly Smith and Jamie Lee Laverty
at the Mallaig & Morar Highland Games

NHS Highland are still trying to attract applicants to the newly formed West Lochaber Medical Practice - an innovative approach to delivering GP services in rural Lochaber, managed by Dr Iain Gartshore based in Mallaig Health Centre.
The West Lochaber Medical Practice (WLMP) is the result of the amalgamation of the Practices of Mallaig and Arisaig, The Small Isles and Acharacle, with Mallaig Health Centre as the administrative hub. Four GPs will be based in Mallaig, covering the mainland from Knoydart to Glenuig, and the Small Isles. Three GPs will be based at Acharacle Health Centre, providing services from Glenuig to Acharacle, west along the Ardnamurchan peninsula and east to Strontian.
An attempt in April to fill the seven posts on offer was unsuccessful and the official starting date for the model WLMP is now February 2014, although successful candidates could start earlier. The closing date for applicants this time round is Friday 13th September. NHS Highland is offering 'golden hellos' on top of the salary of £75,000 - a scheme that has been running since 2001 to attract and maintain GPs and dentists in areas which have difficulty recruiting and retaining professionals.
Mary Gartshore, non-GP partner of the Mallaig practice, told West Word: 'The initial recruitment attempt was encouraging but ultimately there were not enough quality candidates to allow the new West Lochaber Medical Practice to proceed. We discussed this with NHS Highland and the decision was made to have a a second round of recruitment fairly quickly to capitalise on momentum and publicity.
'Currently we are nearing the end of the second round of recruitment. We have been encouraged by the steady interest in the posts and also by the quality of new candidates. We remain optimistic that we will ultimately recruit the correct number of quality GPs to West Lochaber.'

In a move described by Councillor Allan Henderson as 'the day of the long knives', a hastily convened non agenda meeting of which he knew nothing elected Councillor Thomas MacLennan as leader of the newly established Lochaber Area Committee.
The office of Provost was introduced in 2007 when the old area committee and area convener role disappeared in a shake-up of the Highland Council, but it was never intended to be permanent. The decision on whether Lochaber continues to have a Provost has yet to be discussed by the Lochaber Area Committee.
Councillor Henderson, who has been Provost since the title was reintroduced six years ago, said 'While it was an unpaid and time consuming post it was extremely pleasurable. I thoroughly appreciated the period of representing Lochaber at civic functions, knowing it would not be for ever.'
Councillor Henderson has received a considerable amount if support since he was removed as Provost but has turned down pleas for a campaign to keep him in office, saying 'For me the chain of office has been tarnished. I always knew it was only temporary and we had a mechanism for reviewing the position. Sadly in this case it was not used.'

Over the last five or six months, the local press has been full of reports of thefts in Lochaber, notably opportunist thefts on the Ardnamurchan peninsula. Items stolen have included power tools, cameras, bikes, TVs, jewellery, outboard motors, and items from boats, sheds and garages. Police have recently launched Operation Engage to try to stem the crime wave, stopping and if need be searching vehicles in the area and setting up roadside checkpoints.
Now the problem has reached Arisaig with the audacious theft of 31 lambs and 17 sheep from a croft in Kinloid. It is most likely that the thieves drove a lorry past all the houses on the Kinloid road on the night of 24th August, to take the tagged and marked animals, worth several thousand pounds, out of their field.
A few nights later items were stolen from an unlocked car at a Traigh campsite.
The majority of the break ins and attempted thefts have occurred between midnight and 6am. Make sure your house, outhouse, shed and vehicle is locked, don't leave things lying around unattended - and report any suspicious vehicles or activity to the police immediately. Note the number plate if possible.
Sad times!

So that's summer over and already a chill in the air and it's only just turned September! On the bright side this also means bye-bye to midges soon.
I think everyone has just about recovered from Evelyn's birthday party. Just. But what a great night. It was so lovely to see everyone turn up in their best - we scrub up well, Knoydart! There were kilts, frocks, high heels, very high heels, suits and bow ties. The food was gorgeous and generous, providing a great social area for folk chin wagging and/or taking a much needed break from dancing. Sketch and Binnie and Hogg were superb, with everyone having a boogie at one point or another, even my Uncle Stewart! Big thanks to everyone who made it happen and helped out, and most of all to Evelyn and we all hope she enjoyed her birthday (cause we did!).
Two days later was Banana Session vs Ross Couper and Tom Oaks in the village hall. Amazing tunes with Roberta's lovely, husky voice and quirky songs about tea and hangovers, and incredible fiddle and guitar playing from the boys. I think every Monday should end that way. From Nashville to Knoydart came Tim O'Brien, a Grammy Award-winning Americana and Bluegrass singer and multi-instrumentalist. An acoustic setting with guest appearances from Knoydart friends, such as Tobi and Kath, and Ross Martin. Another fantastic musical evening.
The Tarbet games were also a huge success and a fun day out. Good food, fun games (although with slightly questionable age categories in the races), first-class music (of course) and a lovely atmosphere. Well done to the Knoydart men and women for winning the tug-o-wars! It was a proud day to be a Knoydartian. I'd like to add a big get well to Frank.
Sharks have been the talk of the waters the last couple of weeks with some fantastic photos from folk on facebook. There was an exciting and interesting Marine Life Weekend near the end of August. Mark Woombs did a talk and slideshow, "Under the Waves of Loch Nevis", there was a rib trip where seals, basking sharks and wild goats were spotted (the goats on land, not in the water I should add), and a guided shore walk exploring what lives on beaches. A great weekend from all accounts.
Knoydart was shocked to hear of the sudden and untimely death of Major Nigel Chamberlayne-Macdonald, who had only recently visited the peninsula. The Major owned Knoydart for over a decade, and was responsible for many of the peninsula's improvements, such as some of the roads and tracks. Condolences to his loved ones.
Bits and bobs... Get well Iain Wilson who is limping about at the moment. There was an anti-climactic cattle drive at Kilchoan (but I'm glad everything went smoothly). Johann has been busy working hard all over the village. There's been Airor crofter meetings. Davie's having a book sale so come along to the Tearoom for a bargain, and watch out for new books arriving soon! Police have been informed about a poaching incident from the community. Big thanks from Isla to a couple of Mallaig boys who got her car up and running, it wis affy good of them. Aaran's doing her bit for Macmillan Coffee morning by taking part in a shoe challenge where she has to wear a different pair of shoes each day for 30 days in a row, so come along to the Tearoom to sponsor her. The Western Isles had their first sailing on the 1st of September under new owners, where half of Mallaig and Knoydart boarded to celebrate with a couple of tunes and a drink: a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
And I think that's it for now, ta ta!
Amy Connolly

