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May 2019 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
WILDERNESS SCOTLAND DONATES FIRST SEABIN ON SCOTLAND'S WEST COAST
Adventure travel specialist Wilderness Scotland has funded the installation of a Seabin for Mallaig Harbour. Seabins are a relatively new technology which act as a floating rubbish bin, removing floating waste including plastic from the water in busy areas such as marinas and harbours.
In a bid to play their part in cleaning up the marine environment in Scotland, Wilderness Scotland have chosen to fund the installation of this Seabin in Mallaig Harbour as it is a hub for many Wilderness Scotland trips. It will be the first on the west coast of mainland Scotland, and the fourth in Scotland.
An estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic - everything from plastic bottles and bags to microbeads - ends up in our oceans each year. Travelling on ocean currents this plastic is now turning up in every corner of our planet - from Scottish harbours to Cornish beaches. A Seabin can make a real difference to a small but busy harbour like Mallaig.
Funds for this donation made by Wilderness Scotland were harnessed through the adventure tour operator's Conservation Contribution Scheme in which clients can opt in to donate £10 on top of the cost of their holiday.
The Seabin is the size of a large domestic bin, with a frame attached. Inside the bin-like structure is a fine mesh bag through which the water flows. Once the Seabins' small pump is active, plastic and other floating debris which is within 10-12 feet away will gradually get sucked into the bag. Once full it can be taken away and emptied. In Mallaig Harbour the debris tends to sweep in from the north-west. Much of it is commercial, such as broken fishing nets and floats from the fishing industry, and some of it will have been in the sea for many months, having travelled a great distance. By pumping water into the device, the Seabin, which is attached to a pontoon, can intercept floating debris, macro and micro plastics and micro fibres. By acting as a trash skimmer, the Seabin is also able to clean the water from contaminated organic material such as leaves and seaweed.
Myles Farnbank, Wilderness Scotland's Head of Training comments: "We take great effort to assess the sustainability of all aspects of what we do - from managing vehicle mileage to following Leave No Trace best practice on all trips.
"Marine pollution has been highlighted significantly over the last few years. As a business that uses the marine environment across many of our trips we felt strongly that we should look at how we can support this issue."
An official opening of the Seabin will take place on 28th May at 10.00 - 12.00 in Mallaig Harbour in the presence of local dignitaries, schools and students from the Marine and Coastal Tourism Degree course at the University of Highlands and Islands.
Wilderness Scotland offers an inspiring range of holidays, journeys and wilderness experiences in the most remote and beautiful regions of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
ADDITIONAL SAILINGS PLANNED FOR MALLAIG TO ARMADALE CROSSING
The popular Mallaig to Armadale crossing will be served by additional sailings on a three-year pilot from March 2020 in a bid to extend the tourist season, the Islands Minister Paul Wheelhouse has told campaigners on Skye.
The news was announced at a meeting on 3rd May with the Islands Minister, constituency MSP Kate Forbes and groups from both sides of the route including the Sleat Transport Forum, the Road to the Isles Marketing Group and local Highland councillors.
Mr Wheelhouse also confirmed that the Loch Bhrusda will be deployed to Mallaig for extended periods over the winter when it is not being used for refit relief, which is expected to modestly benefit the 2019/20 timetable.
Constituency MSP Kate Forbes MSP said: "This commitment is a step in the right direction. I am delighted that Paul Wheelhouse has listened to local campaigners who have been pushing for changes to the ferry route."
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
We have a new contributor to West Word this month - welcome to Peter Holden who is writing the column from the Isle of Canna for 'Round and About'! Thank you Peter - we look forward to reading your news.
May is going to be a busy month throughout the West Word area, what with marathons, music festivals and all! It's good to see The Jacobite chuffing past the office windows once again.
Don't forget to go and vote in the European Elections on the 23rd ... assuming they go ahead, that is …
As ever, my thanks go to helpers Anne and Jane for sticking address and postage labels on to the subscription envelopes and to Morag and Ewen for assisting with the printing this month.
Mallaig High School's Struan Robertson (aged 14) drew a crowd on onlookers
when he played his pipes on the Great Wall of China in April!
Struan was one of a group of students from MHS visiting China
for the 9th Young Cultural Ambassadors Performing Festival.
I don't know about anyone else but it seems this last month has simply flown by. We were blessed with some cracking nice weather for the Easter holidays and beyond, but I think we'll all be glad to see a little rain to lessen the risk of setting the hills ablaze…
Easter was a fairly busy affair, particularly for the Annual Egg (or rather, in this year's case - Bear) Hunt which saw a number of Mallaig folk and their children making the trip across although who can blame them when there was a total of nearly 300 chocolate treats hidden in the woods, including a variety of different sized Lint Chocolate bears and chocolate truffles. This was courtesy of the ranger service and went down a treat with everyone who turned out. There was also an Easter Ceilidh, which was the second last gig before the hall is closed for its refurbishment. Exciting times!
