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Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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December 2012 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
EIGG ENTREPRENEUR WINS START-UP FUNDING
Ben Cormack (30) from Eigg is one of the seven Highland entrepreneurs who picked up a share of a £7500 prize-fund at the seventh annual UHI Business Ideas Competition, winning not one but two prizes.
Ben Cormack, presented with his awards by Raymond More of the Robertson Group and Marie Mackintosh of Highland Opportunity
Organised by CREATE, the centre for innovation and enterprise at Inverness College UHI and sponsored by a wide range of local businesses and organisations, the competition offers UHI students and members of the Highlands and Islands community the chance to win funding by pitching their idea to an expert judging panel.
More than 70 guests enjoyed an evening at Inverness College UHI's Longman Campus, which featured an entertaining key note speech from Mike Southon, a renowned serial entrepreneur and co-author of best-selling book 'The Beermat Entrepreneur'.
Out of 16 finalists the winners were:
- Top Prize £1500 and Best Commercial Idea £1000 - Ben Cormack (30), Isle of Eigg
- Best Social Enterprise £1000 - Katy Kitchingham (36), Tain
- Best Student Idea £1000 - Jenna Forbes (21), Caithnes
- Most Innovative Idea £1000 - Donna Fitzpatrick (43), Inverness
- Most Creative Idea £1000 - Rhodri Davies (18), Orkney
- Best Researched Idea £500 - Brian Green (52), Rogart
- Best Presentation £500 - Dave Mackay (22), Inverness
Top Prize winner Ben impressed the judges with his concept for bringing affordable aerial photography to Scotland, benefitting a wide range of customers from architects and surveyors, to farmers and film-makers.
He said: 'I'm interested in film-making and photography and I'm also fascinated with things which fly, so I have been working on the idea for quite a while. I'm so glad I took a friends advice to enter the competition. Even if I hadn't won the money, it helped me focus my idea and work it out properly on paper.
'I was quietly confident but I didn't expect to be going back to Eigg with £2500. The money is really going to help me complete more market research and purchase equipment to finally get things started. I've also received some excellent support from CREATE and Business Gateway so it's all starting to become a reality - it's a really exciting time.'
Carol Langston, head of CREATE, added: 'All the prize-winners and finalists deserve huge congratulations. The competition was very tough this year as it received a record number of entries. We received applications from entrants of all ages and backgrounds and a phenomenal range of ideas from all across the Highlands and Islands.'
CREATE is funded by the European Social Fund, The Highland Council, Scotland's Colleges and Inverness College UHI to help students and graduates increase their enterprising skills and to help individuals start up their own businesses and become self-employed
AIDEN LANDS PLACE ON TOP ENGINEERING COURSE
Aiden Ingram from Mallaig has been accepted as an Officer Cadet sponsored by Clyde Marine at City of Glasgow College to study engineering.
Aiden is only 16 years old and to be accepted onto such a prestigious course at such a young age is an amazing achievement. Aiden was competing for a place against tough opposition - but having completed the Maritime Skills course at West Highland College UHI, and gained a variety of extra RYA and MCA qualifications and certificates as part of the course, he proved a strong candidate.
Aiden was also named as Learner of the Year by his tutors on the Mallaig Course. His interviewer at Glasgow City College expressed his delight at his Marine qualifications for someone so young.
The Certificate in Maritime Skills course available at Mallaig Learning Centre has a 100% acceptance rate for students applying for cadetship. Learning Centre Manager Jane Henderson has another 19 week course due to start in January. 'We already have a great number of applications for this course but we are always happy to hear from more. This term we have students from Ayr, Fort William and all parts of Skye because it is such a great route into employment in offshore industries or to further study in the maritime sector, so give us a call.'
Mallaig Learning Centre has had a number of successes with maritime trainees. Cameron Muir (18) and Beverley Trotter is also off to the Maritime Nautical College in Glasgow.
Aiden Ingram receiving his certificate from College Chair, Michael Foxley at the recent Celebration of Achievement in Fort William.
A visitor to an Arisaig garden
This month began with fireworks, as most Novembers do. A drizzly bonfire night didn't deter however, and folk continued to celebrate long after the fire had inevitably died out (despite having most of Rowan Cottage fuelling it - thanks Chic and Joanne!). We say cheerio to a couple more friends as they disappear for the winter: Evelyn is off to the big city and Suzie and Fay are off to a turkey farm. I know which one I'd rather be heading for! Good luck to all and have fun, see you soon!
Tommy the post had a couple of parties - planned and unplanned. His 'Come dressed as a Song' party was a lot of fun with such costumes as baggy trousers, cigarettes and alcohol, I'm too sexy for my shirt, and Sgt Pepper. On a related note, thank goodness November is almost over and Tommy is running out of reasons to keep his moustache! Although well done, it was for a good cause, and despite cheating by starting early Tommy still managed to raise a fair amount.
