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September 2023 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
IT'S A HAT TRICK FOR MALLAIG FOOTBALL CLUB!
Mallaig FC reclaimed the West Highland Amateur Football Association William Wilson League title for the third time after a dramatic 3-2 victory away to defending champions Sleat and Strath on the 9th September.
The hosts took an early lead, but Niall MacBeth levelled for Mallaig not long after as his looping ball into the box evaded the Sleat goalkeeper and found the far corner.
The teams were level at the break but it was Mallaig who took the initiative in the second half. Captain Jaimie Young fired Mallaig in front before Ryan MacDonald scored a third. It was a nervy end, as Sleat scored a second late on; however Mallaig held on for a famous win.
This is a third title win in five seasons for Mallaig, who previously won the League in 2018 and 2019. A great day for the club, and it was very well celebrated by the team and the sizeable travelling support.
Mallaig manager Jamie MacGregor was delighted with his side sealing the league title: "It was another one of those games where there wasn't much in between us, but I feel we just wanted it a little more after the disappointment of the last two years losing to Sleat. They deserve a lot of credit - it was some run-in with them, as it always is.
"It's great to be back to the top of the mountain again - we've been in the league five years and every year we've been in the running right down to the final day, so we have had our share of disappointment - but yesterday was our day."
Photo by Arthur Campbell
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Perhaps this edition should be subtitled 'The Football Issue'! Huge congratulations to Mallaig FC on their League win. Kenneth Macpherson continues his tales of local players - and the New Zealand connection - on page 24, and the Football News is on page 40.
Are you a keen crafter, baker or flower arranger? Have a look at page 10 for an idea for a new local event which would be a great addition to the local calendar!
Thanks to reader Michael Lamb for sending in his reminiscences about his stays in Mallaig Mhor - you can read his article on page 32.
As ever, my thanks as ever to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing, and to Jane and Anne for labelling the envelopes.
August started as it does each year with the Games. The weather held out and there was a fantastic turn out of locals and tourists, although not many of the usual locals from Mallaig this year. An astounding £1931.17 was raised through the various stalls, games and hog roast provided by Ian and Gwen. A large chunk of the total will be donated to two causes - the lifeboat and the proposed play park for the kids here, each receiving £590. The remaining money plus the 2022 proceeds of £962 which was kept safe since last year was put towards a games kitty for future expenses and will go towards stuff like new trophies, half of the marquee costs, a new megaphone etc.
As always Iain Wilson's slip and slide bungee run was one of the highlights of the day, with many determined people of all ages having a good try! After all the day time fun, the Glenfinnan Ceilidh band provided the tunes for a night of dancing in the hall.
The other excitement of this month was . . . dun dun dun . . . the reopening of the pub! After much anticipation it managed to time its opening with Games weekend which was pretty grand. Since then, it's gone from drinks only to now doing food as well, and there's been some fantastic tunes and craic.
It's been a really good season so far for picking wild chanterelles, the woods abundant with them, and probably other kinds too but I don't know any other ones to safely pick. The kids went back to school, and the bramble bushes are dripping with fruit and It's hard to believe we are into September now and autumn will be right around the corner.
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
On Sunday 19th, Lochaber said a fond farewell to Hettie Macrae. Hettie was a larger-than-life character with links throughout the whole area. I don't know anyone who didn't have a story about Hettie that usually involved her love of music and craic. Friends and family joined together in the marquee in Glenfinnan to celebrate Hettie's life and remember a lovely lady. Safe travels onwards Hettie xxx
Well, I think it is safe to say that we have almost recovered from the Glenfinnan Gathering weekend. Fabulous to see so many people braving the summer weather and enjoying the fun of the games.
Fiona Robertson had a very successful (re) launch of Glenfinnan Candles and it was lovely to see so many great images online of our very own Ricky and Bianca on their market stall. My personal favourite scent is the Ceilidh candle so if you want to support small independent business, and get an amazing product, then pop over to the Glenfinnan Candles Facebook page for upcoming news.
The evening dance in the beer tent did not disappoint. The Glenfinnan Ceilidh Band got us all up dancing from the get-go and just when we thought we had no ceilidh left in us, Falasgair then upped the tempo for the remainder of the evening. Thank you to all who made the day possible and for the fun and laughter from start to finish.
Alert the press, we have double yellow lines!!! Unfortunately, I believe they have been marked on the road with paint that is not always visible to the naked eye. It is magical paint that only the courteous, considerate, and kind visitors can see. Highland Council . . . can we please get signage, bollards, traffic wardens, crash barriers, a tunnel, jet packs, oooh, a Star Trek transporter to Beam us up Scotty! At this stage of the proceedings, I am sure us locals will happily take anything. Thanks to the SCIO for your continued efforts to combat parking problems and to the wider communities for your understanding.
Finally, the pedestrian crossing remains as it was last month, incomplete.
An obair a thòisicheas Diluain, bidh I luath no bidh I mall.
(The work that begins on Monday will be either quick or slow)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling . . . August has been a fantastic and busy month all in all; we had a fair contingent represented at the annual Island Games although lost the core of our Tug-o-war team by the time the Sheerwater was due to leave. On the plus side, Oscar Fichter-Irvine won the children's 'Hill' race. See you all next year when it's our turn.
Mike Sunderland and his team of sea kayakers returned for another year and once again took time to give the children a lesson out on the water. Even Magnus had a blast with a one-to-one where there was no holding him back (well maybe a bit, he was on a line). It was good to catch up with them but the week was cut short due to a pesky storm front ??.
