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September 2019 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
TOURIST TAX? HAVE YOUR SAY!
The Highland Council is seeking views from Highland businesses, residents and visitors on whether it should introduce a Transient Visitor Levy (TVL) - sometimes known as a 'Tourist Tax'.
Highland welcomes over six million visitors a year, including day visitors and cruise passengers. Whilst all visitors are welcome, the Council also needs to manage the effects these large numbers are having on the region's services, resources and infrastructure.
A Transient Visitor Levy is one option the Council is considering for raising income to manage the impact of tourism and help the Council invest to ensure the region continues to be a great place to live and visit.
It is estimated that a Highland Transient Visitor Levy could generate £5 - £10 million each year, depending on how a scheme was designed.
The Council would like to hear your thoughts on whether such a scheme should be used in Highland and, if so, how. They have created an online survey at https://www.highland.gov.uk/TVL which takes around ten minutes to complete. It will be open until 20th October 2019.
Parking Charges - West Bay Car Park
Highland Council are to introduce charges at West Bay car park in Mallaig after councillors agreed to new parking proposals at the end of August. West Bay will offer mixed use pay and display parking, allowing for short and long stay parking.
After an initial 30 minute free period, motorists will pay £1 for two hours, £2 for four hours, or £3 for ten hours, and there will also be a daily ticket available for £4. A season ticket (with no guarantee of a space) will cost £10 per month. The latter will be available online via the "RingGo" cashless parking app (a service which can currently be used to pay for parking in Fort William).
Councillor Allan Henderson said: "It is hoped that the charges will help traffic move on, and allow others to park."
East Bay car park will remain free for the time being, subject to further public engagement.
NTS OPPOSE PLANS FOR CANNA FISH FARM
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) have voiced their opposition to proposals by MOWI (formerly Marine Harvest) to site a large-scale open pen fish farm in the Sound of Canna. The NTS said 'Based on the information provided by MOWI so far about their fish farm proposals, we have no confidence that their plans would not undermine, if not destroy, the very things that make Canna so important. In all conscience, we cannot support MOWI's proposals. We would be failing in our core purpose as a conservation charity if we did, as well as betraying the wishes of John Lorne Campbell, who donated Canna and Sanday to our care.'
NTS feel that the proposed fish farm poses unacceptable risks to the sea and the birdlife around the tiny island, and would put its booming tourism economy under strain.
MOWI says ten staff - some full and some part time - would be required for the farm, possibly providing work for islanders, and the Canna scheme would allow it to close down two sites on the Scottish mainland close to sensitive wild salmon habitats.
However NTS say the Canna site, which would cover 16,000 sq metres and sit close to the picturesque harbour, will deter tourists, cruise ships and yachts, reducing the island's main source of income.
Help Save Kinloch Castle's Orchestrion!
Tucked away under the main staircase in Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum is a very rare and special instrument of international importance. It is an Imhof and Mukle Orchestrion, bought by Sir George Bullough in 1906 along with nearly forty music 'rolls'. It is one of the biggest ever made and plays the instruments of the orchestra through punched rolls of music. It is a truly magnificent beast and can be heard throughout the castle, but is in need of major renovation and restoration. Apart from a lack of maintenance over the years, it has also suffered from woodworm infestation and general wear and tear. It needs to be taken off the island to a competent organ builder, and careful restoration work will enable it to sound once more. The cost will be in the region of £60,000, including the restoration of the musical rolls.
Kinloch Castle Friends Association, who have applied for asset transfer of the castle and are raising money for the restoration of the building, are relaunching their separate appeal for £60,000 to restore the Orchestrion. It is intended that this restoration will take place whether or not asset transfer is granted.
For more information and a link to their fundraising page, please see the Kinloch Castle Friends Association website: kinlochcastlefriends.org/kcfa/orchestrion/
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It certainly feels as if autumn is approaching and the rowan berries are looking spectacular just now. Is this an indication of a hard winter to come? We'll have to wait and see.
We always enjoy seeing where West Word travels to in the photos sent in for our 'World Wide West Word' feature but for once, this month, we've had none sent in! Please do take a copy of the paper with you when you're away and take a fun photo for us. Don't forget to send us your Pet of the Month contributions, poems, birthday greetings, congratulations, and anything else you'd like to see in the paper!
Our railway correspondent Sonia has had a busy month - we look forward to reading her railway news again next month.
Thanks to Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes this month and, once again, to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing.
There's a very autumnal feel in the air now and the hills are starting to turn golden and purple with the heather. Stalking season is back underway and the sheep have just about all been gathered and clipped.
We have had a few fantastic get togethers this month despite the lack of a village hall. At the start of the month the Knoydart Games got going with all sorts of shenanigans. Great to have so many folk over from Mallaig in glorious sunshine apart from the downpour that caught everyone out before the last boat home.
David Matthews made it back to Knoydart for a few days rest after a surprise welcome party in Broadford. He is a quarter of the way through an epic 6,000 mile trek around the UK and Northern Ireland visiting every Samaritans branch along the way. He is raising money and awareness of the fantastic work they do and doing a stint in every branch as he visits them. You can follow him on Facebook at "The Listening Walk" or go to www.thelisteningwalk.co.uk . Many Knoydart folks have been joining him on his journey throughout the country to walk a few miles together. Next stop Glasgow!
