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September 2018 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
WEST COAST KELP BEDS UNDER THREAT
Ayr-based company Marine Biopolymers Ltd (MBL) recently approached Marine Scotland to indicate their intention to submit an application for a Marine Licence to mechanically harvest the kelp Laminaria hyperborea over a vast area of Scotland's West Coast, including areas of coastline between Mallaig and Ardnamurchan and around the Small Isles and the Isle of Skye.
The harvesting technique, which removes entire kelp plants including holdfasts, utilises a comb-like harvesting head (3-4 m wide) deployed from a boat and trawled through the kelp bed at approximately 0.5m above the rock substrate at a speed of around 3 knots for around 200m at a time. The tines on the comb are spaced apart at a width that should ensure that only larger plants older than five years are removed. The holdfasts are then separated from the plants and dumped back overboard. The kelp (which would be used for pharmaceutical products) would then be taken by boat to a proposed processing facility in Mallaig.
Marine Scotland's licencing team requested an environmental report to be submitted alongside any application, and MBL recently produced a scoping report as part of this process.
The scoping report, which was available for the public to comment on until 25th August, was not sent directly to several bodies listed on the report as key stakeholders, including local Community Councils and Community Trusts. On learning about the existence of the report, some managed to request an extension to the closing date to allow them to comment. However this extension was not granted to the wider community and the poor way in which the report was circulated by Marine Scotland meant that many people were not aware of it until the closing date had passed.
The plans have provoked furious reactions from the local community, environmentalists and politicians.
MP Ian Blackford said: "This is an area of great concern to many people not only working in kelp harvesting but also to the fishing industry, where a major change to conditions on the sea bed could adversely affect the habitat of the species they catch.
"From what I understand, kelp is fundamental to the well-being of a whole marine ecosystem which if not managed carefully ultimately has a detrimental knock-on effect right up the food chain, reducing populations and therefore yield. People are rightly concerned that mechanical recovery could permanently destroy the basic structures from which the plant grows and this has to be very carefully looked into".
Dr Sam Collin, Marine Planning Officer at the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said "The Trust is concerned that the large-scale harvesting of seaweed in Scottish waters will have a detrimental impact on the diverse and important ecosystems they support and we remain unconvinced that this activity can take place sustainably.
"There is a clear lack of data and understanding of the knock-on effects of seaweed harvesting on marine ecosystems and, without clear evidence to demonstrate the practice is ecologically sustainable and impacts can be adequately mitigated, it should not be permitted."
Ailsa Hayes, an oyster farmer from Ullapool who handcuts seaweed, said: "This is taking out a primary habitat that supports the whole food chain. It is fishing down the food chain at its worst.
"The importance of this habitat is so great that I believe allowing dredging at any level is to set a dangerous precedent where profit comes above a healthy coastal environment."
A Write Highland Hoolie Art Competition 2018
Many congratulations to Michelle Rodgers on winning the art competition held in the High School. by Mallaig's Book Festival. This lovely artwork will feature on the back page of this year's programme (out soon). Michelle was in S3 when she painted her picture.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
The majority of my West Word time this month has been taken up by reading about MBL's appalling proposals for mechanical harvesting of kelp on our coastline. This is an issue that effects us all, right here, and poses a threat to fishing and tourism as well as the sheer beauty and diversity of our marine environment. If you feel strongly about this then please make your voice heard. Kelp is currently harvested sustainably by hand and in this way can provide a source of income for our local communities. There is currently no evidence that kelp forests and the wildlife they harbour can ever fully recover from deforestation by mechanical harvesting. See article below. Rant over!
This month we welcome Geraldine MacKinnon as our new correspondent from Canna. Thank you, Geraldine!
Once again my thanks go to Anne and Jane for helping to stick labels on envelopes and to Morag and Ewen for assisting with the printing this month.
Well it definitely feels like summer is coming to an end. The schools are back, the rain has been somewhat relentless (a huge shock to the system after the glorious weather of Colorado and the weather we had here in June when it was a tropical paradise!) and the evenings seem to be getting ever shorter. Still, there's always hope for September! So, what's been going on lately? Knoydart Forest Trust have run a couple of stool making workshops which have been a fantastic opportunity to learn a new skill and work with locally grown materials. Before you know it we'll be making all sorts of other stuff I'm sure!