April also saw the arrival of the Wilder Ways trekking group, who once again made the journey with all their horses, to come spend a few months here offering the chance to explore our beautiful peninsula from horseback. They have expanded this year and are offering various day trips and packages in conjunction with local businesses which is great for the community. They have very limited spacing left though as it is proving to be so popular so be sure to get in touch soon if you fancy doing some riding. The Lookout restaurant is now open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm though so if you don't manage to squeeze in some riding you could just come and stuff your face instead…
In forestry news, the timber extraction went well, with the timber boats finally arriving after various delays and thousands of tonnes of timber was shipped off to BSW sawmill in Fort William. Coming up in May (the 8th) there will be a stool making workshop with KFT which is a great wee thing to do, and you get to keep your own hand-crafted stool.
Anna and Struan Robertson took off to China to show off their musical talents (it was part of a school trip but still…). They are going far those two. We really are lucky to have so many talented locals in our wee community. Another of our locals, Dave Matthews, has also now left on his two year, 6000 mile walk round the UK to raise awareness and support for The Samaritans. If you fancy following his progress you can check it out online by searching The Listening Walk. We also said a sad goodbye to Tom, Yasmine, Innes and Ivy as they moved off Knoydart down to Acharacle where they await the imminent arrival of the new baby. They will be missed but we wish them all the best!
Think that's it for now folks,
ISLE OF MUCK
By the time one gets to my age one probably shouldn't fall into the trap of saying "when I was young", but . . . when I was young, we had four seasons. These days it seems more like Winter and then Summer. This month started really cold then, hey presto, warmth! It's been a big boost to the lambing here on Muck. Nothing lambs (or those doing the lambing for that matter) hate more than cold wet weather. The "in bye" fields are now covered in lambs and the grass seems to be growing faster than their mothers can eat it. Hopefully I'm not tempting fate to say that should remain the case with the advancing year. Certainly Colin and Ruth at the farm seem cautiously optimistic (I can say with some degree of certainty, as an ex farmer, that there's no such thing as an optimistic farmer!)
The weather has encouraged the first visitors of the year to venture forth. Yachts have frequented the bay, holiday cottages have had their first occupants and charter boats have arrived with day visitors. Seasonal winged visitors have shown up too. The first swallow was seen on the 9th April and the first Corncrake was seen (no, that's no a misprint. I saw it flying across the road in Port Mor) on the 23rd. By the time this goes to print Arisaig Marine's Sheerwater will a regular sight at the pier, always a benchmark of the new season.
This month has been busy on the community front too. The Camas committee has finalised their schedule of events for the summer season. A theatre group and a raft race, the Ceilidh Trail and beach cleans, the nationally renowned fiddle player Ryan Young and songstress Sandra MacBeth. Add in a day trip to Tobermory and, I think you'll agree we already have a diverse and interesting range of events this summer. There was also a community meeting on the 3rd. The two big topics were the old school site and fibre optic broadband. The old school has been a landmark in Port Mor for decades. Weather and time have taken their toll and, having been transferred back to the community by Highland Council, the time has come to find a new use for the site. In many ways it's sad to see it go but an island is a living, breathing entity, not a museum. Progress is often slow, but essential. The history of this building is fascinating but Lawrence MacEwen is the font of all wisdom on such topics, so more of that next month. The laying of the fibre optic cable to improve our internet is the other big project. HebNet, having rolled out a fibre optic connection to most of Rum and progressing well with Eigg, are keen to extend the service to Muck. We may be the smallest of the Small Isles but we still need 3.5km of cable laid for the "backbone" alone without the runs to individual properties. Shovels at the ready!
The weather was (reasonably) kind for Easter as well. There were "operational issues" that delayed the Loch Nevis by 30 minutes but The Reverend Stewart Goudie still had ample time for our Easter service. Well attended, considering the number of people away, it must be said how much we appreciate the effort involved to hold a service on one of the more outlying parts of the parish. Easter Sunday saw the traditional Easter Egg Hunt. Held in Forest School in the morning, due to the poorer weather forecast for the afternoon, the island children left laden down with chocolate. They were frighteningly efficient at hoovering up all the eggs too. As I chocoholic, I was sure they'd have missed one or two, but no such luck. Will have to work on my hiding technique by next year!
ISLE OF CANNA
Well, thankfully the weather appears to have picked up later this month, as the farm gears up for the start of lambing.