Elsewhere on the island, Miss B was led away in cuffs while we baked a cake with a file . . . the school was visited by Hugo, a policeman from Mallaig! The school children report:
'He brought his car with him which was very exciting! It was the first police car to ever be on Muck. He showed us all the equipment that he carries on his uniform. He handcuffed Miss B who didn't like it much! Then he handcuffed everybody else . . . they were too big for Marian who could wriggle her hands out even on the smallest setting! Then we all went for a ride in the car and we got to turn on the lights and the sirens. When we went past the cows we could tell they didn't like it much! We went all the way to Gallanach to say hello to the Farm. We also learned what to do if we ever need to call 999. Thank you so much to Hugo for coming to visit us!'
As the season begins to wind down we reflect on some fabulous boats in our port this year from super yacht to tall ship and many, many familiar faces, and some new ones that we're sure will be back.
Well folks that's us this time, so see you next.
ISLE OF CANNA
ISLE OF CANNA [photos - canna 3, 5 & 6] August has been a busy month here on Canna. We welcomed WTArchitects to the island to do the first of the community engagement workshops to launch our Coroghan Barn Project Development. The visit also gave Wil, Tamsin and the team the opportunity to meet the community, survey the barn and learn all about Canna.
Phil Long, NTS CEO and his wife, Annie, visited Canna to meet with the community, have a tour of the Canna House Project and attend various meetings.
The community were also given a tour of Canna House to see the progress so far on the project. The building is transforming and there was much astonishment as to the work being carried out there. Many thanks to Indi, Glyn Young and John Angus Morrison for showing us around.
Nathan, our Canna House Gardener, gave a community propagation workshop. He explained the uses and techniques of propagation then we went into the Canna House garden and chose various plants that we wanted to use. At the polytunnel, Nathan showed us how to cut the stems and plant them in trays with coconut based soil and root powder. Many thanks to Nathan for taking the time and sharing his expertise…..hopefully we will all have some great plants for our gardens very soon!
We have a new-ish crew working down at the pier now with Nathan as Acting Harbour Master with Murdo and myself as Linesmen (I'd prefer we were called Linesperson but I'm guessing terminology hasn't quite caught up yet!). Jane has also been trained as a Linesman to provide cover along with Gerry and Caroline and the team is working well together.
Bob Swann and his team from the Highland Ringing Group have been out to Canna carrying out bird survey work. It is the longest running seabird project conducted by amateurs anywhere in the world and it started in 1969. With the outbreak of Avian Flu, Bob and the team had slight trepidation about what they would find here on Canna. Great Skua have been badly affected with numbers dropping from 15 breeding pairs in 2022 to only 6 in 2023. The Guillemot ledges are also looking very empty. Most worrisome is the Fulmar numbers which in 1995 were at a peak of 653 pairs; in 2023, the team only counted only 19 pairs of which none had managed to raise a chick. This is the first total failure ever recorded in their survey since it began all those years ago. Bob thinks there are a number of factors causing this decline in Fulmar numbers from a reduction in food in the form of discards from boats, predation from White Tailed Eagles to high mortality rates from long-line fishing in the North Atlantic, and of course, avian flu.
There is some good news however! Shags, Kittiwakes and Herring Gull numbers continue to steadily rise and the Puffins are in a healthy state. The Puffins made good their escape at the end of the season unscathed.
We are getting excited about our Beach Clean event as part of the Highland Climate Festival on Saturday 30th September. In preparation for the event, this week saw residents and visitors alike come together to make decorations for the Shearing Shed using marine litter, plastics, cardboard and various other art materials. Everyone enjoyed spending an afternoon using their imaginations, working with their hands, creating sea creatures and chatting. Thank you to Vicki and Aileen for organising and there will be a few more over the coming weeks so if you are on Canna and fancy doing making something, come along and get creative!
Last month we also said goodbye to Donald and Fiona who have moved onto pastures new on the mainland. I asked Fiona to write a bit about her time here on Canna and this is what she said:
"Living and working on Canna for over eight years has been an adventure, a long one, longer than most people manage. The view from my doorstep at The Square of St Edwards on Sanday, is imprinted in my brain and the last thing I see in my mind when I go to sleep at night.
Canna 'affects' people in different ways. Some are in nervous awe of the beauty or fragile way of life and enjoy a chapter of their life 'living the dream' before retreating to what they describe as a 'normal life'! Others, like us, embrace it, immersing ourselves in all aspects of island life and personality . The vagaries of the weather, ferry tales, family disruption, being 'prepared', healthcare, learning about ourselves, what makes it all tick. But eventually the pull of family becomes more insistent, particularly after the last few Covid years and very sad decisions have to be made.
Being particularly connected to Canna House, I have personally learned a huge amount professionally, which I take away with me. Margaret and John Campbell and their lives are now a part of my life; not living on Canna does not mean that they are now in my past. Indeed I have more time and 'brain space' to fully appreciate, enjoy and learn from them now. I am now writing a biography of Margaret, in a way even further strengthening my ties to the island. My own personal favourite space on Canna is John Campbell's wood, where he is buried. The peace and tranquillity of the wood, walking with the dogs, no man-made noise, only the blackbird in the bushes and the tree tops and distant sheep on the crags. That's my space. You can take the girl out of Canna but you can't Canna out of the girl. I'll be back."
We have already got a date for next year's Canna 10K Trail Run - Saturday 25th May 2024 so if you fancy coming and running on our beautiful island, please head to the Isle of Canna website and register for the event. www.theisleofcanna.com
ISLE OF RUM
The Small Isles Games - the evening before, the marquee was still not up . . . the best-laid plans fell awry, but in the midgiest evening we have encountered in a long time, a handful of volunteers managed to put it up. It's been so long since we last put the marquee up - I think the last games on Rum was 2017 - so we racked our memories to remember what went where, and it was lucky Big Dougie was here for turning what could have been hellish into quite a comedy performance.