And speaking of locally grown things, there is a new enterprise up and running - 'Salad and Stuff'. This little enterprise is providing us with lovely fresh locally grown salad and a variety of seasonal veggies and fruits as they become ripe. This is part of the community plan to become more self-sufficient when it comes to producing our own food and it's amazing to know that the lettuce or tomatoes you're eating might have only been picked a few hours ago (especially if you're rubbish at growing things like me!).
Sadly we had some disappointing news just recently that the Road's End Café in Airor is no longer open for business. Veronika's decision to close was a hard one to make and was a culmination of various factors and we were all understandably gutted! It was a smashing wee café and I think everyone who went there over the last couple of years couldn't help but love it.
At the start of August we had our annual Games Day which had a good turn out and the weather stayed dry which is always a plus! The Dog Show was by far the most popular category with a total of 28 dogs being entered this year (Morag was over the moon!). You could say it was Paws-itively barking mad…
Our wee school did exceptionally well in winning a competition run by Calor Gas during the summer. We were gifted Ł2,500 to go towards our playground which badly needs new equipment. Calor Gas were giving out money to projects all around the whole county and it was based on a voting system so thank you to everyone who voted for Inverie! Robbie and Archie headed off to High School - all the best to them on their new adventures which I'm sure they'll have! Rossa was the only pupil to start in P1, and there were no new nursery pupils this year.
Kenny Morrison has unfortunately had to move to Mallaig this summer too after spending nearly all his life here, so if you know Kenny at all please stop and say hello to him and take a minute to let him tell you one of his "Kenny jokes" (Beware: they aren't always the cleanest of jokes!)
Think that's about it for now folks,
ISLE OF MUCK
A month when the weather returned to normal (it is many years since August was a fine dry month and it was hardly likely this year after the wonderful early summer.) The most important event this month has been the return to the island of Dave, Julie, Ben and Katie after two years farming in France. Farmers here complain of red tape but it was nothing compared to over there where every activity is surrounded by a sea of regulation largely ignored by the locals. But their return is good news for Muck; Dave and Julie are renting Port Mor House, increasing the visitor accommodation by one third. Ben and Katie are in Mallaig High School; they are fluent French speakers.
August was a month of Camas events; Ceilidh Trail, Oliver Rigg, Jinski, Kirsty Low and n'Hooligan from Fort William. Mostly in the Hall with a concert followed by Scottish dancing. Not all these entertainers were well supported by the island but there were always numerous visitors and yachts people to fill the gaps.
However, very well supported was football coach Alan from Eden Court Theatre, who spent an energetic afternoon with a mixture of visitors and islanders.
Now to the bigger picture. This month it is competition, and competition leads to better transport to the islands. Over most of the Western Islands CalMac enjoy a complete monopoly of sea transport and it is fair to say that when their ships are actually running they provide a reasonable service between the islands. But the Small Isles are different. We have four operators all of which contribute to the matrix of competition; CalMac, Arisaig Marine, Milligan Transport and Pete Fowler. All play a vital part but the last three operate with a massive handicap - they receive no state assistance; a situation which is probably illegal under EC competition rules. In Ireland every ferry operator receives state aid on any route. RET makes it even more difficult for private operators to compete but we do have the benefit of very low fares to the islands.
Next month I will come on shore again and take to the rails - the West Highland Line.
ISLE OF CANNA
Our new road, Finlay's Road (named after Finlay Crawford who built it) was officially opened by Norah MacKinnon on 1 August. A huge thank you to everyone who made this possible - it has been life changing for the community.
Islanders enjoyed a day out to Muck for the Small Isles Games; no trophy but it was good to catch up with everyone.
Visitors to the island have enjoyed sightings of Minke Whales, Dolphins and Basking Sharks which have not been seen for a few years.
Runrig fans made their way to Stirling for the Last Dance gig on the 17th and 18th and the venue under Stirling Castle was very fitting for the occasion.
The farm is busy getting sheep gathered in as the first lamb sale is on the 5th September and hopefully prices will be good.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
August has been a busy month for Canna House with preparation work for the imminent works program beginning on the House. A 12 week programme will see the West side windows being replaced and other drainage and roof work being undertaken to make the House wind and watertight before the Winter. Conservators have been working in the House to package and secure all the Collections to ensure their safety during the work.
Archivist Fiona has been continuing her series of lunchtime and Saturday talks on the Campbells of Canna and their work. The talks prove popular with visitors who enjoy seeing images of Canna in days gone by and especially seeing how little life on the island has actually changed over the last 70 years.