We have finally secured funding for the first part of the new Hydro project where most of Knoydart electricity comes from. Our current system is in dire need of repair so a huge thank you to the hardworking Knoydart Renewables board and retiring chairperson Roger Trussell in particular for getting us over the first hurdle.
The highlight of the month for many was the 81st joint birthday party of Will (30), Steph (30) and Kira (21). We had a cracking ceilidh in the Lodge with Fras playing the night away. It was lovely to see lots of faces from near and far making it to the celebration.
The Carnach bridge is now open after many months and a few setbacks. The Camusrory Estate was instrumental in achieving this and we are very grateful to them. Great to have the path in and out of Knoydart fully functioning again.
Ami our Ranger has been busy with tours and events to celebrate Community Land Week from 10th-18th August, ending with a sand sculpting competition on Long Beach. There were some amazing creations and local artist Fiona Lennie chose Victor's sculpture to be first prize - a Harry Potter Hogwarts set.
We had a sad end to the month with a goodbye party for all at Sandaig. Jon, Janet, Mel, Jim, Maja and Amelie will be much missed in Knoydart but we wish them well in their new home and their new ventures. Welcome to Roland and Bettina who have just moved in.
Also a warm welcome to Kilchoan's new ghillie Terry who has joined us for the season.
ISLE OF MUCK
The flora and fauna of Muck regularly impresses visitors with its colour, diversity and scale. This rugged landscape/seascape often produces an explosion of colour or life. At present the local dolphin population are putting on some spectacular displays but the for the last couple of weeks the island has been flooded with Painted Lady butterflies. And I do mean flooded! Every patch of thistles has been covered and our garden at Port Mor has, at times, resembled an episode of David Attenborough's "Life in the Undergrowth"! It transpires that this is a natural phenomenon that occurs every ten years or so but I, for one, never remember seeing anything like it. In some ways it a timely reminder of what we are fast losing nationally, as the hay meadows of my youth were always alive with butterflies. Sadly, in many parts of the country, said hay meadows and their residents become rarer with every passing year. I hear that there may well be another eruption in the autumn as the offspring of this generation emerge, prior to drifting back south for the winter. Let's hope so.
On the entertainment front it's been a busy month. We've had a singing workshop with Mandy Ketchin which everyone who attended enjoyed immensely. Next, and staying with a musical theme, came the 2019 Lochaber Ceilidh Trail on 26th July. Well attended and always looked forward to by islanders and visitors alike, it was a memorable evening. Great to see such proficiency in such young musicians. On 2nd August, Ollie Rigg followed hard on their heels, treating us to another thoroughly entertaining evening of ceilidh music and dance. Not that all the Camas events were musical, far from it! Carol Meldrum and Lone Wright organised and ran a knitting and crochet workshop which appealed to all ages. And Alan Gray spent a couple of days here running football and drama workshops (not at the same time, obviously! It's not the Premier League!) Both went down a storm with the younger residents and the final football session included a mixed ages match. Ever so slightly competitive, so I hear! On the 20th we returned to music with the incredibly gifted fiddle player, Ryan Young. For two hours the Craft Shop reverberated to some of the most amazing fiddle playing. Muck is very lucky to have an organisation like Camas. A lot of effort goes into organising such events and they are a big feature of the summer here.
Much of the focus on the farm this month has been on preparations for the lamb sales. It's amazing. This year has passed so quickly that it doesn't seem long ago they were being born. To see them penned up on the top pier ready for the lorry is quite a sight. Much rests on the numbers raised each year and the prices they achieve. With the uncertainty of Brexit hanging like a thunder cloud over the future of livestock farming, one can't help but wonder if our "Lords and Masters" at Westminster have the vaguest idea the effect their decisions may have on this fragile landscape and its custodians!
I'll end on a drum I've banged in the past but make no apology for beating it again. Parking charges in Mallaig! I hear one will be able to purchase a monthly ticket. You pay your money and hope there's a space! Bit like going up to the till at the supermarket, paying for a loaf of bread and then being allowed to take one IF there's one on the shelf! If not, tough! As tourism is the life blood of Mallaig and the islands, let's hope Highland Council can't think up any more hurdles to put in the way of people wanting to visit the area!
ISLE OF CANNA
A mixed helping of weather this month - sunny days mixed with some necessary rain. Certainly makes the lawns grow in Canna House garden, which require mowing at least once a week. Elsewhere in the garden, the orchard trees are getting heavy with apples of old and interesting varieties. We are planning an 'Apple Day' in September - just a fun event inviting people to see the apples on display and hear about the different trees, and maybe sample some tarte tatin, toffee apples, or chutney. Wednesday, September 18th is the day.
We have had a few visits now from Midas Media, husband and wife filming duo Patricia and Scott from Aberdeen, who have been commissioned to produce a 'fly on the wall' observational documentary portraying a kind of 'year in the life of Canna' from the perspective of residents and significant events throughout the year. They have already recorded footage around the farm, community meetings, ferries coming and going, and some of you will remember them filming the antics during the Small Isles Games here in July. We expect the finished programme to be aired on BBC ALBA sometime in 2020.