August saw important progress in the third major event of 2013 - the fish farm. Marine Harvest have advertised five positions based on the island; Manager, assistant, two 'technicians' and a boatman. Two islanders have applied and if selected will have to go for training on other sites during the winter. The smoults for the Muck cages are swimming in the hatchery tanks at Lochailort and will be ready to go to sea here in the spring. This is an epoch making event for Muck. The greatest transformation to primary industry on the island since Muck became a cheese making dairy farm in 1876.
August was also the month for Camas events most of which were crammed into the first two weeks. The wedding anniversary which I mentioned last month went surprisingly well considering that on the day CalMac cancelled both calls and the band did not reach the island. Most of the guests were already here and technology had to substitute for live music. Next came 'Winging It', two very talented young men armed with guitars and mandolin who gave us a very enjoyable evening before going on to Rum and Canna. From Eigg came Jamie the Archer who held two very well attended sessions in a silage field. And in the hall our own Ishy Walters ran a week long arts project demonstrating to a multitude of island and visiting children that 'art' is a very broad subject, and leaving a bulging folder enclosing some of what the children did.
But the highlight of the Camas season (and there were two) was the Ghanaian Drummers and the Horse and Bamboo theatre. I was a little apprehensive of the Drummers before they arrived but I need not have worried, they were fabulous. Rhythm comes naturally to the African and we enjoyed a medley of song, drumming and dancing finishing with most of the audience on the floor. A great evening! 'Angus Weaver of grass' told the story of a crofter's son from Uist whose health breaks down in the 2nd World War and spends the next 50 years in Creag Dunain before returning to Uist as part of 'Care in the Community'. A powerful story told with the aid of song, puppetry and projectors. If either of these two shows comes to a venue near you they should not be missed!
August is the start of the sale season and after a marathon of sheep sorting the whole of this years lambs and ewes departed for Dingwall on a route through Skye and Loch Ness as Taylor's 3 deck wagon can no longer pass under the railway bridges both on the Mallaig line and at Achnasheen. Prices were down somewhat on last year's good prices as last year the lamb buyers got their 'fingers burnt' due to the poor weather in the East and New Zealand imports. We cannot complain. This year despite the spring we had more lambs to sell than ever before.
Lawrence MacEwen

Sorry for the short entry to West Word this month but I've just come back from a 12 day horse riding holiday in Peru and am still trying to catch up with the latest news. I will write a detailed article about Peru for winter reading.
Islanders and visitors enjoyed another Canna Feis this month and the highlights were Kaela McIntosh with guitar and Gaelic song, Hamish Polson of The Strathpeffer Dance Band, talks on Tistan de Cunha and our own Murdo Jack's Farm Tours!! The weather once again was good and everyone partied well into the night!!
A big happy birthday to Caroline MacKinnon who turns 16 on the 30th August!
More news next time.
Geraldine MacKinnon

August has flown by, and now it's raining again, the kids are back to school and we're overloaded with courgettes. Rum Primary officially re opened with Eve Morris moving up into primary one with Jocelyn is keeping her company in the nursery and we welcomed Stuart & Julie Poole back to the island and back to teach at the school after a few years away - they have come to realise that Rum really is the best place to live!!
More new arrivals include Mel and Emily at Kinloch Castle, Mel is the hostel visitor services manager and Mike & Debs Ingram who are moving here this week, Mike will be working on the Nature Reserve for SNH. We have said farewell to Paul & Carol Howlett who sadly left earlier this month due to a lack of available housing, sad as they are the first people in recent years who have had to leave when they didn't want to - this has provided us with yet more motivation to get some housing plots agreed with the council. Farewell also to Caroline, Richard & Cara Kilpatrick who have left Rum after 8 years, they haven't moved far, so we're bound to bump into them in the co-op in Mallaig! Best wishes to you all!!
In community trust news, our little office moved out of its cramped premises in Kinloch Castle (thanks for having us!) and into a spacious room in our very own Farmhouse Bothy, there is now enough room for Mike, Vikki and myself to be in the room at the same time. The funding for the new bunkhouse has now all been confirmed so it's all onwards and upwards, the latest issues under discussion is what type of wood heating system to install - logs, pellets or chips; it's not as easy a decision as you'd think! The roof repairs over at Harris are now complete, millions of thanks (again) to Paul Thompson. Unfortunately yet more work is needed on the roof and we have no available funds to complete it with. In any case, the next step is to give the place a good clean out as it has got a bit neglected after a year of hardly any use.
Life on Rum Crofts is good, you can definitely see a difference in the colour of croft 1 compared to the ungrazed land adjacent, croft 2 has the foundations for their wool workshop underway and construction is due to start very soon and croft 3 are busy with a lot of livestock and collecting wood for the winter, you can never be too prepared...
We are still waiting on the final report from the options appraisal for Kinloch Castle. In need of significant repair, Kinloch Castle is looking for a major investment to carry out structual work and potentially convert the building into a revenue generating venue. We're all hoping something good will come out of the appraisal, so fingers crossed.
Next months events include our annual harvest meal, lots of Rum produce for us all to enjoy courgettes mostly, but sure there'll be venison and brambles etc too.
Lastly a quick well done to Sorcha who has raised £85 towards the Mallaig High school London trip by making fudge, bread and ckes and selling them through the summer.
Fliss Fraser