The peninsula was once again invaded by wedding goers as John and Emilie Yates tied the knot, Knoydart style. They very kindly invited all locals to their ceilidh and everyone danced the night away to Gary Innes, Duncan Chisholm and Ross Martin. Even more kindly was their donation left to the village hall, which we thank them for greatly.
The Christmas Bazaar was a success and a delight, well done parent council people. Lots of money was raised for school funds. Some goods on offer were: fantastic photographs from Pit who generously donated some of his earnings to the hall, Karen's baking, Gwen had an assortment of jams and treats, the school had cards and aprons, Davie had a selection of books, Isla had her cards out, big Rhona had some knitting for sale, the Foundation had a selection of goodies, Freya and Anna R had some lovely baking and were also donating half of their earnings (£27!) to Children in Need, and Liz and Penny had beautiful homemade chocolates and wine for sale and pre-order! Lots of Christmas shopping crossed off lists I imagine! And dinner included, with the choice of yummy veggie soup or stovies, and mulled wine. What a lovely way to spend a couple of hours!
A wee note: The pub is transitioning into their Winter Hours - 3pm openings on boat days, 4pm on non-boat days, and 12pm at weekends.
Well done Anna Wilson for passing the TRSS Senior Ride Leader exam: It looks like it was a fun weekend. And also check out the new Knoydart Pony Trekking website! An old friend of Knoydart was visiting this month as well - it was nice catching up with Brian Pile. Doune shared some more great photos on facebook as the stags returned, the apples were gathered and badgers were discouraged.
This month saw Isla's (short lived) return behind the till in the Tearoom! And I'm sure I speak for all the ladies when I say how excited I am for the Ladies Lunch!
And I suppose all that's left for me to say now is… I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a tremendous New Year!! Speak again next year!
NEW OWNER OF THE OLD FORGE PUB
The remotest pub on the British mainland, The Old Forge in Inverie, Knoydart, has a new owner in the shape of Belgian Jean Pierre Robinet.
Jean Pierre - known as JP - has taken over the pub from Ian and Jackie Robertson, who have been running it for the last twenty years. It was put on sale two years ago at offers over £790,000, a price reduced earlier this year to £645,000. The sale price has not been disclosed.
JP is no stranger to the area, having visited it a number of times over the last twenty years since he went to Knoydart on a stalking holiday. Neither is he a stranger to the hospitality industry; he was the youngest top hotel boss in Brussels when, at the age of 27, he became general manager of the 5 star Metropole Hotel.
Later he became sales manager of the Leading Hotels of the World group, which included the Savoy in London, and also ran the 100-bed luxury lodge Plein Ciel at Champery, more than 6000 ft up n the Swiss Alps. He has also managed hotels in Australia.
JP is delighted to be in the unspoilt wilderness of Knoydart. He said 'I want to do my best for the place and the people, and am happy pulling pints or standing in for the chef. Ian and Jackie have created something magical here and I would not want to change a thing.' Ian Robertson said 'We will miss it, but JP is fully committed and knows the place. The pub is passing into good hands.'
Ian and Jackie now run Knoydart House, a successful self-catering business.
ISLE OF MUCK
November can be a difficult month for the Muck West Word correspondent. Not a lot happens in November. But there are exceptions. Last November it was a very rare bird which had strayed off course. This years it is builders - lots of them. Gallanach Lodge, because of its elevated position (with incredible views towards Rum), appears to be a large building. Now the slaters are finished, the windows are in and the main external work is the larch cladding which can be put on on the fine days. On the Power Scheme Gordon MacKenzie and his small band of assistants are working day and night. First they have built two solid islands in the bog and now they are pouring the foundations for the battery house and the photo voltaic panels.
On a very different theme is the news that we could be looking forward to a permanent minister for NW Lochaber after a long vacancy. Hoping that everything goes to plan but whatever happens he won't be on station in time for Christmas when on Muck I will be conducting a short carol service as usual. And at this juncture may I take the opportunity to wish West Word readers the very best at this time.
ISLE OF RUM
Just rustling up a quick article after the excitement of the Christmas fayre. A jolly afternoon was well spent in the hall breathing in delicious Christmas aromas and sipping mulled wine. The mince pie competition brought in quite a crowd and after Doug (the judge) had sampled all the offerings, he declared Izzy's the winner. Well done Izzy. One entrant didn't have a mince pie tin, so used a casserole dish (by the looks of it), however, the judge wasn't impressed by the giant pie... better luck next year!!
