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COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
February 2010 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
EIGG SCOOPS SHARE OF BIG GREEN CHALLENGE MILLION
The energy and imagination of the islanders of Eigg has scooped them top honours in a national challenge to boost local efforts to tackle climate change. The 95-strong community has been awarded £300,000 in the prestigious Big Green Challenge award run by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. (NESTA). The Isle of Eigg is one of three winning communities and the only finalists in Scotland. The project fought off competition from over 350 community groups across the UK because of their achievements over the course of a year in four areas: CO2 reductions achieved; the innovative nature of their initiatives; the longevity and scalability of their project; and their level of community engagement.
A delegation from the island travelled south for the award ceremony in London on 12th January 2010.
(L to r): At the Awards Ceremony in the NESTA offices in London, Charles Kennedy MP with the Eigg team: Tasha Lancaster, Lucy Scott, John Hutchison, Eilidh Kirk, Kathleen Millar, Annabelle and Gavin Scott Moncrieff and Jamie Ardagh.
The day-to-day challenges of keeping warm, eating well, getting around and building a viable, sustainable future on a small Hebridean island lashed by the Atlantic elements are considerable.
But by coming together to find practical and creative ways to slash energy use and increase local resilience has made Eigg a beacon for communities across the UK and the globe. Through creating a network of 'green islands' - small communities striving to reduce energy use - the islanders of Eigg have inspired thousands to follow in their footsteps.
Being the only Scottish finalist selected from 350 was a huge achievement in itself and last year saw an ever strengthening 'Green Team' on Eigg hurl themselves wholeheartedly into a whirlwind of activity.
Solar panels were fitted to homes and public buildings and householders' lives transformed through insulation projects. More bikes appeared, lift sharing increased massively and other measures taken to cut the amount of fossil fuels shipped onto the island.
And of course having fun - a crucial part of life on the island - is at the heart of the project, with the Giant Green Footsteps Festival drawing hundreds to the island to a cracking ceilidh, music and drama as well as to learn about ways to tread more lightly on the planet. The forward-looking approach is bringing a huge range of benefits to the island. Eigg is bucking the trend of remote rural communities in having a growing population and increasing numbers of young people returning to the island.
"The Big Green Challenge has given me and many other younger folk the opportunity to get involved and work within the community on projects over the last year where we haven't felt confident or lacked in experience to contribute before," said 31-year-old project manager Tasha Lancaster, who was born and bred on Eigg.
"I feel the Big Green Challenge has brought us all together in a really positive way, making us closer through working together. The outward purpose of this project is tackling climate change but it's also ensuring we continue to be a strong, vibrant healthy community to live in. These are very exciting times to be living on a wee small isle in the Scottish Hebrides!!"
Lucy Conway, one of the team of volunteers in London to receive the award added: " It's wonderful news - and a fantastic recognition of all the amazing hard work that people on Eigg have put in over the last twelve months and of the faith other people worldwide have had in us.
"The prize will really help us fulfil our ambitions to go even further in reducing Eigg's carbon footprint. We've achieved a massive amount, but there's still lots we'd like to do. Eigg's low carbon future has only just started."
More insulation and solar panels on island homes, a new eco-house for volunteers, additional solar panels to generate electricity for Eigg's grid, a community electric vehicle and an island wood fuel business are among the next steps planned.
John Hutchison, chair of the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, said: "There has been a great deal of hard work over the past two years and everyone deserves great credit. This puts Eigg firmly on the international stage."
The two communities who share the £1 million pound prize with Eigg are The Green Valleys, Brecon, and Household energy Service, Ludlow.
News in Brief
- The three Highland Councillors for our ward - Allan Henderson, Bill Clark and Eddie Hunter - together with Donald Cameron from the Fort William and Ardnamurchan Ward, resigned on 4th February 2010 from the Council's Independent Party. They have clashed recently over policies including a decision to delay a programme of building council-run care homes, which was a key administration manifesto pledge. The climax came yesterday as the Party voted to bring in what the 'Lochaber Four' describe as 'gagging orders' to whip all Independents into line in future. Mr Cameron has claimed that the four independent thinkers should retain the name Independent for themselves and the Independent Party, which will only allow its members to toe the party line, call itself something else.
- The Highland Council's Service Point at Fort William currently located on the ground floor of Lochaber House will close on Wednesday 10th February for six weeks. The building is to have extensive renovations undertaken to bring it up to date with the Disability Discrimination Act and to improve the Health and Safety requirements for customers and staff. The cost of the project is £64,000. The Service Point will temporarily relocate to the 2nd floor of Lochaber House and resume service on Thursday 11th Feb. A full service will be provided from the second floor. The Council anticipates that the Service Point will reopen on the ground floor in its new office by 1st April.
- Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is rolling out a programme to support the future of over 40 communities in its most fragile rural areas. Working in partnership with local authorities and other public agencies, the initiative will create locally employed community development workers. As well as assisting with community consultation and planning they will work with local groups taking forward projects included in the overall community plans. In addition, a HIE staff member will work closely with each community to advise and support the process.