Camille is away this month, so I (Ben) have been drafted in last minute to keep the loyal West Word subscribers abreast of the situations on Eigg. Funnily enough I was also drafted in last minute to fill in for Gabe McVarish as host for the Tearoom Sessions at Galmasdale Bay Café whilst he and the rest of the Daimh boys were on tour in Canada recently. Why Gabe thought it was a good idea to leave a metal-head with a limited grasp of the whistle and traditional music in charge is a bit of a mystery, but Joe, Brendan and I did our best, with support from Donna and some talented visitors who brought along their instruments. The sessions have proved extremely popular this summer, especially when hosted by the big boys, Gabe and Damian, bringing much appreciated and anticipated Friday night craic to both locals and visitors alike. The waiting room pass-the-guitar-sing-a-longs after closing time have also proved popular.
The fine weather this summer brought out many a pale pair of legs into the sunshine, and a steady stream of hardy swimmers to the beaches. Even John Cormack and Maggie Fyfe were spotted floating in the balmy top 6 inches of water on Laig Bay. Of course beach parties often follow warm days, and there were a lot of warm days in July and August. Even the heating of a big rock pool was attempted to make a beach view hot-tub, envisaged to take the parties to a Monte Carlo level. The result, much like the response, was lukewarm. Visitors to the Island this year have kept everyone busy - both the Loch Nevis and Sheerwater have been stuffed full of day trippers, and longer stay-ers, eager to explore Eigg in the sunshine. The Monday Market in the community hall has been very popular. Local crafts and goods have sold well, and Eiggy Bread's delicious lunches have fed happy islanders as much as hungry tourists. In the evenings, Dan Lever brought fine dining to the Galmisdale Bay Café, treating customers to the very best in local seafood, much provided by his keen fisherman dad, Ian.
We were all sad to see Grace Fergusson and her daughters, Erin and Heather, move off Eigg last month to start a new adventure in Morar. They will be missed in the community, but they will be visited often, especially as islanders always need a couch to sleep on when using public transport to get anywhere!
The volunteers, who always bring some vibrancy (as well as their help), to Eigg, have gone back to the "real world". Tourists are thinning out and the weather is showing distinct signs of an autumnal tendency. We all hope for a relapse to the sunshine and blue skies of yestermonth, but fear summer may be on the way out. Time to change out of the shorts and t-shirt and try and find that fleece that got put down somewhere in May. Time to look forward to smell of wood smoke in the air as people begin to light fires in the evenings. Time to search for a torch that is probably in the pocket of that fleece. Time to visit people in their houses rather than at beach fires. It's time for Eigg to pack away summer - a job well done - and get a bit of rest before it all starts again next year.
Ben Cormack

Success for short film made in Knoydart!
After two years in the making, a short film made in Knoydart has been accepted into the BFI London Film Festival. The film, Stay the Same, involved ex-Knoydart resident Sam Firth filming every day in exactly the same place, at exactly the same time for a year. The project was featured in the West Word in January 2012 and there was some controversy in the press over its funding as a result. Sam is now delighted that the film has been accepted into such a prestigious festival, which is a major international film festival "I've always wanted to have a film screened there, but this is a first for me, so it's very exciting". It took nearly a year to edit the film down from sixty hours of footage down to fourteen minutes. The final version is accompanied by an original score by composer Fraya Thomsen who also used to live in the area and is now studying at the National Film and Television School. Fraya worked with Sam on her last short film The Worm Inside.
The film will be showing as part of the London Film Festival's Experimenta section which showcases experimental and avant garde films from both new and established visual artists and filmmakers from all over the world. Only a few people have seen the film so far but the response has been positive. Film director, Clio Barnard said "out of simplicity comes great complexity - It's very beautiful, moving too.... " . Lizzie Franke from the British Film Insitute says "it is a very effecting piece with an accumulative power that that creeps up on the viewer."
The film will also be showing at the Encounters Film Festival in Bristol on the 19th September and as part of a selection of films supported by the Scottish Documentary Institute at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on October 15th.
The film had its premiere in Knoydart in the village hall on September 7th at 7.30pm.


A good turn out on Mallaig Pier ensured a fun day for all - and it stayed dry!

The old converted lifeboat Canadian Pacific moored beside the current lifeboat.

Stormy Sam supports RNLI Gala Day
Local piper Nathan Ritchie piped Stormy Sam from the railway station to the pier, accompanied by RNLI crew members Ross McKay and Gregor MacIntyre.
Photo Moe Mathison

Mr Mark Ryan, Fife, presents Lifeboat Coxswain Michael Ian Currie with a cheque for the sum of £470, flanked by two vintage Aston Martins on Mallaig Pier on Sunday 25th August 2013.
Photo Moe Mathison

Just some of the 42 or so classic cars - Aston Martins, Porsches, etc - with the Lifeboat behind them.
Photo Moe Mathison

There were seven callouts for Mallaig's Severn Class Lifeboat Henry Alston Hewat during the month of August 2013.

Saturday 3rd August: Mallaig Lifeboat launched at 12.45 hrs to go to the assistance of a passenger on board the ferry Sheerwater who had fallen and sustained a nasty wound to the head. The Sheerwater had continued to the Isle of Eigg seeking medical assistance from the island's Doctor. The Doctor attended to the female casualty and requested that the patient be transferred to the mainland to receive hospital care.
The Lifeboat reached Eigg at 13.16 hrs when the casualty was transferred on board the Lifeboat into the care of a paramedic crewman, and once the wound was re-dressed and the patient made comfortable, the Lifeboat proceeded back to Mallaig. Arriving there at 14.45 hrs, the patient was handed over to the Ambulance team and taken to the Belford Hospital in Fort William for further treatment.
Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 14.45 hrs.