Ben, the fencer, arrived this month, to do some work for SNH. Shed in hand, he has taken up residence on the campsite for the duration. He's rustled up his cosy shed and installed a stove in what seems like a matter of minutes. This kind of super efficiency is an unusual sight and we all looked on in awe.
Comings and goings…Rachel is away to New Zealand for a month to visit Georgie, Martyn (kilmory) is away for the Christmas duration now and Mike is on holiday in Norway. Niall Turnbull, who used to live on Rum, returned (triumphantly) as a farrier to look after the horses' feet and we also got a surprise visit from Dougie and then Shuggie. Jinty sold out of buckfast within the hour...
Internet news... We are now on the fast broadband connection, noticeably faster and after a few teething problems with some email accounts, all is working smoothly.
For any visiting campers, the showers are closed for the winter now and winter rates now apply. The camping pods have been strapped down in the event of any hurricane strength winds, like last year, blowing them away. Dave B and crew are preparing for annual road works, a few of the culverts need clearing and replacing this year as there are some hotspots on the road which have regularly been washed away this year.
The Castle is now closed for the season and when it reopens next spring it will be for tours only; SNH are installing a temporary holiday accommodation village to fill the gap of the hostel closure until the community trust's bunkhouse is complete.
In other accommodation news, Sandy and myself have finished all the work at Ivy Cottage and we are now open for business as a B&B and there may also be two other locals offering B&B next year as well.
Merry Christmas everyone!!
ISLE OF EIGG
A busy November on the island: lots of meetings to discuss the future of the Small Isles medical practice, with a visit from Dr Gartshore and his wife to present plans for an extended West Lochaber practice that would include both the Small Isles and the Acharacle practices. This had the merit of concentrating our minds on the way the medical profession has evolved and the difficulties of retaining GPs under the current contracts which do not seem extremely well adapted to our remote rural locations, with in the Small Isles the added difficulty of working our transport logistics. The provision of emergency service was also much on folks' mind when difficulties were recently encountered to helicopter off one islander requiring urgent treatment. In other words lots of things to consider carefully. Many thanks to the Gartshores for taking the day off to meet us all and making a very comprehensive presentation.
Work in other areas is including the woodland management plan: although frustrating slow, we are inching towards dealing with last year's wind blown trees. Another area which is also being looked at is the proposed extension of the pier building to accommodate a bar, a bigger shop and a new craft shop cum interpretation space to provide information on the island natural and cultural heritage. A start on the latter has been provided by Lochaber Geopark with their colourful display board telling the story of the Sgurr and other outstanding geological features on the island. It is presently inside the pier building until plans are finalised for what will be happening outside.
Sadly this month, we also said our final goodbyes to Donald Campbell, who passed away at the age of 90 in his care home in Glencoe. Donald, who was born at Craigard, and whose father was the last of a long line of Eigg blacksmiths, worked most of his life as the estate gardener and handyman and had been a confirmed bachelor when at the age of 58, he met and married the woman of his life, Pat, who had moved from London to be the Lodge's housekeeper for Keith Schellenberg. Donald served overseas as a Marine in Egypt and Malta during WW2 and in the moving tribute given to him by daughter-in-law Sue Kirk, the story was recalled how during one of his infrequent leaves, he had journeyed all the way home to see his family only to pass Eigg by as the weather did not allow them to land. He had to go all the way to Barra and then back to Mallaig again without landing to return south. There was no resentment on his part when he recounted the story; it was just one of those things in life and you got on with it without complaining. Donald was one of the many islanders that the community paid tribute to on 11 November when folks gathered at the Cleadale war memorial which commemorates all who served in the two world wars..
On the positive side, one thing that is livening up the dark days season is the cultivation of the well being strand with renewed interest for Qigong and Power Yoga practice as well as singing amongst the Eigg ladies.
Other highlights in the month were a cinema night at Tigh an t-Sithean organised to coincide with Children in Need which managed to raise £70 for the charity, and a grand pool tournament at the pier won by new Eigg resident Ian Mathie!
Ian moved to Eigg from Greenock, and is not just one new arrival on Eigg; the island population has swelled with a number of newcomers in the last few months: Justin Kendrick and Eva Schonfeld and their three lads from Edinburgh who have acquired one of the north Cleadale crofts, sailor Celia Bull and her young son Dylan and lately, Libby Barnden (who used to live on Muck) and her partner Charlie Gully.
Megan Frey from the US is also back on Eigg. With her pal Cindy from North Michigan they crewed on a sailing ship from Cape Breton to Eigg, an adventure that they took great pleasure in recounting to the Primary School children by creating a hilarious performance sketch involving sou'westers and a huge boat wheel. You can check Cindy's blog www.hitchhiketheatlantic.wordpress.com and follow their further adventures that will take them to Norway and then Alaska in 2013.