Patricia and Scott conduct their filming fairly unobtrusively. Sometimes, however, it can begin to feel like we exist in some kind of goldfish bowl here on Canna. It seems the 'Media' love a story - or they will invent one anyway - citing 'public interest' and prompting articles in the national press and unsolicited, often unwelcome calls from journalists. Most recently Canna is in the news again, regarding the proposal from MOWI (formerly known as Marine Harvest) to site a salmon farm off the east coast of the island. As previously reported here, MOWI have opened discussions with Canna residents, and we have listened politely to what they have to say - but don't believe everything you read or hear - at present the community are collectively undecided about the potential benefits or disbenefits a fish farm might bring to the island.
On the good news front, this summer has turned out to be the best breeding season for seabirds for many years. Kittiwakes (in decline around most of Scotland) were the biggest gainers (1,457 nests - a record for Canna), with Guillemots, Razorbills, Shags and Puffin all recording significant increases. The 'Canna Ringing Group' last year celebrated the significant milestone of 50 years of seabird monitoring on Canna. From modest beginnings, the ringing of birds has now built up a nationally important dataset of information, and increases in technology have enabled hi-tech tagging of some species, yielding some fascinating discoveries. As Bob Swann, who heads up the Ringing Group, observes, 'An adult Kittiwake tagged in summer 2018 left Canna around 19th August and flew west across the Atlantic to the Labrador Sea off Canada. It stayed in that area till 27th January 2019 and then returned east, arriving in western Scotland on 9th February. On 20th February, it changed its mind and flew back across the Atlantic to the Labrador Sea, where it stayed for around 10 days before returning to Canna by 11th March. Incredible movements for such an apparently delicate seabird.'
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
In the 1940's, John Lorne Campbell decided to pin up a map of the Hebrides on the wall of Canna House Billiard Room. The map covers the whole wall from floor to ceiling and has become an icon of its time. It has appeared in many images and TV documentaries over the years and if it could talk, it would have some stories to tell! Did you know that John Lorne and Margaret Fay Shaw would host a weekly billiards match in Canna House for all locals and visitors? They would play for pennies and John meticulously recorded all the scores for us to ponder at today! They also provided two teapots, one full of tea and one of rum . . .
The map however is beginning to show its age. A combination of time and cigarette smoke (Margaret smoked until she died at the age of 101), have meant that the map is now in need of some serious conservation work. During the course of the planned reparation works for Canna House, the map would need to be removed from the wall for safe keeping anyway so it was decided recently to have the map taken down for repair and restoration.
In August, Helen Creasy of the Scottish Conservation Studio was contracted to spend a weekend meticulously removing the map, which was held on the wall by rusty drawing pins, remove basic debris and package it for transportation and eventual cleaning at the Studio in Hopetoun House.
Each section of the map was numbered and photographed for ease of eventual replacing in situ after the remedial works are completed in the House. Some of the maps even had small blue chalk marks on them which appear to have come from the billiard cues stored against the walls. The chalks are all still in the drawer too . . .
Helen also removed wallpaper from one of the bedrooms in Canna House on a wall which needs replastering. The removal uncovered a very pretty blue 'bow' border, which comes from the Thom family time, before John and Margaret Campbell bought Canna in 1938. The fleur-de-lys paper was put up by Sheila Lockett, John's secretary in the 1950's.
We look forward to seeing both the map and the wallpaper back up in due course and are sure that the map in particular will look splendid when back in its rightful place!
ISLE OF RUM
August has been a trying month for the community on Rum, while the tourist season has plodded on, holidays had, visitors coming and going, the weather doing its thing and the ferry coming and going, there has been an undercurrent of discontent among some of the community, growing for some time. It's well known that you can't please all the people all of the time and is this just as true for a small community as ours as any city or whole nation. With roots in a perceived laissez faire approach to community development and with so much on everyone's plate, it's possible standards had slipped. But, our community company tries as hard as it can to provide results that benefit everyone: residents, visitors and, importantly, the community of the future. It doesn't get it right first time, every time - who does? But if mistakes are made then the best course of action is surely to make it better than to continue on the wrong track. Not always easy though.
The discontent culminated in a general meeting for the community company where board decisions were under threat of being overturned and potentially permanently damaging the credibility and future of our company. This is harsh when there are so few of us. I'd like to think that common sense prevailed and we left the meeting continuing on the right track. But what of the discontent? It's still there; how do small communities deal with that and turn it into something positive? Answers on a postcard please.
Despite all this, it is still a wonder to live here; to feel the wind in my hair and sea breeze on my face; I hope everyone else feels that too.
In other news, school's back and so is Deb Ingram, our school teacher who has been away for a while. Nursery teacher Jenny started too, with accommodation provided generously by Mowi (as the schoolhouse is still out of action etc etc blah blah). Stalkers are here, John Alex Boyd's search for temporary accommodation has resulted in a caravan on the pier this year, just when the construction village had gone as well. Never mind, the pier tidy up will wait.