Tuesday 20th August: At the request of Stornoway Coastguard, the Mallaig Lifeboat was launched at 08.15 hrs to go to the assistance of the yacht Chablis in Loch Slapin, Isle of Skye. Whilst departing the Loch, the yacht's propeller fouled on an old creel end and, with steering limited due to the amount of rope taken into the propeller, the skipper of the 9 metre yacht sought assistance.
Arriving on scene at 09.15 hrs, the Lifeboat quickly established a tow line and towed the yacht into Mallaig Marina. Local divers were on hand to free Chablis' prop and rudder. Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 11.30 hrs.

Wednesday 21st August: Weather was calm at 08.14 hrs when Lifeboat was launched at the request of the Coastguard to medivac a resident from Tarbet, Loch Nevis, who was suffering severe stomach pains. Arriving on scene at 08.37, the Lifeboat was met by the casualty who was able to board a small dinghy escorted by two neighbours and was quickly transferred on board.
On arrival at Mallaig at 08.55, the casualty was handed over to the care of the local Ambulance staff and taken on to the Belford Hospital in Fort William for treatment. Lifeboat refuelled and ready for service at 09.00 hrs.

Friday 23rd August: Whilst the crew was cleaning the Lifeboat wheelhouse in preparation for the Station's Gala Day, a conversation between a yacht and the Coastguard was heard on the Lifeboat's VHF. The yacht had been leaving Arisaig Harbour via the South Channel but had grounded on a reef on a falling tide. Seconds later the pagers went off and at 10.00 hrs the Lifeboat was underway for Arisaig Harbour. Arriving on scene within 35 minutes, the Lifeboat found the Emma Louise listed to starboard on the reef and, although Arisaig Marine's Sheerwater was in attendance, it was unable to approach the stranded yacht.
The Lifeboat's Y-boat was launched and two crewmen went across to pick up the sole occupant of the 8 metre yacht and deliver him safely on board the Lifeboat.
Although some ingress of water was noted, the way that the yacht was at rest on the reef precluded any danger of the vessel flooding, so the Lifeboat moved off to deeper water to await low water. Once the tide had gone back, the crew returned with the Lifeboat's large fenders and placed them underneath the yacht's bilge to assist refloating when the tide flooded later in the evening.
Lifeboat prepared to return to base.

Friday 23rd August: With the crew returning to the Lifeboat in the Y-boat after dealing with the Emma Louise, another yacht was observed navigating out through the South Channel at Arisaig at dead low water springs. Minutes later the yacht Suhyra was seen to come to a standstill on the sand bar that crosses the South Channel. The Lifeboat crew sped over in the Y-boat to assist but fortunately there was just enough water for the yacht to remain upright. After about 30 minutes the tide began to flood and the yacht floated out over the bar.
The Y-boat crew returned to the Lifeboat which then returned to station at Mallaig pending an evening return to aid the re-floating of Emma Louise.

Friday 23rd August: Returning to Arisaig Harbour at 18.30 hrs, the Y-boat was launched and two crew members and the skipper of Emma Louise re-boarded the yacht. All compartments were checked for water ingress but with none found and, with the help of the fenders that were placed underneath the hull, Emma Louise floated free of the reef. The Lifeboat then escorted the yacht into Arisaig Harbour before returning to base, being refuelled and ready for service at 21.35 hrs.

The rescue of Gannock III at the entrance to Mallaig Harbour on 29th August.
Photo Moe Mathieson

Thursday 29th August: The Lifeboat was paged for immediate launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 03.25 hrs to go to the assistance of a vessel aground on Sgeir Dearg at the entrance to Mallaig Harbour. On scene at 03.35 to find the 8 metre vessel Gannick III on the reef and rocking about quite violently in the breaking swell. The sole occupant of the vessel was quickly brought across to the Lifeboat by the Y-boat and the Gannick III was pushed off the reef by the swell and re-floated herself. The Y-boat crew boarded the casualty and with the engine still running proceeded into the harbour to the Marina. Once the Lifeboat came alongside at the Marina, the Gannick III was pumped dry and checked over for water ingress. With the skipper back on board and no serious damage to report, the Lifeboat returned to her own pontoon at 04.45.


Varis Engineering, Forres, ably assisted by Mallaig Marine's workboat Emma C, anchored two new pontoon sections into place on Friday 16th August.
In the short term the new sections will ease congestion with the passenger services operating from the pontoons but over the winter re-organisation of the mooring arrangements involving small local craft will take place. This will free space for visiting yachts for the 2014 Season.

Ships in The Little Minch
After being informed by local ship-a-holics that they were unable to track or identify ships that used or sailed past the port of Mallaig via their computer or tablet etc. an AIS Receiver has been fitted in the Harbour Office so if you log on to www.marinetraffic.com all ships will be displayed on your screen.

White Heather IV
After 4 years tied up at Mallaig Pier the prawn trawler White Heather IV OB266 'set sail' for pastures new on Thursday 22nd August. The White Heather, owned by The Gribbens Family, was purchased by Mr Simon McClurg of Portavogie, Co. Down and, as this picture shows, it was the Belfast registered FV Supreme who assisted White Heather out of the harbour.


It's always sad to see a local trawler depart but here's hoping White Heather has a successful career in The Emerald Isle.

Note of interest for all fishing boat buffs out there is that the Supreme B1004 was previously known as The Five Sisters and fished from Mallaig for many years under the command of Harbour Chairman, Mr Michael Currie.