ISLE OF MUCK
January is now over and though the frost has gone with less than two inches of rain in six weeks the island is dryer than it often is in summer. Doubtless the rains will come! On the farm encouraged by lower feed prices and the prospect of even higher lamb prices next autumn we have started feeding the ewes earlier than for many years. To make this possible every year we shut the hogs (future ewes) in a shed until they learn to eat hay and ewe pellets. This takes up to a week.
The farm has had to move up a gear or two for another reason. We have been approved for a new environmental scheme under the Scottish Rural Development Programme, the same fund that is paying for part of the new Community Hall. Many of the measures are similar to the old Rural Stewardship but the authorities have decided that 'Carbon Capture' must move up the agenda, and this means trees. And Forest Enterprise have had their input and that is that woodland margins have to follow the contour and only native hardwoods (apart from Scots Pine) may be planted. Contour fencing is challenging with no long straight runs and masses of strainer posts which have to be dug in. And thousands of trees to plant too. And at the same time there is the wedding now expected to be 1st May. Numerous guests and much to organise - no outside caterers here!
ISLE OF RUM
A belated happy new year from all of us here on Rum. The annual Ceilidh was great with the band 'Mullach Mor' - made up of some of Skelpaig and other fantastic local musicians. Things are pretty quiet here now and we are just about to celebrate Burns night at the castle with a Staggis - can't wait!
We welcomed a new baby to the island in November - Fliss and Sandy Fraser's baby Jocelyn Betsy Fraser.
We also congratulate Chainsaw Dave on his new position as Harbourmaster - good luck Ferry Dave!
We have ongoing repairs to the Castle tower being carried out by the great team from C&C Conservation and also the GG Mackenzie boys are back working on the battery inverter house. Alistair Kirk has told us he is going to run a marathon so we will be serving him a strict diet at the castle. So from now on it's spinach, All-Bran and egg yolks for breakfast! Good luck Alistair! We welcome our new temporary chef at the Castle bistro - Claire Dunn - the infamous Ronnie Dunn's daughter. She has graciously stepped in while we advertise for a new chef to start in spring - so keep an eye out for this position being advertised soon.
We enjoyed our brief snow fall and an igloo even got made - by Sarge and Sarry. The hind season is winding up mid-Feb so we might be saying goodbye to Neil Boyd and Matt Hooks depending on their contract extensions.
We also welcome Ian and Kate from Wales who have bought Tattie House, which is now the first privately owned site on the island. They are hoping to renovate and move in within 2-3 years.
That's about all - hope you have a good Valentines Day!
Sarry and George
ISLE OF EIGG
Well, January started in style with the New Year brought in by the Squashy bags who excelled themselves this year! And Dolphin Boy made quite an impact as well! There were about 30 extra people in our Ceilidh hall and there was some energetic dancing going on! What is amazing is that none came out the worse in the freezing conditions as there was a fair amount of sliding about, but no bad falls. Children and grown up alike enjoyed the big freeze - I mean those of us that had water that is, which luckily was the great majority - and the opportunity to slide about on the various lochans, especially the Giant's footstep which remained frozen solid for the duration.
It was not quite the same for the wee birdies, as John tells us: "The prolonged freeze up of the New Year period obviously had a fairly dramatic effect on birdlife with many species fleeing west in an attempt to escape the ice. The full impact of the hard weather though will not be clear until spring but unfortunately it seems inevitable that population crashes will occur in many species especially such as Stonechat, Goldcrest & Long Tailed Tit. The most noticeable weather induced influx involved Woodcock with many hundred on the island & birds regularly being flushed from the most unlikely places. Snipe & Blackbirds also arrived in numbers accompanied by a few Redwing & Fieldfare & some unseasonal movements of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Bullfinches & Reed Buntings. Several Water Rails were recorded & a Jack Snipe was flushed in Cleadale on the 9th. Other odds & ends included a couple of Whooper Swans flying south on the 3rd; an immature White Tailed Eagle on the 10th & a couple of sightings of a Dipper, presumably the bird that appeared in early December last year. January doesn't tend to be a great month for moth recording so hats off to the Angle Shades moth found making determined attempts to enter Millers Cottage on the 21st."
But enough on the wild life, we had big enough news this month with the announcement on 8th January that we were amongst the runners up for the Big Green Challenge - Rivers of Cava flowed at that point, and all those who were at the pier at that precise moment hugged each other very emotionally, and then the news on the following Wednesday that Eigg was one of the three runners up, winning £300 000 each!
More emotion, more drams and more hugs, and a huge sigh of contentment following what has been one of the most exciting years in the history of the Eigg community ownership! Our team in London - John Hutchison, Lucy, Kathleen and Tasha, Annabelle and Gavin were joined by Eilidh and Jaimie, who displayed very conspicuously his "I love Eigg" T-shirt, bless him - had a great time with the other contestants and vowed to keep in touch as there were so many similarities between them (the Welsh valley winners in particular) and ourselves, The biggest problem they encountered turned out to be the transporting of the trophy, a big green plastic globe in the shape of the BGC logo, which many people commented would have been far "greener" if it had not been plastic - however we can be sure it is made of recycled plastic...!