ISLE OF RUM
August has been a productive month; the early summer weather has brought a huge harvest of berries and mushrooms prompting many a happy foraging mission out and about and early Bramble jam making on Croft 3. We had visits scheduled from both our MSP Kate Forbes and MP Ian Blackford. Kate, who hadn't been to Rum before, had a whistle stop tour of the NNR with Lesley and the SNH staff, followed by her surgery in the village where she got to hear about all our local issues, and then a wander around the village to meet more locals before a quick photo opportunity at Kinloch Castle. Sadly, Ian's visit was cancelled due to bad weather.
The Marine Harvest shore base is coming along nicely and should be finished soon; contractor Ewan Kennedy unearthed a very large and unusual stone from the site and erected it at the entrance making it a bit more Rum-esque. The farm itself is mostly stocked and operating well. In deer news, some of the overly friendly village stags have been despatched, one of which was the majestic 14 pointer; weighing in at over 150kg, it was one of the heaviest stags shot to date on the island. With the stag season under way, John Alex Boyd is back and the first of the shooting guests have started to arrive.
In other wildlife news, everyone must be aware of the basking sharks being sighted around the Small Isles; Nic, Trudi and the gang have been making regular trips to Canna on basking shark watch, as there were sightings near to the fish farm, though David spied one over at Harris just off shore from the beach. All sightings have been posted on the HW&DT 'Whale Trail' app.
We have recently been made aware of the proposal for mechanical dredging of kelp beds around the west coast. This is causing some alarm in the Small Isles as most of the seabed around our islands has already been damaged by dredging and any further damage to the marine habitat could prove fairly devastating. The Small Isles Community Council is responding to the Marine Scotland consultation.
The number of visiting yachts this year, and indeed visitors full stop, has risen dramatically and to this end IRCT are having ten moorings put down soon, with help from Marine Harvest, who will also be allowing the public to land at their pontoon. Plans to improve shore services include a new amenity block containing more toilets, showers and a laundry. We would still like to remind yachts that we have limited waste facilities on the island so not to leave their rubbish anywhere other than in the skips at the main pier.
The Friends of Kinloch Castle visited again this month and invited new local members to join them for a meal at Kim's café in the village hall to discuss the latest news; In a tour around the castle the next day, KCFA were shocked again to see further deterioration and damage to the castle especially in Lady Monica's drawing room, where some panelling around the window had been removed, and the former doctor's surgery where the entire door frame has been taken out. They are sincerely hoping that Scottish government and SNH speed up the asset transfer process so that they can crack on and get some beneficial work carried out as the castle will suffer badly with another winter left the way it is.
ISLE OF EIGG
This month we said goodbye to the heat and hello to the usual drizzle seasoned with midges and the occasional dry spell, as generally comes to us when the rest of the country basks in sunshine ... Despite the weather, there was a very good turn out to put the cover on the huge Eigg Tree Nursery polytunnel, a really good island effort!
Everything is really green although the bracken is already turning and our community orchard is laden with fruits; the brambles are huge and early and there has been a huge crop of raspberries. On the odd sunny day, Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies were seen feasting in great numbers on heavy panicles of butterfly bushes in Cuagach. The occasional dolphin pod frolicking near the pier added to the happy vibe whilst the return of the mackerel to our shores have busied our local fishermen and brought a welcome and tasty omega 3 boost to our diet! The mushroom season has been great so far whilst at the pier, a new pirate boat - complete with skull and cross bones flag - has made Colm and all young islanders and visitors very happy indeed!
Not sure if this was enough of a compensation for the 15 French kids that travelled from Tremblay, near Paris (35 degrees) to Eigg (12 degrees) for a week of activities and Scottish discovery. With a team of great youth workers who set them a series of TV style challenges, they kept going through wind and rain, cleaned Kildonnan beach of plastic, made a new sign for one of our beauty spots, learnt Scottish country dancing and showed us some of their nifty urban dance moves in their last evening when they invited island teenagers to join them for an international "boum" (party). Sad that they only experienced Eigg in sunshine on the day they departed, but happy that these suburb kids who had never seen the sea before were able to experience a bit of wilderness and wildlife: they loved watching the seals through our ranger's super powerful telescope, although it was simply too overcast to catch a glimpse of our eagles.