An interesting visitor to the port last month was this ex herring drifter, now a yacht called The Flying Dutchman (above).

Robert MacMillan
Port Manager/Secretary
01687 462154

Mallaig & Morar Highland Games
The 2013 Mallaig & Morar Games enjoyed yet another good day on Sunday 4th August with a bumper crowd and excellent competition for everyone to enjoy. The sun shone down, as often is the case for the Games, and yet the weather leading up to the day had caused concerns, as wind and rain buffeted the area. Despite valiant attempts to complete all of the work before the Sunday, the hardy helpers could not complete every task - in fact the Marquee was kept up for two nights tethered to Ian MacNaughton's tractor! Come Sunday, with the work completed early in the morning after the wind subsided, we welcomed a record crowd to the Lovat Field, with the Games opened by Charles Kennedy MP. Charles, having been piped through Morar by the excellent Lochaber Schools Pipe Band, then spent several hours meeting the Games support team, visitors and competitors, and he must have been impressed.

Enjoying the bungee jump

Visitors to the area try out the climbing wall

We had more heavies for many a year, and high quality ones at that. Perhaps it was because of increased prize money, but the quality and quantity of pipers was also high, and as always the mix of fun and serious competition in athletics enhanced the Mallaig & Morar Games' reputation for being a warm, family friendly Games. Throw in high standards in the Highland Dancing and the buzz created by the Junior Highland Games, and we had a good day out for locals and tourists alike. Bookended by a pre-Games family ceilidh with Skipinnish in the community hall on Saturday evening and a Barbecue and Shindig in the West Highland Hotel on Sunday night, this was a great weekend for the village, enjoyed by so many.
Gratitude as always to all who helped, and encouragement and requests for others to come along and help us on the day next year. It is, after all, good craic, so let one of the committee know if you fancy getting involved. Meantime on to 2014 and another sunny Sunday!

It's been some time since Morag reared her head above the waters of Loch Morar but according to reports in the national press, she has appeared again, at the end of August.
Visitors Doug and Charlotte Christie from Brechin in Angus were staying in Kisimuil on the shores of the loch when they saw a black 20 foot shape in the water - not once but three times in the two days they spent there. They hadn't heard of the monster and was sure it was a whale or a submarine.
There have been a number of reports from reliable, practical local men, not given to wild flights of fancy or practical jokes, who have seen something in the loch that could not be explained - including West Word's own volunteer printer, Ewen MacDonald.
The sighting comes some months after a number of manuscripts dating back to 1902 were discovered by academics at the University of Edinburgh Library. They were compiled by Alexander Carmichael, a collector of folklore and were written in Gaelic.

CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson, Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative

Entry Level Crofting Induction Course
The Scottish Crofting Federation will run a two day intensive course in our area aimed at anyone new to crofting or those who already have a croft who would like to learn more .Date still to be decided but between Jan and March 2014.
Topics covered range from learning about the land and environment, animal health and welfare, support mechanisms and CAP to running a business from the croft. This course is much acclaimed and very popular so it is hoped that aspiring or new crofters in the area will take advantage of the wide range of knowledge available from the course tutors. Cost will be £60 or £50 for members of the SCF and free to under 18's and those on certain benefits. A certificate is awarded at the end of the course.
Please contact me on invercaimbe@btinternet.com to register and interest. Dates and venue to be confirmed soon.

Practical Skills courses
These will run from March 2014 onwards and are likely to continue over the year. Subjects of interest could range from basic veterinary skills to marketing and selling croft produce and learning croft related crafts and skills. Courses would cost from £30 per day. More info to follow but if you have any ideas for practical skills courses please email me/

Crofting Grants
Crofting Grants [CCAGS] is not run as part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme which ends on Dec 31st this year. There will be no new scheme until 2015 so this leaves a gap in funding for crofting until the new SRDP in 2015 when it is hoped there will be a Crofting Support Programme included. Any crofters looking to fund developments in the near future should put their applications in as soon as possible before Dec 31st to avoid being caught out by this gap.

There was far more to John Bryden's journey to Moscow in July than to raise money for charity.
Before he left Lochailort, John had formed a relationship with Sheredar, a recently formed Russian charity which cares for children with cancer and other serious illnesses. One of John's aims was to visit the foundation in the Vladimir region of Russia, speaking on TV and radio and to groups of children, forging links with Scotland and the UK. Having decided to go, he chose to ride his tiny 125hp bike on the most difficult route he could through Norway, Sweden and Estonia, 8,000 miles, hoping to raise £15,000 for his charity Kirsty's Kids, set up in memory of his daughter.
John received a warm welcome in Russia and even visited the Commissioner of Police and Police HQ. He visited Sheredar and gave them a cheque for £1000 for a trampoline, a gift chosen by the pupils of Banavie and Upper Achintore primary schools in Fort William before he left. In the few days he was in the country, the Russian government signed for the release of land for the first children's hospice in the country, and John attended the adult hospice in Moscow to discuss the work of CHAS (Children's Hospice Association of Scotland) and the possibility of working together. He has been invited to return to the country with his chosen team to help in the hospice project.
John received great support in Europe and in the UK from the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, an international organisation whose members are serving and retired police officers. John spent three days in Germany fundraising with the local chapter. The total raised on the trip was a little short of the hoped for £15,000 and John and Jan continue their efforts at shows, fairs and exhibitions, travelling all over the country. Before his trip, with a group of supporters, he pushed the bike up Ben Nevis. John has served both in the RAF and the Police Service, while wife Jan was some years ago responsible for setting up a women's refuge from scratch.
What will John's next big challenge be? He's been muttering about Cape Town in 2015! If you wish to donate to Kirsty's Kids you can use find details on www.kirstyskids.org


Oops! Clarifications and Corrections
My goodness, if I was not already aware from the moment last month's West Word came out that the competition question was unanswerable (due to the dates being transposed) I certainly knew over the course of the next week!! I was stopped in the street, rung up, written to by post, informed on the train, etc. etc. Thank you all for pointing out that I had made the question incorrect, but it wasna me ha! ha! (I take full responsibility - the Ed.) I had phone calls from all over England, which was entertaining, proving that my column is well read. Thank you to all who were concerned, and to be fair to all I am running the competition again this month with a different question.
So... in order to be in with a chance of winning one of two copies of the book West Highland Extension by John MacGregor - newly published by Amberley Publishing, priced at £14.99, and available locally or online - have a go at answering the following question:
How many arches are there on the Glenfinnan Viaduct? Is it a) 16, b) 19 or c) 21?
Answer on a postcard with your name and address to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD, by Friday September 27th 2013 please to be in with a chance of winning one of the two prizes. Good luck.