Our MP Charles Kennedy was there to share in the feeling of elation and said some very nice things. It was a very warm feeling to see that he and lots more people in Scotland had been supporting us and were proud of our victory (although our "friend" Hickey in the Daily Express remains the one dissonant voice, the sad person that he is).
But who cares about him when our Green Island website showed over 600 hits that day which well impressed our project officers, and Lucy is now invited to many more places to talk about how to replicate what has been done here in other areas of Scotland. She has been an inspirational if unassuming leader throughout the whole project, and we are very proud of her taking our story to so many new places!
On Eigg Maggie became very emotional after hearing what Tim Schmidt of the Eden project had said about our victory: "you can laugh at hippies and their ideals, but they get it done in the end!" Ok, folks, it is true we may not always have the most conventionally business like approach to things on Eigg, but the fact is that it does get done in a round about, organic, tribal way, and after much discussion. The BGC is certainly one of the best things that has happened to Eigg in its recent history in the way it has brought people together to get things done, and to look to at the big picture, not just local issues, an important thing when the make up of the community has changed so much in the last decade.
So more discussions did go on after a celebratory "green" Burns' night, where the Eigg girls did manage a very reasonable rendition of "Ae fond kiss" (better not mention the rest, although there were valiant efforts on the part of Colin - oh Angus Mac and Maryanne Campbell, how we miss you on such occasions!). And what everyone has agreed is that we will continue on all the projects started last year (watch this space) whilst ensuring our alternative energy system is kept up to date and even improved by the addition of 2 more solar panels. We certainly must not be complacent about our system which kept going during the big freeze when the hydro water pipe burst and made our generator work overtime! There is also talk of an ecohouse for volunteers that would be an exciting example of a demonstration green building, but more discussion on that one is still required! What else is there to do in the winter in our part of the world…
Birthdays in January: Damian Helliwell , Struan Robertson 8, Camille 53, Stuart Thomson 35. Next month, Brian Greene 60! His 30th birthday was the first year that he came to Eigg, with the whole of Eigg gathering in the smithy bothy. There was no beer on the island and with everyone bringing a dram or two, it was a party to remember!
It's great news that some evening classes are coming to Arisaig, thanks to efforts by Jane Henderson of the Mallaig Training Centre. If there is enough interest, we could have whole courses run in the Hall. Computing is first: you don't have to come to all of them, and they will be tailored to suit you - whether you're a complete novice or you have some expertise but would like help with such things as e-mailing attachments or downloading photos. With sufficient interest you may be able to go through PC Passport or the ECDL programme. Other courses may come to Arisaig too - the next set of tasters will be on Geology, and we may have the Aromatherapy ones too. Wouldn't it be great if the larger courses were available here?! We just need to see that bit of interest!
Plans are ongoing to twin Arisaig with a village in the Slovak Republic, which is exciting. Hon Paul Millar is doing his homework on it. Meanwhile, the Community Council through the efforts of Maureen have managed to acquire copies of that wonderful photograph of Jaroslav Klemeš at the monument unveiling which appeared on the front page of the P & J. Copies of it and another of him will go up in the Hall and be displayed at the Land, Sea & Islands Centre. I have already sold nine tickets for the McCalmans concert in July!! It's their last tour and people have phoned and emailed from all over Britain. Of course, the actual tickets aren't available yet but I'm taking bookings...
And it happened again. A phone call. Lancashire accent. 'Can we come and see the hall? We like looking at old places. We've been to that place in Bolton.' ? 'Can we take photos and can we go upstairs?' Yes, you're right-they were looking for the other Astley Hall in Chorley.
I never know quite what to say when someone from the village passes on. This time I find it particularly hard to say what so many of us are feeling with the death of Ewen MacMillan, known to most as E.D. It was so very sudden, a shock to us all. We will miss his soft spoken ways, his gentleness and kindness. The huge turnout at his funeral on the 3rd February demonstrated what he meant to people. This time I think I'll use the words of someone else in the village. 'We have lost a very special person and one of the last great characters of his generation. Arisaig would be a very different place today if it were not for E. D.'
ARISAIG COMMUNITY TRUST
At our last meeting we looked at an example of CADISPA's work for another community trust. This was in the form of a questionnaire which went out to the community, the answers forming documental evidence which is immensely useful for funders and partnerships.
The decision was taken - surprise, surprise! - to invite CADISPA (Conservation and Development in Sparsely Populated Areas) to work with us to formulate a business plan. Their assistance is free and the result should be a professional and immensely useful piece of work.
Our next meeting is on Thursday 11th February, 7.30pm in the main hall of the Astley Hall, and we will be discussing the next steps. Please come along if you are interested. Of course we haven't forgotten the playing field! We are working away on that constantly and the hold up is not of our making!