The builders are due out next month to carry out housing maintenance and start construction on the rest of the new houses, forestry works are under way and rhododendron ponticum eradication starts soon as well.
ISLE OF EIGG
No dramatic events this month, just plain happiness for island families: baby Jess arrived to proud parents Jacqueline and Ewen, and a bit later, Colm, Eigg's best known pirate, got a wee brother, Ross. Congrats to Frances and Stephen as well!
Eigg in the meantime is basking in the warm breeze and putting on a grand show of heather: pretty spectacular in Grulin at the moment, with loads of bees and butterflies buzzing about.
The wood harvesting has gone exceptionally well, and the first batch of timber is now away. Great harvesting team from Knoydart and Kinlochleven. Meanwhile, the crafters' Monday has worked really well for all the Eigg charities that raised funds selling refreshments and cakes this summer, as well as for the crafters themselves.
The Screen Machine weekend was really well attended by islanders and tourists alike, with some of us seeing all four films on offer - we did miss the popcorn and icecream made by Phil and Clare in past years for the Screen Machine sessions! Maybe someone will take this up again! The Eigg History Society also showed the remastered version of the classic 1936 film of St Kilda's evacuation, which also proved very popular.
The sheep have all been sheared and the kids have now gone back to school, with their new teacher, Martin, who is now getting himself settled on the island. The island is a bit quieter, after a really busy spell at the beginning of the month. There is now a slight autumnal touch in the air with a good show of brambles already, but apart from the bit of wild weather on the third weekend, it's been a really enjoyably warm month. Never felt the sea so warm so long in the season either, and there has been many opportunities to jump in the waves or do a bit of Rando-plouf - the fancy French word for paddling - as well as mackerel fishing. Very pleasant indeed but slightly worrying in the context of the Climate Emergency. . .
A Write Highland Hoolie! Mallaig Book Festival
Friday 8th - Sunday 9th November
West Highland Hotel
We are delighted to announce the winners of this year's art competition held in Mallaig High School. The theme was to design an alternative cover for Sue Lawrence's latest cookbook, A Taste of Scotland's Islands. Sue Lawrence judged the entries which were all of a very high standard and had no doubt that the outright winner is S1 pupil Kirsty Martin, aged 12. Congratulations Kirsty!
Winners in the other age groups are Zak Leven, S2, and Grace MacDonald, Morar, S3.
Kirsty's picture is on the back page of this year's programme and all the entries will be exhibited during the Festival.
Attendees at this year's Hoolie can have afternoon tea with Sue Lawrence as she talks about her books at 3pm on Saturday 9th November, tickets £9. Programmes are available locally at Arisaig Hotel and The Land, Sea & Islands Centre in Arisaig, Morar Motors in Morar, and the Library, Mallaig Heritage Centre and the West Highland Hotel on Mallaig. They are also available in The Highland Bookshop in Fort William and your local libraries. It can be seen on the website where you can also buy your tickets: www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com
Arisaig Community Trust: Housing Project
We have now almost completed our feasibility study for the Station Road housing project. The good news is the ground and topography are well suited to a development of between 6-12 houses and site drainage and utilities also have capacity for new homes and business units. The community consultations held in April and June were well attended; there was a lot of positive and helpful feedback and we were really grateful to Sam Foster for hosting these events and incorporating all the voices and ideas into the project plan. Sam's conceptual design and site layout gives an illustration of the type of design that could be built here.
The next step is taking all this work and putting together a set of stipulations for a contractor, which is what we're working on right now. On the advice of Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, who have been working with us throughout the project, we are following a 'design and build' route - this means that the contractor being awarded the tender has a degree of flexibility in their design and construction methods. We are making sure that what we hand over reflects our targets and aspirations for environmental and social sustainability.
The current plans are for six properties for rent, 3 x 3 bedroom and 3 x 2 bedroom, plus an additional 4 plots for self-build. Some of these will be for discounted sale but certain restrictions will apply - for example they must be a primary residence.
While community-led housing projects are becoming more common, it is still a huge challenge for a group of volunteers; this was definitely a steep learning curve! Thanks to help from the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust, HIE and Sam Foster, we now have completed the majority of investigatory works for the project. An application to the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the land has been submitted and as part of that, we've applied for a part-time project manager to oversee the development in the next phases. Fingers crossed…we find out in November if we've been successful.
The shed is now fully operational and has been used for a whole range of things over the summer - music workshops, jumble sales, bike repair workshops, art and craft days and gardening. Many of these have been part of the eco project - thanks to Alison O'Rourke for organising all these fantastic events! The shed is also available for anyone: to use the tools in the tool library, a quiet place to paint…just get in touch if you'd like to book it.
An application to the Scottish Land Fund was submitted earlier in the summer to buy the area along the front of the village, including the car park in front of the shop, and the whole playing field and surrounding area. We can start making improvements but will need to fundraise this ourselves. Improving and enlarging the car park is a priority before next season; it's been a busy one again this year in Arisaig! We also plan to put an orchard and allotments alongside the playing field next year. Volunteers for this project are needed as well.