West Highland Extension - by John McGregor
Following on from his book West Highland Line, author and historian John McGregor has now produced West Highland Extension. This excellent book is also published by Amberley Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4456-1338-3.
Starting with a lengthy introduction about the book and its contents, it gives acknowledgments to several local contributors - Moe Mathieson, Malcolm Poole and Glenfinnan Museum.
There are some stunning and interesting photographs, both old and new, along with explanations and history of the line.
Once again, Amberley Publishing have very kindly offered to give away two copies of the book. I am indebted to Alice Crick, Publicist's Assistant, for her generosity in donating these excellent books.
Copies of both books, West Highland Line and West Highland Extension, are available directly from Amberley Publishing, Mallaig Heritage Centre, on The Jacobite steam train shop and other local outlets. Amberley Publishing's address is The Mill, Merrywalks, Stroud, Glos GL5 4EP, tel. 01453 847800, Fax. 01453 847820, email e.store@amberley-books.com

Keep Calm and Carry On
This seems to be my motto this month. Although I have already taken stock of the Spring flowering bulbs for Autumn planting at the Railway Stations I adopt, the Summer flowers are continuing to look good. The Date Palms I planted at Morar and Arisaig are putting on growth, the test will be if they last the winter. I may have to fleece cover them. The hanging baskets at Mallaig really have been good this year, and continue to produce. No doubt about it, the automatic watering system has been a triumph.

Roll all over Scotland for only £19 return
The message above proclaims the fact that the very popular ScotRail over 55 years of age Club 55 promotion is back for a whopping three months.
Starting now, September 1st, and running until November 30th - with one month after that to complete your return journey - it is a great bargain.
The basic rules are:
1) you have to be 55 years of age or over
2) you do not have to join anything, no membership fee, and you don't even need a Railcard, athough if you are a Senior or Disabled Railcard holder over 55 you enjoy an additional £2 discount.
3) buy a Club 55 ticket and you can travel anywhere in Scotland that there is a ScotRail service for £19 return. It is also valid to and from Carlisle or Berwick-upon-Tweed (but not cross country between them).
4) Club 55 is not available on the Caledonian Sleeper Service.

5) it is not necessary to buy your tickets in advance, but I cannot stress too strongly that it really is advisable. You alo get free seat reservations when booking, which is so handy for your peace of mind. When booking, and travelling, on Club 55 you should produce proof of age. You can book from now at all staffed Railway Stations, online at scotrail.co.uk/club55 or by calling 08457 550033.
Fully explanatory leaflets are available at staffed Railway Stations or you can ring and request one. If you get one through the post, you get an extra offer of two vouchers for a free tea, coffee or hot chocolate if you purchase a wee cake or shortbread from the catering trolley steward.

Jacobite Steam Train news
There is as much 'Off' the Rails as 'On' the Rails this month.
On Saturday September 7th, the indispensable, she who must be obeyed, mean card playing Florence Maclean, who is The Jacobite Train Manager, along with Pat Marshall, one of the Directors of West Coast Railways, plus as many of the support crew that are not on roster that day, are proposing to climb Ben Nevis (and come down again - ouch!) to raise funds for the Renal Unit at the Belford Hospital, Fort William. By the time this edition comes out, the deed may well have been done, BUT that does not stop you going to The Jacobite and handing in some coins to Florence to swell the pot of money she hopes to raise. The climb is to commemorate her father, Johnny Barr, who was well known for his role as sub-Officer for Fort William Fire Service, who used the Renal Unit constantly. Good on you, Florence, you may even get your knees massaged next week. Another challenge taking place this first week in September is a re-run of the 2012 question: Can a pushbike beat The Jacobite between Fort William and Mallaig!!! The intrepid cyclist and Ian Riley employee Matt, who attempted this feat in 2012 and was overtaken at Morar Level Crossing, is all geared up to attempt the task again, having just recently joined the Tour de France on one section of the Alps. He is constantly monitoring the wind speed and very much hopes to achieve Gold this week. I'll let you know if he does it. Good luck Matt!

Florence Maclean (on the left) and Pat Marshall with Matt the intrepid cyclist (far right) in front of The Jacobite which bears the 'Florence's Flyer' headboard which was made in honour of her birthday by engine owner Ian Riley. The photo was taken at Glenfinnan earlier this year by Steve Roberts.

'On the Rails' The Jacobite continues to sell out dally. The afternoon Jacobite finished on Friday August 30th and has been a welcome success. The morning run from Fort William to Mallaig continues Monday to Friday until October 25th, with the Saturday and Sunday runs continuing until September 22nd. Even then there is an extra Saturday on eon Saturday September 28th as Statesman Rail have commissioned it to run to Mallaig.
The Sunday Post, September 1st, carried a three-quarters page story of an engagement proposal made on The Jacobite (with champagne, flowers and the ring!) as the train made a special stop on Glenfinnan Viaduct. On top of the Viaduct's 21 arches, the happy couple were cheered on by passengers - and she said Yes!! Happy Days.
There was a lovely photo of the happy couple and james Shuttleworth of West Coast Railways is quoted as saying 'We're delighted we could help them out. We knew it was a romantic journey, but this seems to confirm that it is spellbinding as well.' Truly magic in the air!! The comment made in the article that the train snakes up from Glasgow to Mallaig is of course not true - yet!!