Luckily the rain stopped for Jodie Robertson and Ian MacDonald's wedding on Laig beach on Saturday 18 August. Their wee boy Fionn was not too sure about his mum standing in the solemn circle of islanders as Marie our registrar pronounced the marriage vows, but happiness was restored when he was able to cast his shoes off and run around very happily on the beach in his kilt afterwards! Jodie, who grew up with her family on Eigg and now lives in Inverness, was delighted that most of her Eigg friends were able to come for this joyous occasion. With eclectic music by Fras, Blaze - granpa Mick is still rocking it - and brother Calum as DJ, not mentioning the super decoration of the hall courtesy of Miss Morrisson (we loved the transparent balloons!) the bride and groom and all their family and island guests had a great time!
Meanwhile early on in the month, our hearts missed a beat when we heard about young Clyde Wallace being airlifted to Raigmore following an accident at home. He is back on Eigg for a bit of rest after a successful operation on his hands' tendons at the Sick Children's hospital in Edinburgh but what an ordeal for the whole family! Brave Clyde, brother Logan and friend Dylan are all young island heroes for reacting so quickly and efficiently to this acute emergency!
But I will finish this Eigg report with the happy news of the latest island resident's arrival: baby Ellis, born on 9 August to proud parents Ben and Jill, whose "wet the baby's head" party gathered a great many well wishers at their home this Sunday afternoon! Our population has now officially risen to 107 inhabitants!
Mechanical Kelp Harvesting
Marine Biopolymer Ltd's pre-application for a five-year contract to allow large-scale mechanical harvesting of kelp has a preferred licence area which stretches from Lochinver to Mull, and out to the east coast of the Western Isles. It identifies areas of 'predicted viable resource' (i.e. areas they are interested in harvesting within the proposed licence area) which include kelp beds in Arisaig Bay (the north and south channels, and around the skerries), off Traigh and Camusdarach, in Loch Moidart, and in stretches of coastline around all of the Small Isles including Loch Scresort (Rum) and Galmisdale and Laig (Eigg). It also includes locations such as Achnahaird Bay, Big Sand and Loch Gairloch, Rubha Hunish and Loch Scavaig on Skye, and almost the entire coastline of both Iona and Coll. This list is by no means exhaustive.
Marine Scotland produced a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) into Wild Seaweed Harvesting in November 2016 which confirmed that "significant adverse effects can occur as a result of large scale (i.e. industrial) mechanised harvesting of seaweeds (namely kelps and wracks). These primarily relate to impacts on the ecological function of these important habitats (namely ecological interactions, food web dynamics and production) as well as on the ecosystem services that they provide (including coastal protection and carbon sequestration), and that these impacts may be further exacerbated in the future with the predicted effects of climate change. Harvesting also has the potential to affect cultural heritage (namely underwater heritage assets and the collection of beach-cast seaweeds by crofters)."
The report stated that "key issues include but are not limited to:
- Loss of habitat and/or shelter for a range of plants and animals, alongside loss of direct and indirect food sources. This has consequences for detrital grazers and suspension feeders, as well as higher trophic levels, e.g. mammals, birds and fish;
- Loss of nursery grounds for juvenile invertebrates and fish, with consequences for higher trophic levels and commercial fish stocks;
- Loss of the physical modification effects of seaweed, e.g. wave damping, which may result in increases in coastal erosion and/or flooding events;
- Loss of carbon stores and sinks provided by some seaweed species; and
- Loss or damage to cultural heritage assets and reduction in resource available to crofters."
Kelp beds in Arisaig Bay. Photo KB.
The Scottish Environment LINK Marine Group's response to the scoping report states that "LINK consider it vital that the Scottish Government establish a clear definition of sustainable seaweed harvesting that relates to the whole ecosystem that kelp habitats support and not just the kelp itself. If an ecosystem-based management approach is used and 'sustainability' refers to the whole ecosystem, rather than just kelp recovery, then it is difficult to see how the proposed harvesting method can be considered sustainable."
It continues, saying "The scoping report assumes that the harvested kelp habitat will return to a pre-harvested state over time, but with varying and emerging environmental stressors (e.g. climate change, ocean acidification) full recovery to a pre-harvested state is not certain." Kelp recovery may be hampered by other seaweeds recolonising areas, and the grazing activity of sea urchins on young plants which prevents regrowth. If the kelp beds do not fully re-establish, then kelp harvesters may have to move on to new areas to obtain their required quantity of kelp.