The toilets continue to be well used due to the busy summer season and we intend to keep them open and free to use for the foreseeable future. We installed a counter back in March which is now totalling over 25,000 users, showing what a vital service this is.
Grass seed and fertilizer were added to the playing field earlier in the summer and the football goal posts were moved around to allow the grass to regrow. Two successful events were held on the field this year - the Festival of Running and the Village Picnic, in association with Arisaig Americana Festival. Building on the success of these, we are open to hosting more events here next year.
Community Care at Home
We've had some initial meetings with potential support partners about running a private care at home scheme in the area. It's been done successfully elsewhere and we're looking at how to replicate it here. It's a much-needed service and we are keen to deliver this, creating employment and providing vital care.
10 Year Anniversary Celebration Night
ACT will celebrate 10 years of community work this year! In recognition of this, we are holding a party in the Astley Hall, on Saturday 16th November from 7pm, with music, dancing and a licensed bar. More details will follow next month!
If you're interested in any of the above projects, get in touch any time: firstname.lastname@example.org or on our facebook page
Some readers of West Word may remember the Marguerite Explorer. A large traditional wooden gaff ketch. Mallaig was her home from May to October for fourteen years, from the early 1990's until about 2004.
Perhaps some of you might recall the Mallaig Day Out during which anyone from the area who wanted to go was taken out to look for whales by her owner and skipper Christopher Swann (Swanny) and his crew, a charabanc outing by boat.
He was largely responsible for the development of whale watching on the west coast. Taking ten clients at a time they explored the entire area and outer islands, from North Rona to St Kilda and down to Jura, always looking for whales and wildlife. Several trips each year were dedicated solely to cetacean surveys.
Swanny loved Mallaig and although whales took him around the world he always had the hope that he might return and build a house on some pretty spot overlooking the sea. Now he is doing exactly that up at Mallaig Bheag.
After 30 years of running whale watching trips, the last twenty years of which have mostly been spent in Mexico's astonishing Sea of Cortes, he has more or less stopped, taking just one or two groups of long established clients each year.
For many years he had no interest in photography but little by little that changed and now he makes some of his living from selling images, prints and books.
His latest book is Seeking Leviathan. It contains a lot of photos of whales and dolphins as well as a short biography, some thoughts on the Business of Whales and a number of charts, facsimiles of his log books (which he kept diligently over the years) and one or two other bits and pieces.
At almost 400 pages and weighing 3.7 kg it is a large book which has been well received. Among those to comment on the book are a two of the world's leading environmentalists; Sir David Attenborough - It is truly spectacular and a magnificent tribute to a magnificent and very precious group of animals - and Carl Safina - Your work is stunning, over and over again. I've spent enough time with cetaceans to understand a little bit about how difficult it is to get a good photo, let alone one iconic image after another as you have achieved.
For more reviews and comments see Swanny's website: www.cswannphotography.com
Seeking Leviathan is available directly from Swanny at email@example.com and costs £125.00.
CalMac Community Fund Award for Fèis Eige
On Thursday 22nd August, Gordon MacKillop from the CalMac Community Fund came over to Eigg to hand over the community fund award for Fèis Eige: a cheque for £2000, a very welcome boost to Fèis Eige funds! It was a very blustery day, and poor Gordon did not get a chance to set foot ashore and meet the island kids who benefit from Fèis Eige's excellent tuition. we hope he can come back another day!
Gordon explained how the awarding process worked for the CalMac Community fund: "we screen each application against the eligibility, and as eligible applications move forward to the scoring stage, we then engage young people from each regional area. Eigg is located in area 3: Skye, Raasay, Small Isles and Mallaig. So we engaged a group of young people in partnership with Young Scot and Highland Council, the local authority. We engaged them over two days, the first day was about capacity building, getting to know the young people and educating them on grant funding and social and economic issues affecting their communities. On the second day the young people scored the applications in groups against our criteria."
Amongst the young people involved were a sizeable number of young Eiggaich, and having benefited from the Feis themselves, they put it forward and that's how Feis Eige got selected! Well done and thanks to each of our young people on the panel: you've made a worthy investment in Fèis Eige's future!
The organisers of Fèis Eige said 'We are delighted to receive funding from the CalMac Community Fund. With this funding we are very happy to know that along with our ongoing funding efforts, we are now fully confident in running the main event, Fèis Eige (8th - 10th of July 2020), and ongoing music lessons for the children throughout the year. Keeping the Fèis established is getting harder every year as we see further budget cuts and unfortunately music is always the subject that's seen as a lesser priority. Music and Gaelic is such a huge part of small Highland communities seeing many of the members of trad bands starting their interest of music at their local Feisean. The Highland Council boosts yearly funding to Feisean nan Gaidheal and this year has not committed any funds with no explanation or confirmation of following years. At the moment many events like Blas and all the Feisean in the Highlands are in limbo along with Fèis Eige with a very uncertain future. Feis Eige has been running since 1996 and has grown as the years go on with the addition of our all year round ongoing lessons. Keeping our culture alive is key for our community and the CalMac Community Fund has allowed us to go on for another year!'