NELPG's K1 No 62005 returns to Carnforth by road
After completing a 'turn; on The Jacobite during the third week of August, a fault was found with firebox stays on the right hand side of the box. It appears several fractures had occurred and so the K1 was loaded (minus its tender) on a low loader and returned by road to Carnforth on August 23rd. work began on the firebox on August 27th and it is hoped that the engine will return to Fort William before too long and be re-united with its tender. In the meanwhile Ian Riley's Black 5's Nos. 45407 and 44871 will share duties on the morning only Jacobite.
See you on the train.
Sonia Cameron

Birdwatch - August 2013 by Stephen MacDonald
Wader passage picked up this month with small groups of waders seen most days on the shoreline between Morar and Arisaig or flying southwards over the sea.
One or two Black-tailed Godwits lingered about te golf course area throughout the month with at least 4 Black-tailed and one Bar-tailed Godwit there on the 30th. A flock of 25 - 30 Golden Plover hung around the same area for most of the month also.
Other waders recorded around the golf course area included Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Whimbrel, Turnstone and Oystercatcher.
Turnstones were also seen on the rocks at West Bay, Mallaig, and on the 18th a flock of at least 25 Whimbrel were seen heading down the Sound of Sleat, just off Mallaig.
Good numbers of Arctic and Common Terns seen feeding around the coastline from Mallaig to Arisaig right up to the month end.
Plenty of Gannets feeding close inshore and numerous reports of both Great and Arctic Skuas. Storm Petrels were seen fairly regularly from MV Sheerwater throughout the month.
A flock of at least 24 Canada Geese were seen in a field at Traigh Farm on the 15th and were seen on several occasions after that, including on the 24th, when they were seen resting on the sea off Traigh House along with at least 100 Greylags.
Red-throated Divers were seen carrying fish inland from the coast on several occasions, indicating that they were still feeding young. Late in the month, 2 adult Black-throated Divers were seen on Loch Eilt, but no sign of any offspring.
Large numbers of Swallows, House and Sand Martins, including many juveniles, were seen feeding around Loch nan Eala, Arisaig, on the 28th. Several reports from Camusdarach and Arisaig of both adult and juvenile Great-spotted Woodpeckers coming to garden feeders. Several sightings of Sea Eagles from the Morar area and Camusdarach during the month.

Aunt Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Karen would like to know when it was discovered that poisonous foxglove could be used to heal some heart conditions.
This description comes from The Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants and the AA Book of the British Countryside.
The scientific name for the Foxglove is Digitalis purpurea. All parts of this plant are poisonous to humans but in the past folk learnt to extract digitalin (cardiac glycosides) drugs from its dried leaves to use in small doses to treat some heart ailments. As these constituents could be fatal in overdose, they should only be used under professional supervision.

photoChequered Skiper butterfly about to feed on Foxglove nectar

Dr William Withering (1741 - 1799) trained as a medical doctor and had a long interest in medicinal plants. After finding a family recipe for curing dropsy (water retention), he started to investigate the medicinal use of foxglove. In 1785 he published Account of the Foxglove which contains dozens of carefully-recorded case histories, and showing that the powerful (and potentially dangerous) active substances - now called cardiac glycosides - in foxglove were effective in treating dropsy which is often one of the indications of a failing heart.
This is one of the many examples of traditional herbal knowledge leading to a major advance in medicine.
The cardiac glycosides in Foxgloves enable the heart to beat more strongly, slowly and regularly, without requiring more oxygen. Simultaneously these drugs stimulate urine production, this lowers the volume of blood and therefore reduces the stress on the heart.
Foxgloves take 2 years before they flower and can grow to about 1.5 m tall in sunny positions and can colonise disturbed ground. The first of 20 - 80 flowers can first open in May low on the stem, new flowers appear higher and higher up the stem and can go on flowering into September. The shape of the flowers has contributed to this plant having many names in folk-lore. Foxgloves spread by seeds and by creeping stems.
Dr Mary Elliott
A Chevallier (1996) The Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants
The AA (1973) Book of the British Countryside.

Varied and interesting trips again this month.

Roger Slingerland took his copy all the way from Slough to Mauritius,
where he is pictured with a steam engine in a restored sugar factory.

Ruth McVay (centre) with daughters Lynda and Laura and dog Cara took their copy to King's Park, Edinburgh this summer where they took part in the 'Race for Life'. Ruth is from Loanhead and says she has been coming up to the Small Isles, especially Muck, for many years. Ruth is, surprisingly, 74!

Stormy Stan took time out from the RNLI Gala Day to read a copy!

Billy, Mallaig, and Kate, Arisaig, read their West Word at L'Orient Interceltic Festival just before Kate snapped a tendon in her finger pulling the leg of her trousers down!

Kin Connections by Marlene MacDonald Cheng (mcmcheng@shaw.ca)
Picking up where I left off in the August 2013 issue, I need to make a couple of corrections; must have been asleep at the switch - so sorry:
In listing the children of Alexander (Oban) Gillis and his wife, Margaret MacLellan, I inadvertently mis-spelled the name of one of their children - "isabelal" should read "Isabella".
Also, Hugh (Oban) Gillis, son of the pioneer settlers Donald (Oban) Gillis and Ann MacDonald (of Knoydart), was indeed married to Catherine MacDonald, daughter of Donald (macAilein) and Margaret Gillis (daughter of Donald Ban Gillis). In the line following, I mistakenly wrote "Hugh (Oban) Gillis and Margaret Gillis had seven children"; it should read, "Hugh (Oban) Gillis and Catherine MacDonald had seven children ...".
In the following paragraph, the first line should read, "The eldest child of Hugh (Oban) and Catherine MacDonald ...", rather than "Hugh (Oban) Gillis and Margaret Gillis".