Games day! And the marquee was still up - that was result enough for me! There was a bit of rain and a few more midges but Lesley's organisation fell into place and resulted in a fabulous day. We kicked off with the hill race which had a big turnout and was won by some visitors; the kids cross country took them around the village with even little Edwin, aged 2¾, putting in a good effort, accompanied by dad. Highlights were the bulk bag race (of course): everyone has now worked out that it is so exhausting that you can only take micro jumps at a time, so it was a long one, the paced jumpers beating the walkers in the end. The sack race was a lot faster than usual with the sacks being old hessian larder sacks so big enough to practically run in. Maggie Carr had it in the bag until a spectacular fall right before the finish post.
Wellies were thrown in a variety of fashions: there was a cartwheel throw, which got top marks for creativity, and the fish farm guys, and especially Finlay providing comedy throws. Onto the shot put or cannon ball throw in our case: every contestant got a lesson on how to throw it properly, Olympics fashion from Keegan, another of the fish farm staff who bolstered our team.
The tug of war was epic; I don't think I've seen more evenly matched teams. Each pull lasted minutes and no one was in in any fit state to change ends for another go for the best of three - hands were so sore they could barely lift a can of beer.
The high jump and bungee run got abandoned as time was getting on but everything went smoothly - obstacle course, tattie and spoon and running races. Lauren did art and crafts in the marquee with the kids. Dave and Inge got the food truck out and provided a stunning array of fare which went down really well with everyone, especially the macaroni cheese in breadcrumbs deep fried balls which were pretty awesome - can't remember what Inge called them!
Onto the Ceilidh with Damien and his well flung wellies and more locally produced food. Lots of dancing ensued and as the games was a tie between Rum and Eigg, we needed a decider. The best moonwalk was deemed too subjective, so we plumped for musical chairs. Note for future games - don't do this: whilst it started off amiably enough, the competitiveness of some participants got the better of them and there was some cheating, and wrestling to the floor, and chair stealing. With Ross Martin playing umpire, the red cards kept on coming until there were only two Rum contestants left - so we won! In the absence of the customary shield, we made a new trophy - The Golden Wellie, perfect in every way.
An amazing day, and big thanks to Lesley and the organisation crew for providing an unforgettable day.
ISLE OF EIGG
August has probably been one of the hottest if not the hottest in recent years, although for events like our yearly Small Isles Games we could have done with more heat and less damp! Despite the weather conditions, the Eigg contingent had a great time on Rum and was neck and neck with the Rumach until Ross Martin's ingenuity in devising a final tie breaker of a musical chair game finally gave the upper hand to the games' hosts! Thanks go to both CalMac and Arisaig Marine for making it easier for other islands to attend the games: keep this up, please!
Eigg has had a record numbers of visitors after the lean covid years and local businesses are pretty happy. Farmers too are smiling as a record number of hay and sileage bales have been harvested, in sharp contrast to hardly any last year, and predict a good year for sheep! Much beach fun with late summer beach fires, and kids' birthdays, including a brilliant beach birthday for young Jess with the first ever bouncy castle seen on the island, much to the joy of the Eigg under 10 population.
Brambles are massive in size and super abundant this year whilst the community orchard is a joy to behold, with trees laden with red fruit. Wildlife sightings apart from dolphins racing the ferries and the odd Minke whale however has not been that outstanding, John the Bird tells us: "A very quiet month on Eigg with little sign of early autumn passage and many species moving off from the island. The gathering of Arctic and Common Terns around the pier area had departed by end of August and many passerine summer visitors became scarcer as the month moved on. Wader passage was particularly disappointing with only increased numbers of Ringed Plovers, the odd Dunlin, a Sanderling on the 28th and a long staying Greenshank being of any note. Waders apart, the only signs of any movement were a couple of Peregrine sightings, an Arctic Skua on the 10th, a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the 26th and a couple of White Wagtails on the 30th. Surely September will be more productive for bird watchers," John hopes!
Classic sailing ships have on the other hand been very numerous and of note were three beautiful wooden herring boats - powered only by sail - from Brittany which anchored in Galmisdale Bay, drawing admiring glances from punters attending the Howlin' Fling, which certainly did not disappoint with its winning combination of sunny weather, great bands, lovely festival food and plenty of local beer! Great to see the Angus Binnie trio getting all these Londoners and Northerners to tap their feet and get into the ceilidh scene . . . August has also seen the return of Compass to Eigg to finish the transformation of the Green shed into a multi-purpose space offering room to the coastguard equipment and four business units for renting out.
On a more personal note, I was delighted to have been invited to participate to a brilliant international Island film festival in Ile de Groix off Lorient from 23-27 August. This 22nd edition of the FIFIG showcased the Scottish Islands and I was very happy to take part in debates about island renewable energy and community landownership. Eigg, Muck and Canna were amongst the islands showcased, and it was lovely to have been able to comment on the Prince of Muck which was shown together with a lovely photographic portrait of Lawrence MacEwen by Jim Richardson in the exhibition space, which also featured great pics of Eigg by Jeremy Lampin, "The Pioneers of Eigg". The amount of films - long and short documentaries as well as feature films shown in three cinemas - was simply staggering, and the craic was great, with a wealth of Scottish and world musicians. A highly recommended festival with its own currency, plenty of traditional buckwheat savoury pancakes and a pretty mean cervoise, Asterix's favourite tipple!
Last but not least, the long-awaited retirement party for Ronnie Dyer took place at the end of the month and we all hope that Ronnie did enjoy himself as much as we did! Thanks Ronnie for all these years of service to the islands of Eigg, Muck and Rum; we've enjoyed your notoriously dry humour, your seamanship and your uncanny ability to spot marine wildlife, even if it at times interfered with travel plans, but as you always said, "You can always catch the next train, but when will you see your next Minke Whale?"