Mallaig Harbour News
August has once again been a month of visits. We had representatives from Transport Scotland on the 8th August, and Richard Ballantyne, who is Chief Executive of the British Ports Association, visited with our new Board Member Lorna Spencer on 13th August. We also had another visit from our refrigeration engineer Bruce Thomson and representatives from Snowkey, who made the plant, and Recomm, who manage the software, to look at the remaining issues with the ice plant. This visit had to be delayed as the Chinese representative from Snowkey was caught up in the protests in Hong Kong Airport. Who would have thought that would have impacted on Mallaig Harbour!
The Harbour also had a week-long visit from Carlos Paredes, who was undertaking the Annual Survey of the fleet for Seafish. By the end of the week he was a familiar figure, 'mucking in' to get the answers he needed while fishermen were working, and figuring out that he was fairly likely to meet some of the fishermen in the Marine Bar, even if he might not be so likely to get the answers to his survey there!
On Thursday 15th August, we welcomed the Santa Maria III (formerly the Jasper) into Mallaig, with her skipper Donald Archie (DA) MacKinnon. Donald Archie has Mallaig connections, having served his apprenticeship in the boatyard here.
The Santa Maria III was one of nine ring net fishing boats owned by the MacKinnon brothers from Eriskay, and was built in 1968 by Alexander Noble & Sons of Girvan. She was originally named as SY379 Jasper and built for M&E MacDonald of Scalpay, Harris before being sold to DA's uncle Calum in 1971. Around 1988 she was sold again, and moved to the Clyde, renamed BA19 Fair Morn. In 1998, she ceased fishing and was saved from decommissioning by Cuddy MacKinnon and operated as a pleasure boat from Mallaig for a number of years. She has since been bought by DA and been restored at Rothesay Dock, Clydebank, and her call at Mallaig was en-route back to Eriskay.
Audrey's love of penguins has become so legendary that this month she received a gift of two penguin tea-towels and a stuffed penguin toy all the way from the Falkland Islands. Celia Bull, who owns and skippers the Selkie Explorer, has a friend in the Falklands, who heard about Audrey's love of penguins and her copy of the Penguin News, and very kindly sent the gifts on.
We have three new fishing boats in the Harbour this month. Damian MacDonald has bought the (soon to be renamed) Lucifer which is a creel boat with the registration M666, and Michael Morrison has bought the Primrose CY233, which has already featured as 'Boat of the Week' in the Fishing News, and the Northern Star SY11. We wish all three boats every success.
Mallaig Harbour Authority has submitted a response to the consultation on the proposed 'Sea of the Hebrides' MPA, agreeing with management of the area but expressing our concerns that the proposals indicate that the designation would have a minor environmental benefit, but significant economic costs to commercial fishing, and other sectors. Many of the proposed management measures are related to the adoption of 'best practice' measures, and MHA is of the opinion that these could be implemented without a blanket designation of such a huge area.
Fion Construction have been awarded the tender to upgrade the road at West Bay between the old net stores and the fishermen's gear stores, and work started w/c 26th August. Works are expected to take between six and eight weeks and there will be some disruption around the area while work is ongoing, but access to all the stores will be maintained.
Finally, we know that the summer season is just about over when the Eda Frandsen leaves Mallaig for the last time, which was the case on 24th August. We'd like to wish owners James and Chloe all the best for their upcoming marriage - they've promised to send a photograph as Audrey and I have been entertained all summer by the parcels arriving for Chloe at the Harbour Office - more than one of which contained a dress - and we can't wait to see the final choice! Gabriel and the other James, who have crewed the Eda Frandsen in previous years, and sailed to Greenland this summer on Safe Arrival to go climbing, are sailing straight from there to Cornwall to be home in time for the celebrations!
27th July 2019 Assisting grounded Fish Farm Boat
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of Viking Caledonia who had grounded in Loch Ailort at 17:00hrs. Whilst negotiating the narrow passage out of the Loch the vessel grounded on a spit that protrudes into the Loch, at low speed on the falling tide. On scene at 17:45hrs the Lifeboat passed over a tow rope and attempted to refloat the casualty but to no avail. As the casualty was sitting upright and not in any imminent danger it was decided that the best course of action was to await high water in the early hours of the morning. The work boat Annie E was diverted to the area and would also be on scene in the early hours. As the entrance to the Loch is hazardous and shallow, the Lifeboat moored at the nearby fish farm to await the flood tide. At 00:15hrs on Sunday morning the Lifeboat joined the Annie E who was now moored beside the casualty to discuss the best strategy as to how to tow the casualty off the bar. At 02:15hrs Annie E attached a bridled wire to the casualty and commenced to apply power and to everyone's relief the casualty slid off the bar at 02:25hrs. After a quick check over by her crew and no damage or water ingress found, the Caledonia proceeded to navigate out of the Loch followed by Annie E and the Lifeboat. With Viking Caledonia the Lifeboat proceeded back to Mallaig and the Annie E continued on to Tobermory. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 04:45hrs and Viking Caledonia docked an hour later.