WIDE WORLD WEST WORD
This month we've been mainly to New Zealand
Ian and Margaret MacEachen from Arisaig made sure they still receive a copy while holidaying with daughter Lucy and her husband Neil and their family. Here they are about to embark on a tram tour of Christchurch City Centre.
|Joan Smith from Mallaig is seen here with her copy and granddaughter Susie at on Hokitika (west coast, South Island) beach during their annual Driftwood and Sand Festival. Joan and Hamish are visiting daughter Heather and her family.|
|Where's the landmark? He's standing on the right at the back! Iain Gillies is an ex- Mallaig man and the editor of the Gisborne Herald in New Zealand. Back row (l to r): our own Birdwatch columnist Stephen MacDonald (Morar); Iain's son John; Iain. Middle row: Catherine, Iain's daughter; Pam MacDonald; Flora, Iain's wife; Don Taylor, Pam's Dad; Elaine, Iain's daughter. Front: Grace & Ben MacDonald, with West Word and the Gisborne Herald.|
Our world tour continues with China (below left) with James, Annabelle and Alice Cleeve. Annabelle is the daughter of Malcolm Spence, Scamadale, Arisaig, and lives with her family in Beijing. She says: ' We have been carrying our copy of West Word around with us in the car for the last 6 months at least, and every time we go somewhere interesting we forget to take it out with us! So, here at last is a photo of us on the Great Wall of China, at Mutianyu, near Beijing, in the snow (and fog)! Alice's brothers William and Edward, had run off out of sight! (They are in training for the Arisaig Games already!)
Are there any other West Word subscribers who live in Beijing?! It would be fun to make the connection!'
Not subscribers Annabelle - but readers?? If there are, perhaps they'll get in touch...
|Last but definitely not least, Malcolm Ross made sure he packed his copy in Arisaig when he set off to South Africa, where he decided to read it at the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of the African continent.|
West Word - ten years ago
- The front page of the 32 page issue concerned the Mallaig Traffic Management Scheme. No waiting areas; limited waiting for 5 minutes only outside the shops; one hour parking opposite the West Highland. This was when the parking and disabled bays were painted on the roadway.
- The second front page story heralded the fact that Mallaig finally had a library , andit was opening for business in the same off ice as the new Mallaig Studyt Centre. At this time, while the Community Centre was being built, they were situated in one of the units opposite the bank of Scotland - which now forms part of the extended Co-op.
- Inside the issue, the future of Arisaig Police Station hung in the balance. The route of the planned new section of the A830 would go striaght through the police station and house, the teacher's house, the playpark and playing field. The last two would be replaced, but not the houses. Arisaig & District Community Council were on the case to keep a police presence in Arisaig despite being told that the officer would in future be based in Mallaig.
- Mallaig Primary School had a splendid two page spread on Robert Burns.
- Arisaig Regatta Association had met and formed a committee to plan thr first Regatta in the summer.
- The Isle of Muck had just played host to Kirsty Wark who was featuring their wind power scheme in her television show. Eilidh the filly had gone off to be one of the 'Castaways' on Taransay - the TV programme which brought fame to Ben Fogle. The journey was undertaken in foul weather but she had the escort of the Mallaig Coastguard in the reassuring shape of Ian Macnaughton; the weather was so bad that at first they were refused permission to cross the Skye Bridge.
- Ross MacEachen of Arisaig was featured on his grant award from the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust for his innovative idea of one-eyed creels to launch his business, Cyclops Creels.
- A public meeting was being held in Glenuig to start up a steering group for the proposed new shop in the village. Some things take more time than others!
- Captain John B Murray retired as Malliag Harbour Master after 30 years and we carried an article on his memories of working in Mallaig.
- Unusually our entire back page for this issue was an advert for the Bank of Scotland.
TOP COOKING FOR YOUNG CHEF
A young student of Mallaig High School has made her debut as a TV Chef. Sixteen year old Stephanie MacDonald reached the final heat of Chef's Apprentice on STV's 'The Hour, demonstrating her culinary talents in devising and preparing dishes under the watchful eye and direction of French celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli.
Stephanie, who also studies at Lochaber College UHI on a day-release basis practiced her creations with Training Chef Brian Gunn, to ensure the best possible results on the show. Sixteen hopefuls started out on the road to success, reducing to eight, then the final four with Stephanie a strong contender under advice and directions of the French chef.
Stephanie said: " He was great, one of the things he talked me through was when to add heather honey to my recipe and what steps to look at so I know not to over wipe it. It was great! I eventually got it all served up and organised, he came over and he looked and he went "wow" the feeling that I had going through me, oh it was great!! He came me some great comments and I was over the moon!".
Top prize was a month long apprenticeship at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh working with chef, Jeff Bland, which she came close to gaining, although at the final count it went to a fellow contestant. However, she was not downhearted, making the best of the whole event as a great learning experience to carry into her studies and hopefully a professional career as a top chef.
She said: "The whole competition was such a great experience, to cook for the chefs I did, it was just amazing. Getting selected as one of the initial sixteen, down to the second round of eight then to the final four. I would of never thought I would get that far. It just proves what you can do if you try and want something a lot".
MISSING GEORGE FOUND IN SPAR
Five months is a long time when you're a baby, and even longer if you're lost and hungry. George the Corn Snake was only two months old when he escaped from his tank and his owner's flat and found himself in the Spar store in Mallaig.