Mallaig Maritime Day - August 2023
Mallaig Maritime Day 2023 was a great success! The day started off a bit wet with the rain threatening to stay for the day, but it cleared up nicely just at the right time.
It was great to welcome Mallaig, Ardnamurchan and District Pipe Band to the day. The atmosphere they created was enjoyed by all who came. It was especially poignant that they played NAR, which was written by Pipe Major Angus Binnie and band member Allan Mackenzie in memory of Nathan Ritchie, a member of the Mallaig Lifeboat Crew.
Photo by Moe Mathieson
Mallaig Lifeboat Henry Alston Hewat welcomed visitors and sightseers on board throughout the day. Hopefully, after trying on the children's crew costumes, we have some budding crew for the future. A variety of stalls for crafts, kids, and teas and cakes were there to enjoy. Lots of brilliant face paints done by Sarah Powell, Hook a Duck and the Fort William Bucking Bronco kept everyone (of all ages) entertained. A big thank you must go to our local culinary experts, Michelle, Kyle and Scott and their own stall assistants who in the face of some damp weather kept the locally sourced fish paella, burgers and hotdogs coming. A big thank you to Arisaig Mussels, Caralisa and Letterfinlay for providing all the ingredients which enabled all the great fare. We must also thank the Mallaig Fire Engine and Ambulance who came down and showed us their vehicles and equipment.
A fantastic amount of money was raised for both charities, with each banking around £2900. We could not have achieved this without the help of the many businesses and locals who made donations and we are very grateful to all who contributed and to all who supported on the day.
The RNLI depends solely on voluntary donations and legacies and receives no government funding. It is donations that help our volunteer lifeboat crews to continue their mission in saving lives at sea.
The Fishermen's Mission is a national Charity providing emergency care when needed and a lifeline of welfare support to fishermen and their families, whether working or retired.
RNLI Fundraising Committee /The Fishermen's Mission
Mallaig and Morar Highland Games 2023
It has taken a few years, but at last the sun shone down on Mallaig and Morar Highland Games on Sunday 6th August. Accompanied by The MaAD Pipe Band, Chieftain Charlie MacFarlane was greeted with warm applause and even warmer weather as he strode into The Lovat Field to declare The Games open.
Photo by Moe Mathieson
The Games saw a record number of pipers, dancers and athletes participate, as well as strong competition in the Senior and Junior Highland Games.
There were two new trophies up for grabs for the Caber and The Mile, with two deserving winners: Scott Hutchison from the USA lifted the Gerard MacDonald Memorial Shield with a straight 12 o' clock toss of the Caber, and Leòdhais MacPherson from Tyneside via Mallaig saw off strong competition to win the inaugural Donnie MacLellan Mile.
Scott and Leòdhais were in fact double winners, as Scott won The Big Mac Cup, awarded to the top Heavy, and Leòdhais followed up his triumph in the mile with a win in the Cross Country, lifting the Jackie MacKellaig Memorial Trophy in a time only a few seconds away from his father Kenny's record - one to aim for next year!
Photo by Susan MacKellaig
Notable other doubles were in the Women's and twelve and under Cross Country, with Jessica Acheson from Fort William and Sandy Gillies from Arisaig retaining their trophies from 2022, lifting The Mowi Trophy and The Angus MacKellaig Cup respectively.
The piping saw seventeen competing, which legendary judge Ian MacFadyen described as a 'record in his time coming to Morar.' Competition was of a very high standard, and eventually awards were shared in the Adult competition between Sandy Cameron, picking up the John Gillies Bourblach prize for Piobaireachd and Angus MacPhee winning The Alasdair FB Roberts Memorial Quaich as the overall winner in Adult Piping. Meantime in the eighteen and under section, we saw a clean sweep of trophies by Hector Finlayson in The March, Strathspey & Reel.
Photo by Susan MacKellaig
As always, the Highland Dancing was competitive, with an amazing thirty-five dancers of all ages taking part. A full day's dancing that required a marathon piping session from Allan MacKenzie eventually saw Innes Mackenzie being presented with the John and Mae MacVarish Memorial Trophy as the overall winner in the Adult section. Well done too to Maria Monk in firstly winning the Bank of Scotland Quaich in the Premier Over 12 and under 16 section, and then following this up with second place in the World Finals at Cowal a few weeks later.
Typical of Mallaig & Morar Games, there was an emphasis on taking part and enjoying the occasion. We saw huge numbers taking part in children's events, and The Junior Highland Games team offered a drop-in option for most of the afternoon. This proved popular, allowing youngsters to try out junior versions of the Shot Put, Caber, and Weight for Distance all day.
There have been expressions of interest to extend the Heavies competition to include a Women's section.
Photo by Iain Ferguson
Chair Colin Buchanan: "There was something distinctly local about this year's Games. The Games Dance was supported by two excellent local bands, Riska and The Mallaig High Ceilidh Band. We had a local legend as our Chieftain, supported by a local pipe band. There was also a fantastic mix of locals and visitors volunteering, spectating, and competing, and we are extremely grateful for that support. We like to think that is what defines us, so keep coming back!" High spirits throughout the weekend giving hope for more sunshine in 2024!
A Write Highland Hoolie: Mallaig Book Festival
Friday 10th to Sunday 12th November 2023
Tickets are selling well, so make sure you get yours! There are two sessions which should be of particular interest to the local communities, both on the Sunday. At 11.45 our own Tom 'Moby' McClean tells us some of his many adventures as a survival expert: living on Rockall for 40 days, first solo row across the Atlantic, crossing the Atlantic in a bottle shaped boat, and circumnavigating the British Isles in a boat shaped like a whale! At 1.15 we welcome back Lin Anderson and another of her dark tales - with a local twist! The Wild Coast features Lin's popular heroine, forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod, and involves a murder mystery set on one of our local campsites!