Kelp is currently harvested by hand in an environmentally sustainable way under strict licencing conditions using nothing but a pair of scissors and a collecting bag - a stark contrast to MBL's mechanical claw. Hand harvesters are required to leave the hold fast, the stalk and a large part of the frond so that the plant can re-grow. Small scale harvesting in this way could be developed and provide opportunities to local communities with little harm to the environment.
Areas of 'predicted viable resource' (shown in red) within the local area. From the scoping report at: http://marine.gov.scot/sites/default/files/r3007_wild_seaweed_harvesting_scoping_report_17july2018lr_0.pdf
Kelp harvesting with a mechanical rake.
Source: Steen, et al,-2014
MALLAIG & MORAR HIGHLAND GAMES
5th August 2018
Ben MacDonald being presented with the Mallaig & Morar Highland Games' Morar Motors trophy by his uncle, Colin MacDonald
A Write Highland Hoolie! Mallaig Book Festival, Friday 9th - Saturday 11th November
Feature Writing Workshop with Robert Wright
Once again we are delighted to have the support of The Scots Magazine and its award winning editor Robert Wight. As our media partner the magazine is carrying regular features on the Festival in its monthly editions.
Robert, last year named Scottish Consumer Magazine Editor of the Year for his work on The Scots Magazine, will be with us over the weekend of the Festival (9th - 11th November), and on the Saturday he will again be holding an hour long Feature Writing Workshop. The workshop proved very popular at last year's Festival and is a rare chance to home your writing skills with a highly regarded journalist. There will be the opportunity develop ideas you'd like to work on and gain invaluable feedback from Robert.
Various types of feature
Structure and how to craft the ideal intro
Writing for an audience
The perfect pitch
What to bring
Come armed with a few ideas for features you'd love to write. A synopsis of around 100 words for each idea is plenty. You'll get the chance to work on one of these ideas during the session.
Places are limited to ten - so don't hesitate - book now!
Tickets are now on sale through www.eventbrite.co.uk which you can also reach through our website, www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com. If you are unable or unwilling to book through the internet, please contact Ann on 01687 450263.
Shipyard Delays for CalMac's New Ferries
Two new vessels currently being built by Ferguson Marine Engineering Ltd on the Clyde, the MV Glen Sannox and Vessel 802, which were due to be ready for service in early 2018, are now scheduled for delivery during summer 2019 and spring 2020 respectively. Vessel 802, which is to be allocated to the Uig-Lochmaddy-Tarbert route, will not now be entering service until at least summer 2020. It is hoped that the eventual introduction of the new ferry on this route will improve the availability of ferries to our local area and improve our services.
Councillor Uisdean Robertson, Chairman of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said "There has been much speculation around timescales recently and whilst we recognise the benefits the building of the two new vessels on the Clyde will bring to the economy of that area and welcome that a handover date has now been confirmed by the responsible Cabinet Secretary, we are disappointed that there will a delay of now well over two years to the final availability. We urge the Government and CMAL to ensure that, going forward, sufficient resources are targeted to the build projects so that there is no further risk to the handover and in-service dates."
Westie Shortlisted for Award
The West Highland Community Rail Partnership have been shortlisted for an award at the forthcoming ACoRP (Association of Community Rail Partnerships) Community Rail Awards 2018 in Glasgow.
The award category is Best Community Engagement Project for their theatre project, Brief Encounters on the West Highland Line, which was performed at venues along the West Highland Line earlier this year.
If you missed seeing it then, the play will be performed again at 1.45pm on Friday 28th September at the MMCC.
Young Island Heroes
It's every parent's nightmare: you're out and a major accident happens to one of your kids at home. Norah Barnes was still at the pier after putting her eldest son on the ferry, accompanied by his dad, in the first leg of his journey to Costa Rica, when her youngest, Clyde, who had gone back home, stumbled on the steps of the front door whilst running, his hand smashing through the glass pane of the front door.
With blood dripping everywhere from a severe cut in his wrist, Clyde did not panic and called 999 straightaway whilst his brother Logan jumped on his bike to fetch their mother. Meanwhile, as pal Dylan arrived on the scene, the first aid training he had undergone a few months before kicked in, and he immediately pulled Clyde's hand up to slow down the blood loss, keeping equally calm and doing all he could to reassure him, giving time to the island first responders to kick in the emergency response. Clyde, whose accident had severed an artery and 8 tendons was airlifted very rapidly to Inverness, but was then re-directed to Edinburgh, Sick Kids Hospital where he was given a blood transfusion and underwent a three hour operation to stitch his wrist up.