He was found five months later by a member of staff, who was very startled to see the five foot snake hanging from a central heating pipe where he was keeping warm.
The SSPCA was called and they re-united him with his delighted owners, Rosemary Leckie and her 15 year old son Stefan, who live in a flat above the store.
Rosemary said 'We're delighted to have George back with us, I thought he was dead. My son keeps him in his room and he managed to escape through a tiny wee gap in the lid of his tank. Apparently corn snakes are good escape artists, so we'll be keeping a close eye on him now.'
SSPCA Inspector Dawna Connolly said: 'It's quite remarkable because George was only two months old when he disappeared and he survived on his own for five months, probably without eating anything at all.
'He was very thin when we collected him, so he would definitely have been ready for a welcome home meal.'
Corn snakes come from North America and are popular pets being docile and reluctant to bite.
Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
No unusual birds to report this month, but due to the cold conditions that prevailed birds were reported from unusual places.
There were numerous reports if Woodcock feeding in gardens in nroad daylight from Mallaig Bheag, Mallaig village, Curtaig, Morar and Arisaig. one was even brought into a house by a cat in Mallaig. They really need soft ground to probe for food but the hard and persistent frost had drastically reduced the areas they could feed in. Snipe were also reported from Morar, feeding in close proximity to houses.
The first reports of Shelduck back in the area were some seen on Christmas Day on the South shore of Loch nan Ceall. A group of 3 and a single bird were seen regularly throughout January in the same area. There were also good numbers of Red Breasted Mergansers and Goldeneyes on Loch nan Ceall throughout the month.
On the 28th, when some of the ice had broken up, there were 9 Whooper Swans on Loch nan Ceall, a single Whooper Swan was seen on Loch Morar, just above the Hydro dam on the 26th, and presumably the same bird was seen on Loch an Nostarie on the 30th. Wigeon were reported from Loch nan Ceall, Invercaimbe and the Morar Estuary.
An Immature Sea Eagle was seen several times around Loch nan Ceall during the month. Hen Harriers were reported from Rhue and Back of Keppoch, a Peregrine was seen over Arisaig village and Kestrels were seen at Back of Keppoch, Traigh and Morar.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers were reported from gardens in Arisaig and Suinsletter. Flocks of Redpolls and Siskins reported from Morar and Arisaig, with a few more reports of Siskins on feeders along with Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch. Several reports of Yellowhammers coming to gardens in Arisaig. A flock of approx. 20 Reed Buntings were seen at Tougal on the 26th with other groups seen at Rhubana and Loch nan Eala.
On the 29th there was an impressive sight over Arisaig when a group of Herons were disturbed from their roost near Camus an't Allen. An amazing 74 birds were counted as they circled over the bay before settling down again.
Unfortunately, the injured Tawny Owl that was found in Bracara just before Christmas had to be put down due to the extensive muscle damage to its wing.
Memories of Patrick
Many of you will know that Patrick Strong died suddenly on 3rd January 2010. I have been touched, as he would have been, by the many cards and words of sympathy and friendship I have received. I thank you all for your many kindnesses now and in the past. The intimacy and solicitude for its members of a small community was one of the many reasons he had for being so happy here.
It may be of interest to explain why we moved here in 1986. We were incomers, but his family, though English, had a long association with Arisaig, beginning with William Bowman (1816-92) who, with his wife and seven children, visited Frank Astley soon after the completion of Arisaig House in 1864. (William's father, John Eddowes Bowman (1785-1841), whose travels in Scotland in 1825 as The Highlands and Islands: A nineteenth century tour (Alan Sutton, 1986), does not appear to have come closer than Corpach.) William (later Sir William) was a distinguished surgeon, specialising in ophthalmology. His second son, John Frederick Bowman (1850-1914), known as Fred to his family, a solicitor, married Cecilia Charrington (1852-1926) in 1875, and they had three children, Dorothea (1876-1951) in 1875, Patrick's grandmother, Humphrey (1879-1963) and Clive (1884-1972), father of Rosemary (Law, whom many of you will know), Heather, Vivien and Martin (who still lived at Camusdarach when we arrived in 1986).
In 1881 Fred, Cecilia and the eldest child, Dolly, stayed with Gertrude (who had inherited Arisaig House on the death of her brother) and Constance Astley for a month. They were back in 1882, and for a week in 1884. Thereafter, most years - nearly 40 summers - they spent at Garramor, leased from the Nicholsons (Gertrude Astley had married Arthur Nicholson in 1883). A series of journals records their happy holidays here: picnics in rain and sun, boat trips, visits by and to friends, both local and from England, and the journeys (arduous in those days) to and from London. At first these involved the train to Edinburgh, then to Oban, where they took the steamer to the pier at Rhu - Arisaig. In 1897 Cecilia wrote of 'the terrible railway which has begun between Fort William and Mallaig all along the beautiful post-cart road', and of the new wing being built on to Garramor.