Some amazing music is on offer again this year. Friday's opening event at 5.30 is Beyond The Swelkie - A Celebration of the life & work of George Mackay Brown with Duncan Chisholm, Hamish Napier, with poet Jim Mackintosh. Meet at 5pm for a complimentary dram. Duncan and Hamish play in the bar after dinner but you must be a ticket holder of Beyond the Swelkie or a resident to attend. All three will hold a workshop at the High School on the Thursday.
Saturday draws to a close at 6pm with a Musical Extravaganza with Ross Ainsley and Tim Edey. They will also play in the bar after dinner, and the same condition applies, due to space constraints - only ticket holders to the Exravaganza can attend.
Our programme will shortly be available at the West Highland Hotel, libraries, Mallaig Heritage Centre, Kenny's Book Shop, Arisaig's Land Sea & Islands Centre and the Highland Bookshop in Fort William. It can be viewed on our website. Keep an eye on our facebook page for when they will be in the outlets.
The Hoolie ends as usual with our Celebration Tea Party and Children's Prizegiving, with delicious baking from Mallaig Primary School parents and singing in English and Gaelic from Mallaig School choirs. And of course we'll be entertained by the inimitable Alan Windram, with his new book, One Button Benny and the Dinosaur Dilemma. Open to everyone, it's a cracking way to wind up this year's festival.
The Hoolie Team
www.a-write-highland-hoolie.com Facebook awritehighlandhoolie
Played four, won four. That was the month of August for Mallaig FC. Yes, Mallaig FC had a very successful month scoring 17 goals and conceding only four as they kept up their challenge in the William Wilson League.
On Saturday 5th August goals from Ryan MacDonald (2) and Andrew Sneddon gave Mallaig a narrow 3-2 win over Portree Juniors in a match played at Mallaig Park.
Saturday 12th August Mallaig FC travelled to Portree and defeated the home side by five goals to one. Mallaig goalscorers were Andrew Sneddon (2); Ryan MacDonald; Archie Gillies and Ian MacPherson.
Matchday 11 of the League was a crucial one with table toppers Sleat & Strath being the visitors to Mallaig with a victory for the visitors confirming them champions. However Mallaig had other ideas and they kept their hopes of becoming League champions alive with a hard fought 2-1 victory, Ross Douglas coming off the bench to score the winning goal.
On Saturday 26th August Mallaig FC travelled to Kyle and defeated the home side by seven goals to zero. Goal scorers were Andrew Sneddon (2); Chris Lee (2); Michael Doherty; Ryan MacDonald and Brett MacMillan.
Match day 13 of the William Wilson League was due to be against Portree on Saturday 2nd September however the final home match of the season had to be cancelled as Portree called off, being unable to raise a team. Mallaig FC were subsequently awarded the points with a 3-0 scoreline.
The League season was completed last Saturday with Mallaig winning a tense encounter with Sleat & Strath at Broadford by the odd goal in five, so winning the League title in the last game of the season.
Ambitious Conservation Project Brings New Lease of Life for Island's Ancient Barn
An island community's dream to save part of its history has moved one step closer with design work starting on the Coroghan Barn redevelopment project on the Isle of Canna. Project plans include new spaces for use by the community, visitors and local enterprises.
For over ten years the tiny Hebridean community has been pushing to find a viable future for the 17th century agricultural building that perches above Canna's stunning Coroghan beach. A unique example of a 'Lochaber Bank Barn', Coroghan Barn dates from the 1790s and has been witness to profound upheavals in Canna's society, settlement and land use over three centuries.
The building is on Historic Environment Scotland's 'At risk' register due to the ravages of time and weather, and the island community feared for its future. Now with funding from the Highland Council, the National Trust for Scotland, Crown Estate Scotland and Architectural Heritage Fund, proposals for renovation and a redevelopment of the site are being advanced.
Canna's community development trust IoCCDT, and the conservation charity National Trust for Scotland, which cares for the island of Canna, are working in partnership to bring forward an ambitious scheme that will see the historic fabric conserved and repaired, while a new-build extension sympathetic to the location and existing structure will be constructed alongside. The redevelopment will provide spaces for community activities, small businesses, and budget visitor accommodation for some of the 10,000 to 15,000 people who visit Canna each year from all over the world.
A design team led by award-winning Queensferry-based practice WT Architecture has secured the commission to work with Canna's 18 residents, the National Trust for Scotland and other stakeholders to come up with a design that meets the exacting brief.
IoCCDT Chair, Geraldine MacKinnon said, 'It's been a long-term ambition for our community to see Coroghan Barn saved, and a new life found for it. We're hopeful that this is the first step to seeing it make a positive contribution to Canna's social and economic life once again.'
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
21st August 2023
Lifeboat launched following reports of a party of eight paddlers in trouble in Loch Nevis. Stornoway coastguard issued a Mayday that some of the group had capsized and were in the water. On arrival, Mallaig lifeboat found three paddlers still in boats but five members of the group were missing nearby and in the water. The lifeboat crew, along with a local RIB from Inverie, recovered all five casualties from the water. Those recovered by the RIB were transferred to the lifeboat for assessment. The lifeboat's daughter craft then recovered the remaining three from the rocks on the shoreline nearby. All eight members of the group were then transferred back to Mallaig Lifeboat Station, where along with Coastguard CRT and Ambulance crew they were assessed for injury and hypothermia, and although cold, all were found fit and well with no injuries.
Mallaig lifeboat then returned to the scene of the incident and along with the RIB from Inverie recovered four canoes and flotsam from the water. The remaining canoe was recovered from the shoreline in the evening.