"It was really great that our kids kept their cool and reacted so quickly in this emergency," said Norah. "I am really proud of them and it just shows how important it is to get familiar with first aid at the youngest age! You never know when you might need to use that skill, especially living in remote areas. We would like to thank the Eigg First Responder team for their help and support and the Paramedics and airlift crew who do an amazing job."
RNLI NEWS - Mallaig Severn Class Lifeboat
Mallaig's Severn Lifeboat undertook an unusual passage on the morning of 26th August 2018 (Bank Holiday weekend). Starting off in Hertfordshire in the early hours, she proceeded overland by road to Mallaig, arriving in the evening in the careful hands of the Park and Clissold families.
No, this was not the station boat Henry Alston Hewat but a scale model of her, built by Dave Park from Stevenage. Sadly, Dave, a supporter of the RNLI and also a keen and talented model maker, passed away earlier this year. Over some years he built a radio controlled, sailing replica of the Mallaig Severn class Lifeboat, reproducing the exact detail, including the Y-boat number.
Dave Park's nephew Roger Clissold contacted the station to inform them of the family's wish to donate the model to the Mallaig Lifeboat Station. The operations team at Mallaig had no hesitation in accepting their kind offer after seeing pictures that Roger had forwarded on. The model, which is approximately four feet long, is now encased in a glass display box. It is a beautiful replica and a credit to the patience and skill Dave possessed.
On Sunday 26th August the operations team and crew welcomed Dave's extended family to the station to receive the model to be displayed at the station. Dave was very fond of holidaying in Scotland and it seems a fitting tribute to his hard work and passion for the RNLI that 17-26 has come home. MC
On and Off the Rails
Inevitable Bustitution on the West Highland extension
Planned engineering works between Arisaig and Lochailort as reported in my column last month are ongoing to the extent that a line closure between Mallaig/Fort William in both directions to all passenger trains is now inevitable.
The line closure will be in place from 05:00 on Saturday 29th September to 23:59 on Monday 1st October, after which normal service will resume. ScotRail have in place plans for buses/coaches to replace their trains in both directions for the three day closure of the line. From Mallaig the departure times will be earlier than the booked train times to allow for timed arrival at Fort William to connect with trains travelling south.
The 06:03 ex Mallaig on the Saturday and Monday will leave at 05:55. Time to store luggage, folding wheelchairs, bikes etc will also have to be factored in. So please, if travelling that weekend, arrive at the Mallaig railway station ahead of time.
The 10:10 ex Mallaig on all three days will consist of two buses and departure times are 09:53 and 09:55, one of which will divert to pick up at off main road stations i.e. Morar, whilst the other will go through directly to Fort William.
The 16:05 ex Mallaig will again consist of two buses departing Mallaig at 15:49 and 16:00. The 18:15 ex Mallaig on all three days of bustitution is shown currently is departing at the booked time.
I cannot stress too strongly the importance of arriving at the stations early on all three days, if travelling to Fort William and/or onwards. Times for services from Fort William to all stations to Mallaig can be checked online or by visiting our helpful staff at staffed railway stations.
Other services affected, and by necessity now cancelled over the three days are The Jacobite services and the Royal Scotsman touring train. This will have a knock-on effect, and make a difference, to staffing arrangements and purchasing in of fresh produce for local cafes/restaurants/B&Bs, guesthouses and hotels. I know of some hotel cancellations already. Be aware and be prepared!!
At least it is only for three days - it could be worse, and it will ensure our safety on the line. New rails are already being stockpiled at Arisaig and I presume elsewhere.
Finally - good luck if travelling.
First known graffiti on a ScotRail train in Mallaig
Sad to report that the above headline and the news stories published on August 23rd appear to be true.
The above-named incidents, which occurred approximately ten days apart on a class 156 Super Sprinter train stationed at Mallaig overnight, are subject to an ongoing British Transport Police investigation so little can be said at this stage.
The platforms are well lit at night, CCTV cameras are live and the lit main road into the Port of Mallaig is constantly used at night.
On behalf of all the rail companies and volunteers who strive to give a good welcome to visitors and returning and departing locals, and be as helpful as we can - it is hard to understand why this should happen on our patch.