In 1899 Dorothea (Dolly) married Herbert Brinton, an Eton housemaster, and their family enlarged the annual Garramor contingent. Celia was born in 1900, Denis in 1902, Dorothea Sylvia (Patrick's mother, always called Sylvia in the family) in 1905 and Wilfred in 1911. The journals continued. In 1905 there was a mixed cricket match between a Morar Lodge team, which included nine-year-old Vera Caldwell (later Shaw Stewart) in her brother's shorts, and Rhubana, including Hubert and Clive. Mrs Caldwell and the little girls feature quite often, and later Mrs Becher and the three 'little Beech-nuts' (who included Joan Becher). It was not only their English friends who made summers at Garramor the highlight of the Bowman year. Local friends were also important: Donald Macpherson the gardener, Old Angus the boatman, (and later his nephew, also Angus)and many others. In 1913 there was 'a tea-party of crofter friends…Old Lewis MacEachan was the special guest, fetched by Donald in the wagonette together with his daughter-in-law and little Bella, Mrs MacEachan (next door) and Mr Ronald Maclachlan…No year has passed without Mrs Maclean's friendly presence helping any shy Gaelic guest to feel at ease.'
The Garramor years ended with the death of Lady Nicholson. After a few blank years, in 1925 Camusdarach replaced it. It was a great success: 'it gets all the sun that there is and is off the road with increasing motor traffic: and the perpetual thud of blasting away the rock at Garramor corner and the Traigh corner comes only with muffled sound.' In 1928 Clive Bowman bought Camusdarach, and the wider family continued to visit.
In 1926 Sylvia Brinton married Leonard Strong, then a prep-school master but beginning to make his name as a novelist and poet. He wrote prolifically. One of his books for children featured in West Word some time ago. His work included adult novels, poetry, short stories, belles letters, biographies, business histories, books for children and books on English literature. In his day he was highly regarded, but his books are long out of print. The one that is best remembered is The Brothers because it was made into a film, occasionally revived on television. It, The Jealous Ghost and other stories had a local setting, and were often loosely based on tales told to him by Old Angus, the boatman. The Brothers was deeply disliked in Arisaig, for good reasons.
Patrick, their only child, was born in 1931; he first visited Camusdarach in 1932, and thereafter for pre-war summers. New friends came, including Shan Hackett who brought Pamela Collins, Andrew Simpson's mother. She bought Millburn at about the same time as Wilfred and Barbara Brinton returned in 1976.
The 1939-45 war, unlike the 1914-18 war, put an end to the annual visits, and it was not until 1952 that Patrick again found himself in Arisaig, this time staying with Wilfred and Barbara, his wife, at Achateilasaig. A long blank period ensued until we visited Barbara at Traigh Gate after Wilfred's death in 1985. The family's love for Arisaig had continued in them, and they converted the two existing buts and bens into a modern house for retirement in 1976. We bought the house, Patrick took early retirement, and we moved here in 1986.
Patrick therefore inherited a long tradition of family devotion to Arisaig, especially to Garramor and Camusdarach, and of friendships down the generations. We were just too late to renew his childhood memories of Annie Roc-a-Vor (as they spelt it - now Rhu Ach Mor) but met Polly (MacPherson, later Pringle) before she too died, breaking a long connection with his extended family. We also met cousins of his, close and more remote, whom we should probably have never got to know had we stayed in England. Patrick had a deep romantic attachment to the area and its people, and greatly regretted his failure to learn Gaelic adequately, though it was not for want of trying. Part Irish himself, he felt an affinity with the Gaelic world and temperament. He did not find social occasions easy, but was never happier than when blethering about local tales and traditions to anyone also steeped in them.
Patrick, like his uncles Denis and Wilfred, qualified as a doctor, but a breakdown forced him to give up after a few years. He then trained as an archivist, and became Keeper of College Collections at Eton College, where he had been at school (two years junior to Jacky Shaw Stewart). It was a far-ranging and challenging job since he was in charge of College Library (probably the richest College library after Trinity College, Cambridge), the archives, pictures, silver and other artefacts. Our flat at Eton had a marvellous view, looking out at the water meadows, the Thames and Windsor Castle. We always said that we should never again have so inspiring a view; but then we came here and exchanged it for Rum and Eigg. It was a happy move and we counted ourselves blessed to enjoy it for so long.
The last few years of increasing disability were a trial, but he was greatly helped by successive GP's, Iona, Clare and Trish. As for Bobby Corson, no words can describe adequately his friendship and help over the years and when Patrick died. Thank you all.
If anyone wishes to give a donation in memory of Patrick, I suggest a contribution to the new printer for West Word. It would benefit the whole community, and he would have liked that.
On and Off the Rails
Model Rail Scotland 2010 - 26th - 28th February, SECC, Glasgow.
A good response to the two competitions relating to the above event, in January's West Word. Congratulations David Bird of Mallaig, you are the winner of an advance family ticket to the show on any one day PLUS free return rail travel thanks to ScotRail. I will have been in touch with you by the time this goes to print, and now that you can go for free, you might be able to purchase some half decent notepaper and envelopes to enter future competitions, ha! ha!
The second prize of a further family ticket to the show, plus a DVD, goes to Colin Matthews from the Isle of Skye. Well done.