Mallaig lifeboat would like to thank the owner of the RIB from Inverie, the CalMac ferry Coruisk, and other vessels who responded and assisted in a positive outcome.
22nd August 2023
Launched at 20:10 by Stornoway Coastguard to the Isle of Eigg. A 14 year old female had come off her pushbike and had a suspected broken wrist. On-scene at Galmisdale at 20:40, the casualty and her mother, along with members of the local Coastguards were waiting at the slipway. Casualty and parent were then boarded and the Lifeboat departed for Mallaig at 20:45. Back at the pontoon at 21:25, the casualty was landed and transported to Belford Hospital in Fort William by her mother in the family's own vehicle. Lifeboat ready for service at 21:35.
25th August 2023
Launched at 13:05 by Stornoway Coastguard to reports of an overdue diver off Mallaig Harbour. On-scene at 13:10, the lifeboat commenced a downwind search towards Glasnacardoch bay. On the return leg back towards the dive boat the Lifeboat Coxswain received a call from a local ferry in the harbour that the missing diver had managed to swim to shore and was safe and well. Lifeboat stood down at 13:25 and berthed at the pontoon by 13:35.
26th August 2023
Launched at 17:15 by Stornoway Coastguard to two kayakers in difficulty of Tigh na Mara campsite in Arisaig. On passage to the area the Lifeboat was informed that the kayakers had made it ashore and were safe and well. The Lifeboat was stood by the Coastguard at 17:30 and returned to Mallaig. Ready for service at 17:45.
29th August 2023
Requested at 17:09 by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg where a female had suffered a badly broken ankle. Once alongside at Eigg ferry pier at 18:10 the medics were conveyed to Cleadale on the west side of the island. Helimed 5 was also on-scene at the location. Once the patient was packaged she was transferred to the Helicopter and flown to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness. After the Medics and a crewman had returned to the Lifeboat it departed for Mallaig at 19:25, berthing at the pontoon at 20:00.
30th August 2023
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard at 17:00 to attend the re-floating attempt of a grounded well boat at the south side of Kyle Rhea narrows. On scene at 17:40, the Lifeboat joined other vessels involved in the operation to await for high water. One vessel attached her tow line early, ready to be joined by others when the tide approached slack water. The Master of the casualty reported that he felt her bumping on the reef and asked the vessel that had the tow rope on him to take the strain, and to everybody's relief the casualty gradually slipped off the reef and into deeper water. The casualty's crew checked all compartments for any water ingress and thankfully all were sound. The Master carried out engine checks and all were fine. The passage back to Mallaig was commenced by the casualty at 18:30 under escort from the Lifeboat and one other vessel. Lifeboat, casualty and other escort in were in Mallaig by 20:00. Lifeboat fuelled and ready for service at 20:30.
4th September 2023
Launched at 12:15 to investigate a report of a small kayak /canoe located on a beach on the west side of Soay Sound. The Coastguard had received a call from a local fishing vessel on passage through the sound that a small red kayak/canoe was on a remote beach and too far up for them to ascertain if it was recently used or had it just drifted ashore on the recent high tides. On-scene at 13:00, the Y-Boat was launched with two crew to recover the craft. As suspected the there was nothing in the craft to raise any concern for anyone's safety, just the bare hull. The craft was recovered to the Lifeboat. Once the Y-Boat was swung back onboard the Lifeboat departed the scene at 13:35 and was back alongside the pontoon at 14:30.
News from Mallaig Harbour
August seems to have passed in a flash, and we are already into September! It has felt like a very quick month with not much of note to report. The yachting season is drawing to an end, although the good weather in the first week of September has given the Marina a wee boost. Both the Blue Clipper and the Eda Frandsen will have finished their season in Mallaig by the time you read this, which is always a sign for us in the Harbour that summer is over!
The Harbour was the setting for the Maritime day on Sunday 13th August, to raise funds for the Mallaig RNLI and RNMDSF (Fishermen's Mission). Although the weather wasn't great on the day, it was dry for a few hours, and it seemed to be just enough to encourage everyone to come and spend their money. It was nice to see the Gala Day back on the Harbour, albeit in a smaller format than previous years. The Mallaig, Ardnamurchan and District (MaaD) Pipe Band opened proceedings, and then played to welcome the Steam Train into Mallaig, so that encouraged some of the visitors to the area onto the Harbour to spend their money! The pipe band are back to regular Monday evening practices now that the schools are back in, and while the weather is good, they are hoping to do these on the bandstand, so listen out for them!
We are always a bit behind by the time we collate all fishing landing information, but the visiting fishing vessels continued into July, and as for last year, the value of landings for the month of July was over £1million, which is positive news for both the Harbour and the fleet!
The work at Eigg to remove rock from the approach to the ferry berth took much longer than first anticipated, so the Wyre Estuary was berthing overnight in the Harbour for the whole month of August, rather than the fortnight that they had planned for. This should hopefully mean the end of tidal sailings for the Loch Nevis - but she is away for her annual overhaul at the moment, so the Loch Bhrusda and the Larven are covering. We lost both the Coruisk and the Loch Bhrusda for a few days at the end of August - the Coruisk to Oban for the Mull run and the Loch Bhrusda to Berneray for the Sound of Harris run. Both have now returned to Mallaig.