Throughout the month, there has also been much anticipation of the Christmas fair last Saturday which showed the great variety of local produce on offer, as well as fantastic seasonal fare from our talented Eiggy Bread duo: their Stilton and hazelnut pate with oven roasted vegetables was truly delectable, not to mention the roast pork and beef. More should definitely be done to flag up the quality food on offer on Eigg and the Small Isles! I am already looking forward to have my Eigg made Christmas pud and ice-cream, eat my Eigg honey mustard and tablet and use Eigg grown herbs whilst applying Eigg made hand cream and decorating the house with an Eigg holly wreath and an assortment of Eigg made decorations! Watch out for the Eigg hamper next year...In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all West Word readers!
ISLE OF CANNA
Canna now has ten permanent moorings in the bay. They are owned and will be managed by Canna Community Association.
Payment will be on an honesty basis initially and we are sure most sailors will not grudge £10/night for a safe mooring.
Thanks to Bill Campbell & co from Jura who did the groundwork and Greig and Jamie Milligan on Spanish John who laid out the moorings.
Congratulations to Stewart Connor our property manager who won a large hamper for being the NTS property that signed up the most new members this year.
Well done and thanks for sharing it with the community.
The first Hebnet connection has been done and it is too fast for Winnie to keep up with!! Stewart and Murdo have been busy with this and we hope to have everyone connected soon.
RUM by Tommy Ralston
One day, more years ago than I want to think about, I was 'on watch' in the wheelhouse of my father's herring fishing boat, the 49 foot ring-netter, Golden Fleece, heading west from Mallaig to the fishing grounds on the east side of the Outer Hebrides. My watch mate was Dennis MacKay, a great favourite of mine. He would have been around 60 years old then … ancient in my young opinion!
As we rounded Kilmory Point on the north-east corner of the Island of Rum - a point that was better known to we Clyde fisherman as 'Dirty Point', probably because there is a sunken reef that runs off the point at an unusual angle, Dennis drew my attention to a green patch of grass that lies above the lovely wee sandy bay inside the reef. He then told me a tale that was to live in my memory until this day, the dreadful story of a large family who had lived in the cottage whose ruins were clearly visible. The children who lived there, he said, had all died from diphtheria and the parents, after burying their children there, had left the island never to return.
Was this true, or was it some old tale? Had these poor parents really suffered this catastrophe? There were no helicopters or lifeboats, no doctor on the island, no-one on whom they could call for assistance. My imagination showed me the poor parents burying their children, probably with no assistance from anyone - no priest or minister to help them in their remote abode. Where did the distraught couple go?
One day, years later, I was looking at an old Admiralty chart and spotted the legend, 'graves' close by the ruined house. That confirmed my worst fears; Dennis's tale was true! I sailed past 'Dirty Point' many times during my life as a fisherman and lifeboat man and almost always my thoughts went out to the poor couple.
Many years later I read an article about Rum, published in the Scots Magazine that repeated the words of old Dennis. This destroyed my last fond hopes that it had been an 'old wife's tale'.
However, to my great delight this article brought a reply in the same magazine in the form of a letter to the Editor, from a lady in New Zealand, which brought me enormous relief. As I remember it, she wrote that not all of the children had died; that the remaining family had emigrated to New Zealand and that in that lovely country they had added to their remaining children. She was sure of her facts, she continued, as her father had been one of the children.
Quite why I made no effort to contact this lady is a question I cannot answer, so I must put it down to my natural laziness!
Just a few days ago a friend, who had visited Rum, which lies about ten miles west of Mallaig, in the course of a fund-raising event in aid of the Fisherman's Mission, called and loaned me a most excellent book, written by Alastair Scott, called Eccentric Wealth, the Bulloughs of Rum.
In it, Alastair writes of the deaths of the children at Kilmory, writings that told me that the family name was Matheson. Murdo Matheson was a shepherd at Kilmory and he and his wife, Christina, had eleven children. Five of these children had died between the 7th and the 9th of September, 1871. They died of diphtheria contracted, it was rumoured, from a piece of clothing that had been washed up on the beach and taken home by one of the children. A stone at Kilmory gives their names and the dates of their deaths. Broken hearted by grief, the remaining family emigrated to New Zealand where, sadly, they suffered the loss of another daughter whom they buried in New Zealand. As they had already lost a daughter in infancy, this was the seventh child they buried.
In 1894, Alastair tells us, George Bullough, who was to inherit Rum from his father and who was to build the magnificent Kinloch Castle on the island toward the end of the century, was on his 'World Tour', a trip which included a visit to New Zealand. There he was unwittingly to pass very close to Lake Matheson which was named after Dougald Matheson, one of Murdo and Christine's sons, who had discovered it (although the Maoris already knew of it) on one of his trips into unknown territory from the Matheson's home at Cottesbrook Station, in Otago. I had more disappointments in store when I looked up Lake Matheson on a map, to discover that my wife and I had been within a mile or two of this Lake, knowing nothing of its connection with Rum. We had certainly been very close to the Matheson's new home in Otago, also!