4th August 2019 Assisting in Search for Missing Angler
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 08:00hrs to assist Police and local Coastguards in their search for a missing angler in the area of Morar River Estuary. As the lifeboat arrived on scene at 08:10hrs the missing person was located by Coastguards on the embankment above the dam, safe and well. Lifeboat stood down and returned to the pontoon berthing at 08:40hrs.
6th August 2019 Assist in Search for Missing Hillwalker
Launched at 05:40hrs by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Skye Mountain Rescue Team to Loch na Cuilce at the head of Loch Scavaig, from Elgol. A hill walker had not returned to his Bed and Breakfast in Elgol on the previous evening. He was last sighted trying to ford a river in the Coruisk area. The MRT had searched the Camasunary area (which is adjacent to Loch na Cuilce) before dark on the previous evening. They now wanted to concentrate on the area from Loch na Cuilce to the Bad Step and round to Camasunary, and because of low cloud this could not be undertaken by the Coastguard Helicopter. Arriving at Elgol 06:30hrs the Lifeboat boarded seven members of MRT and then proceeded to Loch na Cuilce.
As the Lifeboat approached the landing at Loch na Cuilce they were met to everyone's relief by the missing walker, cold, wet and tired from his overnight stay in the bothy doorway. He had attempted to undertake the traverse of Bad Step but decided against going any further as he was not confident enough to continue. Unfortunately the bothy at Loch na Cuilce was locked so he sought shelter in the doorway which was fine until heavy rain in the early hours put paid to that. Once onboard he was quickly checked over and found to be in good health and spirit after his ordeal.
Arriving back at Elgol at 07:50hrs the Lifeboat dropped the casualty and the MRT back at the slipway. Lifeboat returned to Mallaig, fuelled and ready for service at 09:20hrs.
16th August 2019 Assisting in Rescue of Hillwalkers
Launched at 16:00hrs by Stornoway Coastguard to Loch Scavaig to recover a party of hillwalkers. The group had found themselves unable to return by their elected route to where they had set off from. Due to heavy rainfall they could not ford a river that would have allowed them to retake their route out. After locating a bothy which would have given them shelter their spirits were further dampened to find it locked. After pitching their tents beside the bothy, 15 hours of incessant wind and rain beat them down to the point that they decided to call the Coastguard for assistance. On scene at 16:50 the Lifeboat made contact with the party and requested that they quickly break camp and make their way to the landing for pick up. With all three now safely onboard the Lifeboat took them to Elgol slipway where Police were awaiting to take them back to their vehicle at Sligachan campsite. Lifeboat returned to station berthing at 18:15hrs and ready for service.
20th August 2019
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 09:30hrs to convey Paramedics to Inverie. A 79 year old male was experiencing chest pains and was in need of medical attention. The casualty had been transported to the pier to await the Lifeboat's arrival. Once on scene at 09:50hrs the Paramedics carried out their assessment and decided that the patient should be transferred to Hospital for further treatment. The patient was placed on the stretcher and taken onboard the Lifeboat. Once back in Mallaig the crew with the help of local Coastguards carried the patient to the Ambulance for transfer to Belford Hospital in Fort William. Lifeboat ready for service 10:30hrs.
Transport Trust plaque unveiled at Glenfinnan Station
The Transport Trust is a national charity established to promote and encourage the preservation and restoration of Britain's unique transport heritage in all its forms. Their prestigious Red Wheel plaques mark key locations around the UK which have significant value in British engineering and transport history.
It was therefore with great pride that Glenfinnan Station Museum learnt earlier this year that their little station site had been chosen to host one such bespoke plaque, commemorating the iconic engineering structure that is Glenfinnan Viaduct.
On Sunday 18th August, in a short ceremony on the station platform at Glenfinnan, the plaque was unveiled by Lady Judy McAlpine. Lady Judy is the widow of the late Sir William McAlpine Bt (1936-2018), the great grandson of 'Concrete Bob' McAlpine, the contractor responsible for building the famous landmark. She arrived with invited guests by steam train, and the short ceremony took place while the Jacobite was in the station, allowing a multitude of passengers to take in the event, despite a relentless downpour.
Jerry Swift from the Trust's Council outlined the purpose of the Red Wheel scheme before handing over to the Trust's President, Lady Judy, who expressed her delight in being given the honour of unveiling the plaque that would commemorate 'the jewel in the crown' of her family's many engineering feats. The 'veil' was in fact a pleated piece of McAlpine tartan, which she drew aside to great applause.
Glenfinnan Station Museum's curator, Hege Hernaes, went on to explain the role played by the iconic concrete viaduct in engineering history: "At the time of the Mallaig Line's construction, concrete was a novel material, and many looked at it with great suspicion. It is thanks to the work of pioneering engineers like Simpson and Wilson, and audacious contractors like Robert McAlpine & Sons, that the world's engineers gradually started to put increasing trust in concrete as the 20th century progressed.
"When the 21-arch viaduct across the River Finnan opened for operation on 1st April 1901 it was the longest concrete structure in Britain, at 380 metres. But it was built on a curve and set in the landscape which such grace that the Glenfinnan Viaduct ever since has captured the imagination of the people who see it."