August is also the month when parking invoices / permits are issued. Because we have been a bit short staffed, we haven't managed to issue these yet, but we will be sending out terms and conditions along with the permits this year. We know that parking is a nightmare in the village, but it's equally a nightmare for us when people park randomly on the Harbour. During the winter months, when it's quieter, we try to be more lenient with this, but there seems to have been a steady stream of parking issues over the last few weeks. Please don't park in a space unless you have either a permit to be in that space, or express permission from the permit holder. We have three visitor spaces behind the prawn market, which are intended for visitors to the Harbour Office, or contractors we have working for us. We don't mind if these are empty and someone uses them to nip to the shop - especially outwith office hours, but many of the issues that have arisen lately are because these are being used as unofficial parking spaces. We've also noticed people using Scottish Seafarms spaces (alongside their office and in the area adjacent to our workshop). Scottish Seafarms staff are now back working in Mallaig, and need these spaces again so if you have been sneakily using one of these, then please don't! It's always a challenge in the summer months, and easier in the winter, so many of these issues will be resolved in the next few weeks when things quieten down, but I thought it was worth just reminding everyone. We'd love to be able to accommodate all those who ask for spaces, but it's just not possible, and at the moment we have a waiting list of over 30 people for the spaces we do have.
We're still working away in the background on developments for the Outer Harbour, including the new overnight ferry berth, and ways of achieving some of the other projects we had hoped to do if our funding application had been successful. We're hoping to undertake an economic impact assessment over the next couple of months, which will enable us to make our case more strongly with funders. This will require the successful consultant to consult with some of our key stakeholders, including the communities served by the harbour. We hope to have this done over the winter months, when people have a bit more time to contribute.
Finally this month, you will see an advert elsewhere in West Word for a Deputy Harbour Master. We are hoping to recruit someone who will be able to work alongside our existing Harbour Master, Pimmy, with a view to becoming Harbour Master at some point in the future. We realise that Pimmy's shoes are going to be big shoes to fill when the time does eventually come, but there's a lot of knowledge to be shared, so we thought we should start the search for a successor!
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
Tricky to think of a reason for not starting my column this month - and yet I've been putting off this pen-to-paper moment for two days now! It's a dark, wet, gusty Sunday night now and I've promised my copy for Monday! It is that now-or-never moment, so here we go! Good news to start with.
More than 7.7 million journeys made with ScotRail in August
Passenger numbers using ScotRail services in August have just been released and show that more than 7.7 million journeys were made with the operator across Scotland, and also that off peak travel on the network's trains continues to soar, reaching the highest level since 2015. A total of 4.5 million journeys were recorded - 102% of pre-pandemic levels. The figures are a great boost to staff morale and the operator, who kept running through the pandemic when revenue fell to as low as just 8% of normal levels when people were discouraged from taking public transport. For sure on our branch line we saw a huge surge in July 2023 when The Jacobite services were not running - and this level of passengers is still holding up nicely. Though passenger numbers on the early morning and late night trains from/to Mallaig have fallen back, the number of booked seat reservations from Fort William going south fills the seats.
David Simpson, ScotRail's service delivery director said, "It's great to see such a substantial number of people choosing to use rail as they journey back to their everyday activities. These encouraging numbers are a testament to the hard work of our people in delivering a safe, reliable, and green railway. Our focus is on building on this success to encourage more people to choose Scotland's Railway as their low carbon mode of travel."
However, personally I hope that there will not be a rise in rail fares early next year due to the current levels of high inflation. Under the grant agreement between the Scottish Government and ScotRail, fare rises, which take effect every January, are capped at the same rate to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) from the previous July. But inflation has caused the RPI to increase by almost 9%, meaning this could be passed on to ScotRail users. The Scottish Government however, is expected to announce the findings of its "fair fares review" before the end of this year, with a trial scrapping of peak train tickets starting in October. Control of rail fares is within the power of the Scottish Government. I really hope that they announce a rail fare freeze to encourage returning regular rail users to rely on rail travel now that numbers are increasing. Staffing levels are increasing and across our region we have long serving, and new, loyal staff who always go that extra mile to give customer satisfaction and help if needed, to make visitors and locals want to stay with the railway as a reliable, safe and affordable way to travel. From my own view, as you are aware, we still have an almost non existent catering service whilst travelling, and with the ever present threat of losing some ticket offices in some areas nationwide hanging over us we can only hope that common sense prevails in 2024. Phew - I'm glad to get that off my chest!!
Ticket Office Closures
Thankfully more than half a million people have responded to a consultation on rail industry proposals to shut almost 870 ticket offices and replace them with ticket vending machines! The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents train operators, said that across the network only 12% of tickets are sold currently from booking offices. The consultation closed on Friday 1st September, and Transport Focus, the watchdog, now have extra time to review the responses as the scale of opposition to the scheme has defied expectation. Disability groups, charities, unions, commuters, cabinet ministers and individual travellers have all responded opposing the proposal. It is the biggest ever consultation response, surpassing, for example, the 2016 consultation on the BBC charter which only received 192,000 responses!
Some sources are suggesting that the whole agenda could be derailed in a victory for campaigners! This has all the hallmarks, as with previous ideas, of being kicked into the long grass. A timetable for the next steps is expected to be set out next week, say the RDG.
Lord Hendy of Richmond Hill, the chairman of Network Rail, said the closing date for responses had previously been extended (by five weeks) to allow government and train operators to hear from more passengers. Currently, as it seems with so many proposals to make the rail industry in the UK one united railway system, we are at an impasse!
ScotRail's new Inspiration Hub
ScotRail have announced a brand new website called an 'inspiration hub'. It is a one-stop source for things to do, upcoming events, discounts and offers to fuel your next rail trip in Scotland.
The suggestion is that if you find a destination of your choice and are inspired, ScotRail will offer rail fares at great prices along with amazing discounts at attractions for families, couples, pensioners and groups.
Currently there are 300 carefully curated ideas to choose from, be it a city break or a visit to the Highlands. Linked blog posts provide ideas for cheap days out, trains to the beach, rainy days out, trips following in the footsteps of the Jacobites, and much more!
Go to www.scotrail.co.uk/inspiration-hub - it could be the start of your next adventure.