It is highly unlikely that we will return to New Zealand, but for certain if we did, Otago would be just about the first place I'd want to visit.
That would give me final closure to an event that has vexed me for over sixty years!
DID YOU KNOW?...
...These facts about West Word
- It takes 30 - 35 reams of A3 paper to print each month's issues
- It takes three days to print all the copies needed. That's around 1200 a month, more in the summer - nearly 380 are posted..
- Each month we use about five black toners and the best part of one each of cyan, magenta and yellow - each about two feet long.
- In a year our volunteers stick about 4500 labels and 9000 stamps onto envelopes for the subscriptions.
- Our machine now folds and staples but for about 12 years we relied on 10 or 11 'folders' who every month received 100 sets of pages to collate and fold!
ST MARY'S WINDOW FUND
Parishioners in Arisaig are planning a big fundraising effort during 2013 to raise money to replace the stone work which supports the beautiful stained glass windows at St Mary's Church.
A steering group has been formed to organise events which will raise the £20,000 needed and they have already come up with a number of ideas. A website, Facebook page, whist, table top sales, coffee mornings, an event for children in the summer and perhaps a ceilidh are all being suggested.
The window portrays the Crucifixion, and dates from 1906. It was paid for by Lady Gwendolyn Crichton Stuart, wife of John 3rd Marquis of Bute In his memory.
The works will be carried out by Ormsby of Scarisbrick Stonemasons.
Meanwhile, it is sad to see them boarded over for protection.
Accolades for Andy Race's Smoked Salmon
Andy Race's smoked salmon has once again been highly praised in the national press. The Telegraph's Stella magazine included it in their pick of the six "Very Best Smoked Salmon" and praised the 'intense earthiness' of the flavour.
The Sunday Times' Style magazine has picked it out for the depth of flavour and good texture - 'perfectly balanced' according to Lucas Hollweg. Out of the three suppliers he picked, Andy Race is the only one using Scottish salmon that is smoked here in Scotland. Mr Hollweg praises the character of the smoked salmon which is smokier than most as a result of smoking for three days over peat and oak.
Country Living magazine also includes it in their list of Festive Treats because of its 'wonderful-textured delicacy'. Andy Race is the only smoked salmon supplier listed in this article.
It is obvious that this smoked salmon continues to be high in the ranking of Scottish smoked salmon. Andy Race said 'we are always delighted when the press draws attention to our smoked salmon as we think it is very special. The fact that these are discerning food specialists is encouraging but we know how popular our smoked salmon is since we receive mail orders from all over the UK, especially at this time of year'.
News from Mallaig Harbour - November 2012
The 2012 winter sprat fishery commenced on Monday 19th November when four local boats landed a total of 80 tonnes at the harbour.
Good landings by the trawlers Caralisa OB956; Margaret Ann OB198; Ocean Hunter SY503; and Rebecca Jeneen OB38; continued into December and as at Thursday 6th December a total of 720 tonnes of sprats had been landed for the season so far.
I feel compelled to bring this lead story, contained in the Autumn issue of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and written by it's Chief Executive Bertie Armstrong, to a wider audience courtesy of West Word: The piece is self-explanatory
The Fight Back Begins! By Bertie Armstrong
The Scottish Fishermen's Federation is currently in the process of putting in place a new and enhanced PR strategy to promote the fishing industry in a positive light and combat the increasing flow of misinformation in the media.
Over the last couple of years the amount of misinformation about fishing has grown to almost epidemic proportions, fuelled in large part by environmentalists determined to portray fishing in a negative light. Unfortunately, this flow of biased - and usually wrong - information is repeated by journalists who either can't be bothered to delve into the real facts, or who are intent on pursuing their own agendas.
The lead culprit in recent times has been The Sunday Times, which sadly has lost all credibility as being a serious newspaper following its now infamous headline about there being only 100 adult cod left in the North Sea. Unsurprisingly, it has been branded as one of the most misleading headlines of all time, given that the true figure is at least 21 million adult cod. But this has been only one in a serious of inaccuracies in The Sunday Times' 'Sea Rescue' campaign, and which has often been mirrored in other parts of the media. Some sections of the environmental movements are using increasingly sophisticated means of communication and this is why the SFF has decided that the time has come to develop a new strategy that will portray a more accurate picture of fishing. There are, of course, so many positive stories to tell; the many recovering stocks, the innovative conservation measures being adopted by the fishing fleet, and the importance of our seas for providing a sustainable and healthy food resource.