Let us hope that this can be put behind us and that these isolated events do not occur again.
WCRC Jacobite Gains a New Driver
On Wednesday 22nd August Matt Earnshaw was officially "Passed Out" as a fully fledged driver on The Jacobite steam train.
Matt has been involved with The Jacobite for many years, preparing locomotives at Fort William and at Iain Riley's yard in Bury, eventually becoming a "Passed" Fireman and passing his knowledge and experience on to younger members of The Jacobite crew.
A keen cyclist, he raced The Jacobite steam train from Fort William to Mallaig on several occasions, and won every time! When not working on steam trains he is a keen follower of international cycle races including the Tour de France and the Tour of Britain.
He was involved in the restoration of the Flying Scotsman undertaken by Colin Green and Ian Riley, and after its restoration took part in test runs as a Fireman, and Driver on Preserved railway lines. This probably makes him the youngest driver ever to drive the Flying Scotsman. He also acted as Fireman on it during its inaugural passenger runs on the main line.
Congratulations go to Matt, a fitting reward for all his dedicated hard work and commitment to the rail industry.
WCR Jacobite News
Following a very busy six months (is it really that long!) with many thousands of happy travellers to and from Fort William to Mallaig, inevitably the season starts to wind down.
The afternoon service on Saturdays and Sundays will cease on Sunday 2nd September as planned.
The afternoon service Monday to Friday will cease on Friday 14th September as planned.
The morning service on Saturdays and Sundays will now cease on Sunday 23rd September. This is one week earlier than it was booked to cease, due to the aforementioned line closure.
The 2018 morning service will continue operation Monday to Friday until Friday 26th October - make the most of it, we miss it when it's gone. Hast ye back is all I can say, and thank you for the trade that it brings to the Port of Mallaig. The tannoy announcement by certain guards on The Jacobite uses that phraseology now, "I commend the idea to the house" - as is said.
Withdrawal of WCRC The Jacobite Festive Service
It has just been announced that WCRC have made the decision to withdraw the advertised 2018 "Festive Jacobite Service" - due to commence at the end of November - which means that this year's service will end on Friday 26th October. The company will return to Mallaig with The Jacobite for a full summer season again in 2019.
The decision to withdraw the planned and advertised festive service was not taken lightly, but was purely on the grounds of commercial viability. In order to run the service in December it would have meant leaving locomotives and rolling stock in Fort William yard for 4/5 weeks in November, unused but having to be fully maintained in good condition, and this was considered to be unviable.
For the previous two years WCRC have run a festive service from Fort William to Mallaig, but now it is no longer possible.
We thank WCRC for these past two years; it was good while it lasted, but we totally understand the commercial reasons why it cannot be sustained. In the meantime the daily four ScotRail trains should be very busy with touring coach party "Tartan and Tinsel" days off.
See you on the train,
BIRDWATCH July 2018 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly typical July, with lots of locally bred juvenile birds in evidence.
Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers were reported from several gardens in the Morar and Arisaig areas. Some good sized flocks of juvenile Goldfinches were seen feeding on seed heads and roadside thistles in Arisaig, Back of Keppoch and Morar. Family groups of both Greenfinches and Bullfinches were also seen near the end of the month, feeding on ripening Rowan berries. Juvenile Whinchats were seen at Camusdarroch and a juvenile Sparrowhawk was seen in a Tougal garden on the 21st.
Juvenile Common Terns were seen at Loch Ailort and both Arctic and Common Terns were seen off Arisaig and Traigh. Young Guillemots were seen in the Sound of Sleat. Most warblers have finished breeding by mid-July but still several reports of Blackcaps, Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers. From mid-month passage waders started to appear. The first few birds mainly Redshank and Dunlin. By the last week small numbers of Golden Plover, Snipe, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, and Sanderling had also made an appearance, sometimes stopping to rest or feed, mainly along the shoreline or in coastal fields from the Morar Estuary to Back of Keppoch.
The Barn Owls at the Mallaig cliff site had at least three almost fully fledged chicks during the first week of the month.
Some better news concerning the birds on the Traigh islands. A Herring Gull that had been ringed as a chick there on the 9th July 2017 was sighted alive and well in Bullock Harbour, Dublin on the 5th July 2018, just over 400km south of the ringing site! There must be something about Southern Ireland, that a Cormorant and a Herring Gull from the same tiny island off Traigh have turned up there!