Advance bookings for the show are ahead of last year's I am told. The two most local stands will be by Helensburgh Model Railway Club and Friends of the West Highland Line. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.
The competition this month is for a 12 month rail magazine subscription of the organiser's choice. Entries on a postcard to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire, PH41 4RD, by Wednesday, February 24th to the following question: Where is Model Rail Scotland to be held? Good luck!
Club 55 still open
Return rail travel anywhere in Scotland for only £15 - Exclusive offer for the over 55's, until 31st March 2010, the leaflet says.
Actually the offer this year allows you to travel back on the return leg of the journey up until Friday, April 30th, provided you have travelled out no later than the 31st March. This means you can go away for Easter to friends or relatives and return after the Easter holidays. Is that a good deal or what?
For full details, call in and pick up a form at any staffed rail station or buy online at www.scotrail.co.uk/club55 In the leaflet there is an invitation to complete a short survey form with a chance of winning £100 of High Street gift vouchers. What are you waiting for - just do it! There are over 345 stations you could visit! I notice that many coach parties are putting people onto the trains using this offer. As I write this column (late, sorry Ann, on the 3rd of February) today, four coaches are waiting in Mallaig to pick people up, and at least one lady went away with a new pair of earrings that her husband didn't know he was going to buy her until she told him!
Glenfinnan Station Museum News
Congratulations must go to John Barnes, his wife Hégé and the committee of the Friends of Glenfinnan Station for jumping through the required 'hoops' and securing Heritage Lottery Funding of £195,000 towards the development work planned for Glenfinnan Station! This covers 34% of total museum development costs. For more information on on the development programme, John or Hégé would be delighted to hear from you; either write to Friends of Glenfinnan Station, Station Cottage, Glenfinnan, Inverness-shire PH37 4LT.
Stations in bloom?
This year, between Arisaig and Mallaig Station, over 600 bulbs have been planted into the Isle of Islay whisky half-tubs. The tips of the snowdrops and crocus are already showing, so we may have a good show for Easter when the first land-cruise train of the season arrives. Before that there are land-cruise trains staying overnight in Fort William in February and early March, and both are completely sold out. Bookings for the Jacobite which returns in May until the end of October are well advanced, and we will welcome back the Royal Scotman I am sure. As time passes I will try to keep you informed of visiting special trains. In the meantime - see you on the train.
Crofting roundup - Joyce Wilkinson, SCFA Area Representative/Area Assessor
Crofting Reform Bill
Here are the basics of the Bill that was introduced to Parliament on December 9th 2009. The Bill has been whittled down and does little to reflect the of outcome of the Shucksmith Inquiry, is likely to be ineffective in supporting Crofting and may waste a great deal of man power, time, and public money.
All Crofts to eventually be on the register. The Scottish Crofting Federation were successful in lobbying to reduce the registration fee from the proposed £250 to between £80 and £130
Six of the nine commissioners to be elected, at the moment there is no election process
Action against Speculation
The 5 year clawback procedure which is actioned when a croft that has been purchased is put back on the market is to be extended to 10 years.
The Commission to have greater powers when it comes to refusing decroftings. At the moment any decrofting that already has Planning permission is unlikely to be refused but the new Bill will give make this easier for the commission and enable them to act more like a second planning authority which they are unable legally to do at the moment.
Definition of Owner Occupiers
Owner occupiers are to be defined by law for the first time. They will have to observe the same conditions as tenant crofters when it comes to putting crofts to purposeful use and living on or near their crofts.
This Bill defines itself by promising to take action against absentee and neglectful crofters. In light of this The Commission have already sent out a letter to all absentees.
Consultation meeting into Future Support for Agriculture
Mon 15th Feb Corran Halls Oban. Brian Pack meetings are throughout Scotland in the next month but only one in the west. In order to justify why crofters need support from Europe through the SRDP it is important to attend and let it be known that there is little to support crofting in the SRDP
Another UFO sighting
Following on from previous sightings of UFO's over the Rhu peninsula late last year comes news that more unexplained lights were observed at Loch nan Uamh in the early evening of Saturday 9th January.
'It was a bonny clear winter's night,' said UFO observer Mr Keith Eddie, 'as we drove home from a day out to Oban. To was along the side of Loch nan Uamh when all three of us in the car observed two lights emitting a yellow glow showing clearly in the sky. We thought at first it was two helicopters but there was no noise. The lights suddenly stopped then one of them shot straight up in the air. I decided to get up to a higher road level and then stopped at the top of the hill.
'The lights had disappeared but then suddenly one re-appeared, rising upwards as if coming out of the trees by the side of the loch.
'I've no explanation,' says Keith. 'It wasn't only me who saw the lights, but also my wife and sister-in-law who were in the car with me.'
West Word has also been sent an interesting account by reader Ian Kennedy, Lochyside, Fort William.
It happened in 1952. Ian and his brother-in-law Jack Harrison were returning from Church at lunchtime one Sunday morning at the end of May when they saw something very strange. 'It was stationary, appeared similar to the side view of a helicopter, but made no sound, had no rotors, undercarriage or windows. After about six seconds its appearance changed to a cigar shape some 110 feet long. Within two or three seconds its shape again altered to appear similar to a barrage balloon (without the tail fins) and 120 feet long.