We recognise that this will be no easy task, especially when much of the media prefers bad news stories, but we are committed to setting the record straight. The public deserve to know the facts and not be peddled a continual flow of misinformation by special interest groups intent on pursuing their own narrow agendas.
Whilst most locals would agree that the summer of 2012 was a pretty good one as far as weather was concerned, they would probably also agree that it wasn't the busiest of summers, tourist wise. As if to confirm this feeling it's been revealed that there was a downturn in passengers and cars carried on the Skye Ferry during the summer of 2012 when compared to the previous year.
Passengers were down by 3% and cars by 6% although coaches increased by 8%
March to Oct 2011: 213,738 Passengers / 49,862 Cars / 1,611 Coaches
March to Oct 2012: 207,884 Passengers / 46,846 Cars / 1,737 Coaches
Christmas & New Year Greetings to all Harbour Users!
Port Manager/Secretary 01687 462154 www.mallaigharbourauthority.com
On and Off the Rails
ScotRail Employee of the Year Award comes to our area
I am delighted to report that Christmas has come early for Alister MacLennan, station team manager for the Fort William, Mallaig and Oban area in the form of an Award.
Alister, whose parents Donnie and Catrina MacLennan live at Station Cottage, Glenfinnan) was named 'ScotRail Employee of the Year' at an Awards Ball held recently in Glasgow at the Grand Central Hotel. The event celebrated ScotRail's staff achievements throughout the year, and he was named the winner following a vote by staff across the train operating company. Alister, a Fort William railwayman who has worked for ScotRail for 27 years, has his professionalism and kindness to thank for his win. The 48 year old has now been recognised by his peers for his service beyond the call of duty.
He is well known to regular customers and colleagues for going out of his way to help others - including rescuing stranded passengers. On several occasions, when severe weather has suspended West Highland Line services, Alister has made round trips of up to four hours to collect passengers from stations normally inaccessible by road - and yet he is a modest, gentle man who will also be seen servicing trains at Mallaig, emptying litter bins, cleaning the station toilets etc. etc. if staff are on holiday or absent for illness. Another duty might see him putting up posters at stations or tending window boxes at Loch Eil Outward Bound station! Alister himself says 'I simply see going out of my way for customers as part of my job - and the help, commitment and support of my teak allows me to do so. I really appreciate my colleagues taking the time to vote. The award is a real morale boost an shows that a bit of hard work really does go a long way.'
Steve Montgomery, ScotRail's Managing Director, said: 'As a business recognising our people and developing strong engagement levels are some of our top priorities. Alister is a true ambassador for ScotRail and sets a great example for other members of staff. He is a deserving winner and I'm pleased that we have had the chance to say thank you and recognise him.'
Well done Alister - enjoy the plaudit of being commended for high standard of customer service.
November's Competition Winner
The winner of the DVD West Highland Line for All Seasons is Raymond Forsyth who purchased West Word while on holiday in Mallaig. He resides in Perth and has never won a competition before, despite entering many. Perseverance paid off Raymond!! The correct answer to the question 'In what decade did steam hand over to diesels on the /West Highland Lines?' was a) 1960's. Thanks to all the others who entered the competition.
I hope to have a competition for entry tickets to 'Model Rail Scotland' in the January 2013 issue of West Word.
New West Highlands Train Times timetable
ScotRail have produced a new pocket timetable to run from December 9th 2012 to December 7th 2013. It is available now at Mallaig and Fort William railway stations booking offices or online at www.scotrail.co.uk
Included in it are the Caledonian Sleeper details; this runs from Fort William to London Euston every night excluding Saturdays, and will now include Dumbarton Central as a pick-up and set-down station in both directions.
The 2013 Jacobite dates are also included, the main change being that the Saturday and Sunday Jacobite season is extended from mid August to mid September.
ScotRail are extending by two months the dates that a four-car sprinter operates as a stand-alone train from Glasgow Queen Street, arriving in Mallaig at lunchtime.
All changes are explained in the timetable.
ScotRail's complimentary Insight magazine
The November/December issue of the on-board train magazine is still well worth obtaining. If you are not travelling, try to pick up one at a staffed booking office.
As well as issuing sensible advice for winter travelling, there are contact details for special offers, four competitions to enter, and one request which is really sensible. Along with Network Rail, ScotRail are asking for help this winter - particularly if you live near the rail lines. Garden sheds and furniture, trampolines - and even a corrugated iron roof - were blown onto the railway during storms last year, blocking lines, damaging equipment and disrupting services. Please check that your garden items are secured or removed before winter strikes in earnest. This will help reduce the amount of debris blown onto the lines. I enjoy seeing all these items in back gardens as I frequently travel into Fort William from Mallaig. The thought of a flying trampoline frame is fearful. Trees and stags are always thought about as hazards - but not really items that are in out back gardens. Try to help if you live alongside a line as I do. It does make sense. Thank you.