I have uprooted more information about the children of Donald Gillis, son of the Pioneer settlers, Donald (Oban) Gillis and his wife, Ann MacDonald. Donald Gillis (Jr) was born in 1803 in Dunmore, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia and died 11 February 1891 in Codroy, Newfoundland. His wife Margaret was born in 1810 at Broad Cove, Cape Breton. Margaret's mother was Catherine MacDonald and her father was Alexander MacNeil (Saor). Donald Gillis (Jr) and Margaret MacNeil married about 1825 at Judique, Cape Breton. Margaret died 27 August 1903 in Codroy, Newfoundland. Donald Gillis (Jr) and his wife Margaret MacNeil moved with their family in the early 1850s to the Codroy Valley in Newfoundland.
Donald Gillis (Jr) and Margaret MacNeil had eight sons (not nine, as I wrote in the August issue) and five daughters. The sons were Daniel, John, Roderick (Rory), Alexander, Hugh, Andrew, Angus, and Michael. The daughters were Catherine, Mary, Margaret, Annie, and Christine. I have dates of birth, marriage and death for most of these children of Donald Gillis (Jr) and Margaret MacNeil, if anyone is interested.
In the August 2013 issue, I gave a list of the eight children of John Gillis (son of Donald (Oban) Gillis and his wife Ann MacDonald) and Margaret Gillis, daughter of Angus (Kinlchmorar) Gillis. I have come across another source that says that John Gillis, son of Donald (Oban) Gillis and Ann MacDonald, was married to a Catherine MacDonald, with more children from her. Perhaps this is an error, caused by the large number of Gillises and MacDonalds in that relatively small area and the repetitive names of their children. It could be that John's first wife, Margaret, died and he remarried, but I cannot find any documentation of that happening. Another contributing factor could be that when John Gillis and his family moved to Colchester County, the people in the area of South River/St. Andrews lost track of that family.
In the August issue you learned about the sons of Donald (Oban, pioneer) Gillis and his wife Ann MacDonald. Now I shall provide information about their daughters - Catherine, Christina, Mary, Ann, Margaret, and Sarah.
Catherine Gillis married Alexander MacGillivray (an Uillt Mhór- the stream that flows past Dunmore). They did not have children.
Christina, Mary and Ann Gillis did not marry. Christina died young, while her sisters Mary and Ann died later in life.
Margaret Gillis married Duncan MacGillivray (Vamy) of Bailey's Brook, Pictou County, Nova Scotia. They had five children - Duncan, Hugh, Roderick, Ann, and Christina. Margaret's husband, Duncan died fairly young, and after that she moved with her children from Bailey's Brook to the Ohio, Antigonish County. It was there that Margaret lived the rest of her life, close to her sister Sarah.
Sarah Gillis married Alexander "Cartoo" MacLean, son of Duncan, son of Angus (pioneer), son of John Angus MacLean of Moidart, Scotland. Alexander's nickname is a strange one and is described by Marleen MacDonald Hubley in her book, "Angus MacLean: A Genealogy". It is believed that Alexander got his nickname because he bragged to everyone about the good deal he got on his horse. People would say to him, "Did you get the cart too?" and that was why they called him 'Cartoo'!!! Sarah Gillis and Alexander "Cartoo" MacLean had nine children: Flora, Duncan, Donald A., Christy, Angus, Mary, Andrew, Sarah, and Alexander. They lived at Ohio, Antigonish County, Nova Scotia.
Now that we have finished with the children of Donald (Oban, pioneer) Gillis, let me share with you an amusing anecdote relating to one of the grandchildren of Donald and his wife Ann. The grandchild in question is John Gillis, son of Hugh. John's family lived in Pinevale, Antigonish County, quite close to his brother Andrew's family. John was married to Mary MacIsaac, daughter of Donald MacIsaac, and they had seven children - two boys and five girls. John was very proud and protective of his girls. When the time came for the girls to be courted, John wanted to ensure that his girls got a proper Highland man for a husband. So he dictated that any young man who wished to court one of his daughters would have to endure a trial. At the end of the road leading to his farm, John installed a huge boulder that weighed 150 to 200 pounds. The young man who wished to court one of his daughters was obliged to lift that huge boulder off the ground. If he managed the feat, he was welcome to court one of John's daughters; otherwise, he was 'sent packing'!!! John's daughters had no say in the matter. I can just imagine the young men of that area practicing lifting boulders just for the pleasure of courting one of John's girls. Such was the 'stuff' of our pioneer ancestors; they had to be tough and strong in order to survive the conditions they faced every day of their lives.
As I come to the end of the family of Donald (Oban) Gillis and his wife Ann MacDonald, I must tell you that there are several other Gillis families who came to Antigonish County that I have not yet described - for example, there are the families of Angus Mór Gillis of Morar, Scotland, and his wife, Mary McDonell, daughter of Philip McDonell of Glengarry, Scotland; Angus Gillis of Morar, Scotland, and his wife Ann MacDougall; Donald Ban Gillis and his wife, a Miss MacGillivray. In addition, there are many descendents of the Antigonish County Gillises whose ancestors moved to Cape Breton, not to mention Gillis families who emigrated directly to Cape Breton.
Perhaps it is time for an examination of other families who emigrated to Antigonish County, as well as those who emigrated to Cape Breton. In the next issue we shall venture into the realm of the MacIsaacs of Moidart, Scotland. Do not fear; I shall get back to the Gillis families again, as well as the MacLellans, MacDonalds, MacGillivrays, etc. who emigrated from the areas serviced by West Word.

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