'Four or five seconds after that it shot forward without any sound and in a direct straight line, stopping about three miles away between Ben Nevis and Carn Dearg at a height of around 3500 feet. As the journey only took about two seconds it must have been travelling at 5000 mph!
'Almost immediately another similar object appeared, close by the first one. Then the first one shot eastwards at high speed and the second object drifted behind the Ben.'
Ian goes on to say that on the news that night was the report that an object had plummeted from the skies, just before 1pm, on the outskirts of Hamburg in Germany. Coincidence? It had blasted a crater about ten feet deep and the cause was being investigated. Later it was reported that British soldiers had dug to a depth of 25 feet into the crater but found nothing.
Jack Harrison, the husband of Ian's sister-in-law, was a Staff Sergeant based near Reading and at the time of the sighting was on his way to South Uist to supervise something to do with the installation of missiles at the Rocket Range!
SUCCESS FOR SCRAP CAR REMOVAL BID ON EIGG
David Stewart, Highlands and Islands Regional Labour MSP, has clarified the regulations surrounding the removal of scrap cars from areas such as the Isle of Eigg.
Mr Stewart commented, "During a visit to Eigg last summer residents advised me of the difficulty they were experiencing in having some makes of scrap cars removed from the island. I have discovered that legislation places responsibility on car manufacturers to take back vehicles they have produced once they have reached the end of their life-span. An additional requirement is that if the owner of the vehicle lives more than 30 miles from an Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF) the manufacturer must offer free collection.
Mr Stewart continued, "I looked into this problem on behalf of the local residents and discovered that two companies are sub-contacted to carry out this work on behalf of car manufacturers with the obligation being split on motor vehicle brand lines. We were aware that a company called Cartakeback collected from Eigg but have since discovered that another company, namely Autogreen, are responsible for removing the remaining vehicle types. I wrote to Autogreen and was delighted by their positive response. They advised that they have a contract with an ATF on the mainland that visits Eigg at least once a month to collect vehicles."
I understand that approximately 15 vehicles a year require to be removed from Eigg, having reached their end of their useful life. On a small island this can have a considerable effect on the landscape and given the drive by islanders to implement green policies, they were rightly concerned that these vehicles should be disposed of in the appropriate manner. Indeed, Eigg recently shared first prize in the Big Green Challenge, a national environmental award."
Rhododendron Species Conservation Group
2010 Spring Conference - Astley Hall, Arisaig - Saturday, 10th April
Larachmhor Garden: Its Creation, Development, Demise, Restoration & Conservation
This year's Spring Conference of the Rhododendron Species Conservation Group will be held in Arisaig on Saturday 10th April when the event will cover the evolvement of this historically significant garden from its origins up to the present day. This full-day event will commence with a lecture, by garden historian John Hammond, which addresses the background of the garden's enigmatic founder, John Holms, and the development of his Formakin Estate near Bishopton by the renowned Edinburgh architect, Sir Robert Lorimer. Access to a previously unknown source of archive material will enable the content of the garden at Formakin to be discussed and this background will in turn lead to the development of a West Coast garden to facilitate Holms' burgeoning plant collection. Additional archive sources will enable the development, and subsequent demise, of Larachmhor Garden to be covered in some detail. Many people in the Arisaig area will recall Larachmhor's intriguing Head Gardener, John Brennan, who resided in the garden bothy for almost 30 years until his death in 1959. Additional material has become available through the help of the Brennan Family, some of whom will be attending the Conference.
The afternoon session will commence with a lecture by Alan Bennell, R.B.G., Edinburgh, and Ian Sinclair, a horticultural consultant, both of whom are active members of the Larachmhor Garden Association, perhaps better known locally as the 'consortium' of ex-R.B.G., Edinburgh staff. They will explain how it came to be these horticulturalists became interested in the garden, the establishment of the 'consortium', and the trials and tribulations of restoring an ageing garden and conserving the plant and trees against the ravages of nature and the prevailing weather. The Larachmhor Garden Association is approaching its 50th Anniversary of caring for the garden, so the timing of the Conference is particularly pertinent. Following the lecture the delegates will be taken on a conducted tour of the garden when some of the aspects covered in the talks will be discussed and demonstrated.
In practice, the Conference would normally be only open to members of the Group, but we are aware that many people in the Local Community have an interest in Larachmhor Garden which is a key part of Arisaig's historical heritage. Accordingly, the meeting on Saturday will be open to non-members, providing that they Register as a Day Delegate in advance for the event. A nominal charge of £22.00 for early-registration for the event includes the cost of refreshments, buffet lunch and the conducted tour of the garden, which is a fraction of the usual cost for a full-day event of this type. Further details, a copy of the Conference Programme and a Registration Form can be obtained from:
John M. Hammond, Hon. Secretary R.S.C.G., The Three Chimneys, 12 Cockey Moor Road, Starling, Bury BL8 2HB.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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