Additional Caledonian Sleeper News
The timetable and ticket information booklet for the Caledonian Sleeper (ScotRail) trains covering the whole of Scotland to London, valid from December 9th 2012 - December 6th 2013, with fare details valid from January 2nd 2013 until further notice, is now available at staffed railway station booking offices. Using the information in it and by booking far enough in advance by computer, you can get a one way ticket and berth for £19, £29, £39 and £49 as the best one way fare available. But you have to watch for the date you want to travel (or not be fussy when you travel) and book on the day that they become available online. There are only so many tickets of this type issued for each date for each sleeper - and I believe they change to the next date available during the middle of the night, but it can be done! Go to www.scotrail.co.uk and follow the link to Caledonian Sleeper Bargain Berths. Good luck!
Finally, may I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - Nollaig Chridheil agus Bliadhna Math Ur.
See you on the train. Thank you all for your kind comments, phone calls, competition entries and corrections! in 2012.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
The invasion of Fieldfares and Redwings that had begun in late October continued into the first week or so of November. Masses of both thrushes moved throughout the area, quickly stripping the Rowans of their berries. Once the Rowan berry crops had been depleted, the bulk of the thrushes moved on, although small flocks still roamed the area, now feeding mainly on Hawthorn.
There were a few more sightings of Waxwings during the month, but only in relatively small numbers compared to the huge flocks reported on Skye and Lochalsh during November. The highest count was a group of about 40 - 50 feeding on apples at Fank Brae, Mallaig on the 9th. A group of 5 or 6 were seen in another garden at Fank Brae briefly on the 15th. Small groups were seen and heard around Rhubana, Morar, on several occasions during the month, and a flock of about 10 were seen near the old cemetery, Morar, on the 27th. The only report from Arisaig was a group of 10 seen at Druimindarroch on the 13th.
A single male Blackcap at Rhubana View on the 2nd was the only report of the month.
The first Purple Sandpipers of the winter were 4 seen at West Bay, Mallaig, on the 7th. By the month end there seemed to be only the one wintering Greenshank on th Morar Estuary. There were a few reports of Woodcock from Arisaig, Back of Keppoch and Morar from mid-month.
A late Stormy Petrel was seen from the MV Sheerwater, south of Sleat Point on the 8th.
Whooper Swan numbers fluctuated on Loch nan Eala during the month from 3 to 10, all adult birds so far. Two flocks of 7 birds each were seen on the 18th; one group over the sea off Eigg and the other landed briefly on Loch nan Ceall before heading north.
No sign of any Glaucous or Icelandic Gulls during November, but a Black-headed Gull that was found dead on the main road just south of Mallaig on the 5th bore an Icelandic ring on its leg.
Please continue to send your sightings to Stephen but anything of interest after December 20th to the end of the year please send direct to West Word.
CROFTING ROUNDUP by Joyce Wilkinson
Crofters Commission Area Assessor and Scottish Crofting Federation Area Representative
Registering your Croft
It will become compulsory for all crofts to be registered on the new crofting register from. 30th Nov 2012. Even if you have bought your croft and it is registered with the Land register the Crofting commission are asking for your croft to be registered on this new Crofting register. Be aware it will cost you £90 per croft plus £16 for a map, and the only discount is £20 per croft if a whole township of 10 or more get together to send in their registration. To register you would need to go online for forms and the online address is http://www.ros.gov.uk/croftingregister
Bear in mind that this piece of legislation is of no use to anyone whatsoever apart from fulfilling the wish of the government to have a registery of land held in crofting. All land used actively in crofting is already available to the government through IACS maps. The unfair part is that as crofters we have to not only provide the details and maps that they want but we also have to pay for the registration. All common grazings have to be registered for the new crofting registrar but in this case the information is supplied by grazing committee and landowner but the costs are met from the Crofting commissions budget.
Anyway we have been told we must register our crofts, at the moment it only becomes compulsory if a 'trigger point' is activated such as a decrofting or subdivision, but expect the fee to rise in a few years if you have not registered within a timescale, so the message from the Commission is to complete the forms and send them in with the fee as soon as you can.
The Dept of Agriculture are now in charge of the Crofting grants and require applicants to submit proposals that account for the viability of the croft and how the grants will increase the viability. The Croft house grant is still available up to a maximum of £22 k but grants for improvement of croft houses are only to be made available for houses built on land that has not been decrofted. This probably rules out all croft houses.