Further update on proposed Glenfinnan viaduct repairs
Following on from last month's known details of the listed building consent application to the Highland Council by Network Rail (to temporarily attach an angle bracket and brace support system to Span 5 refuge on the viaduct): to minimise disruption to the operational railway, the works to attach the bracing would likely be undertaken through a programme of night shifts, accessed using ropes, abseiling over the parapet walls. Little or no construction equipment would be visible during the daytime.
Based on current control period timescales for major works to the viaduct, it is anticipated the external brace will be needed on the refuge for an 8 to 10 year period.
Network Rail to face criminal charges for Carmont crash
Network Rail is to face criminal charges at the High Court in Aberdeen on Thursday 7th September over the Carmont derailment on Wednesday 12th August 2020 in which three people died.
The incident was caused by a wrongly built drainage trench which led to debris being washed onto the track after intense rainfall, the UK Department for Transport's Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) concluded in its final report in March last year. The court roll published by the Scottish courts and tribunal service showed the prosecution will be under a "section 76 indictment" which suggests a guilty plea has been offered.
Among twenty safety recommendations in its report, the RAIB called for improvements to the way Network Rail managed lineside drainage and handled extreme weather, along with modifications to older trains such as the type involved, to improve protection for passengers and crew.
Train drivers union ASLEF threatened to boycott their 40 year old "high speed trains" run by ScotRail as Inter 7 City services, by the third anniversary of the crash on 12th August 2020, but has put that on hold pending further discussions over safety improvements.
Train driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie, and passenger Christopher Stuchbury died when the train derailed and six other people on the Aberdeen-Glasgow service were injured.
ASLEF (train drivers) Union in Scotland
On Tuesday 15th August 2023 the train drivers' union in Scotland announced that they have accepted an offer of a backdated 5% pay increase from 1st April 2023, plus an extra 1% pay increase in October 2023 from ScotRail on behalf of their members. Similar acceptances had previously been agreed in Scotland by RMT.
West Coast Railways' Jacobite train resumes services
Following the cessation on 18th July of the very popular steam-hauled Jacobite train between Fort William and Mallaig, full service has now resumed after the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) granted WCR a time bound exemption certificate while their claim for a judicial review is determined. This will be in place until 30th November which means that the seasonal service can operate to its timetabled service.
Thousands of their guests were refunded but nothing can make up for the disappointment caused by the cancellation of services. WCR staff and locomotive staff were almost in mourning, let alone the subsidiary staff and accommodation providers, caterers, florists etc. It has been a strange season for all involved.
Network Rail access bonuses for staff who went on strike
Network Rail has reignited trade union RMT reaction by refusing to award annual bonuses to staff who went on strike. The decision, announced in the last week of August by Network Rail, could affect up to 20,000 members of the RMT union if a ballot is held to discuss withdrawal of labour. The RMT states that it already has a mandate. Originally members took industrial action over pay, jobs and working conditions. The dispute was settled in March 2023 when the union put to the members an offer from Network Rail of a 9% pay rise - which was accepted. However the RMT union has been informed that those members who took part in strikes from June 2022 onwards will not receive their annual bonuses. Needless to say the RMT union is speaking to members about this.
See you on the train,
Birdwatch August 2023 by Stephen MacDonald
Bird sightings were as expected for August, with wader passage and seabird movements dominating the reports. Most wader sightings were from the Traigh-Camusdarach area, with occasional reports from the Morar estuary, Loch Ailort and West Bay, Mallaig.
Small numbers of both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits were seen on Traigh Golf Course or on the shore there. Knot were seen at West Bay and Traigh, with two individuals joining the Bar-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers feeding on the golf course, remaining there till the month end.
Golden Plovers were also seen at Traigh on several occasions, with 22 there on the 21st. Redshank were seen regularly at Traigh and the Morar estuary, but on the morning of the 22nd there were at least 20 at Traigh and a flock of 62 feeding at the head of Loch Ailort. Greenshank were reported from Traigh, Loch Ailort, and the Morar Estuary.
Sanderling were reported from Traigh and Camusdarach, with Dunlin and Ringed Plover also seen at these sites. Turnstone were seen at West Bay and Traigh.
Still large numbers of Manx Shearwaters to be seen in the Sound of Sleat again, feeding very close inshore at times. Storm Petrels were reported on several occasions. Good numbers of Kittiwakes and Gannets were also seen and both Arctic and Great Skuas were reported. Arctic and Common Terns could be seen just offshore from Mallaig and Traigh, with good numbers of juveniles amongst them.
A Little Egret was seen at the head of Loch Ailort from the 13th till the morning of the 22nd. The spring of 2019 was the last report from this area.
Red-breasted Mergansers were reported from Loch Ailort and Loch nan Ceall and two Goosanders were seen at Invercaimbe on the 28th. Red-throated Divers were seen with newly fledged young close inshore at Traigh and Camusdarach.
Tawny Owls were heard on numerous occasions near Woodside, Morar. Sparrowhawks were reported from Morar and Traigh. On the 1st, a single Red Grouse was seen on the hillside to the east of Arisaig.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Hugh read his copy on The Aberdonian after he and his Mum, Fiona,
won tickets for a day out on the luxury train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen through On and Off the Rails' recent competition!
Martin and Susan Williams took a copy with them when they visited the Giant's Causeway recently. You might spot Martin on the stones!
The Martins took a West Word to Berlin, visiting Checkpoint Charlie and the nearby Mauer Museum.
Here's their copy with a model of kayaker Peter Faust, who escaped from Leipzig in East Germany in his inflatable kayak on October 11th, 1988.
The Mauer Museum tells the stories of many of the escapees from East Germany to the West
and their highly creative means of getting out (tunnels, handmade hot air balloons, suitcases, mini submarines . . . )
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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