World War One in Arisaig
Help us complete the record!
There were a total of 99 people who served in the war listed in the Arisaig and South Morar Record of Service and we are keen to track down as many as possible. 22 died in the war and the remainder survived though many were marked by the war. The majority of people from this area served in the western front and spent many years in the trenches in some of the worst of the fighting of the war.
Several stories are emerging. Pipe Major Edwin MacPherson was born in Acharacle. His father Donald was the tenant at Keppoch Farm. Edwin joined up before the war and served in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915 where the Pipe Band acted as stretcher bearers and in 1916 at the Battle of Romani near the Suez Canal for which he composed a pipe tune. He was later invalided out before the regiment went to France. He married before the war and lived in Glasgow where he died in 1924 at the age of 57.
John, Donald and Ronald were three sons of John and Mary MacDonald who lived at Quality Cottages. All served in France from 1916 - 1919 in battles at the Somme, Arras, Ypres and Passchendaele. Donald was wounded in November 1918 in a platoon reduced from 48 to 3 men. Ronald was also invalided out in June 1918 and John was awarded a Military Medal for carrying despatches, particularly dangerous as you had to emerge from the trenches and dodge sniper fire. But we don't know who their descendants are today.
We have managed to identify nearly half of the people but are keen to complete the record as much as possible. If you know of anyone or have any photos, cuttings, papers or other records from the time, we'd be very grateful to have copies if you are happy for them to be shared. We are keen to know which families the soldiers came from, their experience during the war and their life after the war and who are their descendants today.
If you can give us some time to let us know about your ancestors please contact Susan Carstairs (450327), Elizabeth MacDonald (450604) or Alison Stewart at the Land Sea and Islands Centre (450771 or 450321).
We hope that work will start on the path to the monument in September.
ARISAIG AND SOUTH MORAR RECORD OF SERVICE
On Monday 27th August the Land, Sea and Islands Centre received into its care the beautiful and unique Arisaig and South Morar Record of Service. Created at the end of the First World War, the book is essentially a scrapbook of original postcards, photographs and accounts from the people of Arisaig who served in the war. 99 people are commemorated in the Record, 23 of whom did not return. The book stands as a moving memorial to them all.
Slovak Ambassador visits Arisaig
On a bright and blustery day in early August, the Arisaig Land, Sea and Islands Centre played host to a visit by Mr ?ubomír Rehák, the Slovak Ambassador to the UK, who was in Scotland as part of the commemorations marking the centenary of the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918. Ambassador Rehák, who was accompanied by his wife and by Craig Murray, Slovak Honorary Consul in Scotland, was given a warm welcome to Arisaig by local Councillors, Allan Henderson and Denis Rixson. They joined local people at the Memorial to Czech and Slovak soldiers on Arisaig's sea front, where the Ambassador laid a wreath in honour of Czech and Slovak personnel who were trained in Arisaig. He gave a moving tribute to the Czechoslovak Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents deployed in enemy occupied territory in World War Two, one in three of whom lost their lives. He spoke particularly of Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis who died following Operation Anthropoid, which had resulted in the assassination of SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich. Gabcik and Kubiš both underwent their paramilitary training in Arisaig.
A conducted tour had been arranged for the Ambassador, during which he visited several local sites associated with SOE wartime activities, including Arisaig House (SOE HQ), Traigh House and Garramore.
The ambassador rounded off his visit to Arisaig with a reception at Land, Sea and Islands Centre, where he gave an insightful and fascinating talk about the history of Central Europe. In concluding his remarks, he expressed his sadness and disappointment in the UK's withdrawal from the EU, and the divisions created which he said would compromise the strength and unity of the European Union to the detriment of both the EU and the UK. Later on Twitter, Ambassador Rehák praised the Land, Sea and Islands Centre and thanked the people of Arisaig, past and present, for honouring the memory of the Czechoslovakian soldiers who were based in the village.
For anyone wanting to know more about the Special Operations Executive and its work in the area during the second World War, the Land, Sea and Islands Centre has a fascinating exhibition dedicated to the SOE. It is open throughout the year. www.arisaiginfo.org.uk
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Ady and Nic from Rum took a copy of West Word with them on their holiday to Ireland - here they are at the Giant's Causeway!
Meanwhile, somewhere in Arisaig someone was dying for a read...
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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