As the Jacobite chuffed on to the coast, the invited 'Plaque Party' retired to a warm and welcoming Glenfinnan Dining Car for afternoon tea, and the happy announcement that Lady Judy had accepted the Friends of the West Highland Line's invitation to become Honorary President of their society, an office which had stood vacant since the sad passing of Charles Kennedy MP in 2015.
I have often argued that an island is a live, breathing organism. It can't stand still, it must evolve to survive. You can't apply museum mentality to it. "It's always been like that", doesn't work. Changes must come, measured hopefully, but they must happen so we don't lag too far behind the rest of the world. But every now and then a change comes along that, though necessary, is difficult to accept for any with a longstanding connection to the place. Sadly Wave, the island boat and lifeline for decades, has made her final trip. She now rests in the sheltered bay in the reef at Gallanach. After years of service, conveying everything from coal to calves, furniture to feed stuff, it has become uneconomic to continue the annual repair process needed to keep her seaworthy. With a connection to her spanning 64 years, I'd like Lawrence MacEwen to tell you a bit about her history.
"It was August 1955. I was lucky enough to be on the maiden voyage of a boat which, having been two years in gestation in a shed at Charlie Henderson's boatyard in Mallaig, was at last ready for her trial run to Sleat Point. Free of ballast and very light after two years in a shed, it was a lively voyage and I felt very sick! On return to Mallaig we loaded up stones from the harbour as ballast and set off for Muck. Wave cost £1950. Never was money better spent!
"For the next 49 years Wave was the island lifeline, at first carrying mail and supplies from Eigg and later meeting a succession of MacBrayne steamers - Loch Arkaig, Loch Mor and Loch Nevis; much of the time she was under the very competent captaincy of Bryan Walters. But Wave did much more. Upwards of 50 runs a year were done to the mainland and Mull, reaching a peak during some of the massive building projects on the island. Puffers carried the bulk cargos but Wave carried the rest. Livestock, of course, were also transported on up to 12 journeys a year and Wave loaded with 80 or more lambs did many trips to Arisaig. Cattle and ponies too in the early days but later we used MacBrayne's island class vessel Raasay or Milligan transport's Spanish John to transport cows and calves. I could fill a book with stories of journeys between Muck and the mainland, sometimes challenging but of course sometimes the seas were calm. And Wave made journeys for leisure too. With a waterproof cover over the hold she provided somewhat rudimentary sleeping accommodation and journeys followed over much of the West coast. Often we were on Eigg for badminton, ceilidhs or sports.
"It all changed in March 2004 when Loch Nevis started calling at the new slipway. Gone were the days of waiting for the tide to rise to unload cargo at the pier. No more ferrying passengers ashore by dinghy or giving the lucky one a piggy back if the tide was really low! Wave continued to be used but less and less as time when on as CalMac and Milligan transport carried more. Now Wave is retired, needing skilled work to make her useful again. It is the end of an era."
Fittingly, her last voyage before retirement was the Small Isles games on Canna. Muck will miss her. The bay at Port Mor feels strangely empty without her bobbing about on the mooring. Let's hope that somewhere out there is an enthusiast willing to restore this iconic, much loved vessel to her former glory.
BIRDWATCH July 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
A fairly quiet month again on the birding front, with most local birds completed or nearing the end of their breeding season.
Nothing extraordinary to report, although a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver just offshore from Traigh Farm on the 3rd was unusual.
The first returning waders of the autumn started to appear during the month. Small groups of Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing and Golden Plover were the first to show up, but by the month end flocks of Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Sanderling had arrived, mostly seen feeding on the shoreline at Traigh and Back of Keppoch, with other groups seen flying past over the sea. Turnstones were seen at Traigh and at West Bay, Mallaig. Greenshank were seen on the Morar Estuary and at the head of Loch Ailort. Black-tailed Godwits were seen feeding in fields at Traigh and Back of Keppoch. In very misty weather on the 28th, in excess of 200 Oystercatchers came in and roosted at the head of Loch Ailort.
By all accounts many of the sea birds nesting on the Small Isles had a good breeding season; certainly many Guillemots and Razorbills could be seen with attendant chicks all over the Sound of Sleat.
Large groups of Manx Shearwaters could be seen feeding just offshore, along with Gannets and Kittiwakes. Arctic and Common Terns could be seen with recently fledged young by the month end, so must have had successful breeding somewhere fairly local. Storm Petrels were seen on numerous occasions from the MV Sheerwater, and also Great Skuas and the occasional Arctic Skua.
Most ducks and geese nest fairly early in the year, however on the 28th one female Mallard was seen with seven tiny ducklings and another was seen with three half-grown young on the salt marsh area at the head of Loch Ailort.
Several reports of Sparrowhawks hunting in local gardens. Barn Owls were seen in Arisaig and at the usual haunts around Mallaig.
A Siskin ringed as a juvenile on the 8th July 2018 near Durris, Aberdeenshire, was retrapped in a Morar garden on the 8th June 2019. Unfortunately an adult Siskin ringed in Morar on the 8th June 2019 was found sickly and later died in a garden at Tougal on the 3rd July. A Herring Gull chick ringed on the 29th June 2019 on the Traigh Islands was found dead on the Morar Estuary on the 15th July.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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