The New Commission
At the recent Assessors seminar I met up with the new Commission . At present there is no Chief Executive as Nick Reiter has left office, but the commissionaires and staff would like it to be made known that they are hopefully a more approachable commission and anyone who has unsolved issues should get in touch with a commissionaire and they will see if they can help.
ANNE WINS ENTREPRENEUR AWARD
Newcomer to Arisaig, Anne Widdop, has just won a prestigious award for her business venture, Fuze Ceremonies.
Anne and her niece Victoria Bisland, launched Fuze Ceremonies last year and have won the 2012 Glasgow Caledonian University Award for Community Impact, which brings with it a prize of £5,000. Anne was presented with the award at an Entrepreneurs Award Ceremony recently in Glasgow.
Anne only started the business this year, after she had tried to arrange her mother's funeral. She says 'My brother, sister and father had all died in tragic circumstances and I felt short-changed by all of their funeral ceremonies - there was little said about the people I loved and I was left feeling angry about the lack of a personal, meaningful ceremony.
'When my mother then died of a brain tumour, I decided someone needed to stand up and talk about her - what an amazing person she was. No-one else in my family felt able, so I dug very deep and wrote and read a 15 minute eulogy. I felt very proud to do that for my mum and I knew she would have been too.'
After this people started asking Anne to conduct ceremonies for their loved ones and, as she was working full time, she decided to train her niece to conduct ceremonies too.
As demand increased, Anne left her full time job as Global Director with IBM at the end of 2011 and focus on setting up a business conducting ceremonies. In June this year Victoria joined her full time. Now Anne wants to create high quality jobs in the Highlands & Islands and has already taken on three full-time employees, 1 part-time, six celebrants and two speech-writers - including one on the Isle of Eigg. She shares her time between an office in Glasgow and her home in Arisaig.
Fuze's aim is to revolutionise ceremonies. They add tradition, poetry and music to create and deliver a highly personal and unique experience. They conduct all kinds of ceremonies, including Humanist marriages, funerals and baby namings. The team also provide speech writing and speech coaching.
To date the Fuze team have conducted 120 weddings and 20 naming ceremonies in 2012; have 55 bookings for 2013 and 10 for 2014; and are conducting 3 to 4 funerals a week. And all this is without marketing the company!
For more information go to www.fuzeceremonies.co.uk and www.essentialfunerals.com
Anne has also become known for her swimming exploits, which in 2011 raised £6000 for Cancer Research UK.
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
This month we've been higher than ever before, had a trip down Memory Lane and been bowling!
Andrew Bannister writes: 'After 5 months travelling around Asia and East Africa with my West Word in my back-pack, I was so happy that it was still in one piece for my ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro and duly took the photo to prove it. My wife Kari and I managed to make the summit, which was -18ºC and taking the hands out of gloves to take pictures had to happen as quickly as possible, but a massively enjoyable experience.' Andrew's grandmother, Evadne Beardsmore, is an avid reader and subscriber, and his aunt and uncle are currently renovating their house in Arisaig ready for Christmas. Thank you for taking us to the top Andrew!
Gayle McGeever from Arisaig went to Singapore on business and made sure she had West Word with her - here she is in the Gardens by the Bay.
Alex and Mary MacDonald from Mallaig visited Mary's daughter Angela in Austin, Texas. Angela says 'Couldn't let them leave without getting a West Word picture!'
Alan and Dennis Eddie read their West Word during a break in their schedule at the British Isles Short Mat Bowling Championships held at Potters Leisure Centre in Great Yarmouth.
Iain Macniven and wife Grace, Arisaig, took their copy to Vietnam on a recent holiday. Appropriately, we think, Iain is pictured here reading it outside the Temple of Literature in Hanoi.
Now this looks cold! Simon and Donna Down are subscribers to West Word and took their copy to Hammerfest, Norway, in the Arctic Circle. Simon was working on a rescue boat for a Liquid Natural Gas Tanker offshore. Donna (nee MacLellan) is the daughter of Jimmy Traigh.
Another first for West Word! Says Drew - from Inverie to the Fiji Islands. The picture was taken in the Yasawa Islands, Eastern Fiji. Left to right: Kevin Butcher, Suzanne Hedley, Kirsten Smith and Drew Harris.
A trip down Memory Lane in more ways than one for Ann Lamont, aka the Ed. She and husband Richard visited Whitby, Yorkshire, and are seen here on the 199 steps which lead from the old town to the Abbey. Whitby was once an annual holiday destination for Ann and her parents to stay with her godfather. Ann's mother Barbara was stationed in the town in WW2 as a radar operator in the ATS, and used to have to march up and down the 199 steps on a daily basis!
Mark and Fiona McGeever went all the way from Aberfoyle to read their copy in Boavista Airport, Cape Verde Mark is the Gayle's brother (see second photo in this section)
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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