On 2nd April, a number of Canna residents took up the opportunity to visit the MOWI fish farm facility on Rum, where they received an informative tour from MOWI staff and enjoyed a lunch provided by the Rum community.
The most significant event this month was surely the official opening of Canna's Renewable Energy and Electrification project (CREE), all our power now being generated through wind and solar linked to a battery storage system. As well as minimising noise and pollution from the old generators, the new scheme will give us the capacity to build additional houses in the future, and will contribute a reduction of almost 100 tonnes per annum of CO2 into the atmosphere. On a typically windy and sadly damp 6th April, we welcomed guests including funders, contractors and friends from other islands for a formal celebration. Also attending was Scottish Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the islands, Paul Wheelhouse - who, during his opening address, chose the occasion to announce the commencement of the Government consultation on the National Islands Plan - (bit of a coup, really . . .)
The day finished with a rousing ceilidh for everyone who chose to stay, with music provided by the energetic Tartan Paint.
We are very grateful to all the funding agencies, contractors and everyone who contributed in any way, however small, to what felt at many times along the way like a mammoth undertaking. We are of course delighted and yet slightly nervous about generating our own electricity for the island. It all appears very straightforward whilst the experts were still on island to offer advice - hmm, what to do if all the lights suddenly go out . . . !?
In what is possibly a first for the Small Isles, we were treated to an evening of magic. At the invitation of Fiona, our Tighard resident, 'Jim the Magician' (aka Jim Campbell) amazed and entertained a full house of visitors and islanders in Cafe Canna with a baffling variety of close-up card tricks, making objects disappear, only to reappear in seemingly impossible locations. (How did that signed playing card, identified by its missing corner, turn up inside that piece of Kit-Kat, inside its unopened wrapper!!? ) Genuinely, a magical evening - Canna Cafe is clearly going to be the 'happening' place this summer. The Cafe will soon be in full operation again, complete with new menu items, and its own brewed draught ale - alongside our freshly stocked community shop - as we prepare to welcome a fresh influx of visitors.
The 19th saw the arrival of the first of this summer's cruise ships, and private yachts on the moorings. As ever, we look forward to late spring and the appearance of wild flowers, and the return of our seabirds, particularly the puffins that everyone loves to see. There will also be a fresh programme of Ranger events to join.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
The month of April has seen the Canna Cats emerge from hibernation! Originally part of the 'Cats Gu Leòr' creative installation in Summer 2018, the pawsitively purr-fect pusses have made a reappearance in time for the Spring and Summer seasons. Magnus, our tartan puss, had to go off on holiday for a little cosmetic surgery but has returned safe and sound and is back in place beside . . . No, it's up to you to find him! Pick up a clue sheet at the pier waiting room, shop or Old Dairy on Canna and track him down along with his 11 other feline friends!
Canna House Garden is looking lovely now with the bluebells emerging, reflecting the colours of the Canna House saltire flying.
The Garden now has items of 'interpretation' which will hopefully help visitors learn more about the Campbells, the House and the Island. We have also produced two new 'Suggested Walk' brochures with snippets of information which we hope will enhance the visitor's experience of the island. These can also be found in the waiting room, the shop and the Old Dairy.
April is also the month when we commemorate the death of John Lorne Campbell, who died in Fiesole, Italy, on April 25th, 1996, whilst on holiday there. He was later re-interred on Canna in 2006, in the bluebell woods which he planted himself.
ISLE OF RUM
The weather is making everyone happy, though now are now rumblings that we need rain ... really?
This month the island was awash with more contractors building houses; the first Mowi one is pretty much complete and the builders are back in a couple of weeks to finish off and possibly start the next one.
The island's seasonal population increase has begun with the arrival of Luke, the geologist, who is working at Ivy Cottage and Debbie, Derek's partner, who works with Kim at the café. The bunkhouse seasonal person is arriving imminently and not a moment too soon to help fill the breach!
Strange noises in the trees led us believe there were monkeys swinging around the canopy, or at least a monkey bird - that is what it sounded like. The reality, was much more mundane, it turned out to be the call of a female cuckoo - go and check it out, they really do sound like monkey birds!
IRCT have secured SRDP funding for Rhododendron Ponticum eradication from its land, which is significant and work can start as soon as they have a contractor. It does turn out though, that a lot of the ornamental hedges around the castle are in fact a different variety, Cunningham's White, which is not invasive, so maybe we will be able to leave some of this in place; while it's flowering we can differentiate it from the Ponticum.
Rum Primary is donning its gardening gloves to sort out the school poly tunnel and garden with the help of supply teachers Misters Norman and Merrick. They also had a visit from acting head Sue Hollands, from Eigg, who caught up with all the parents and was around for Kim's first fish and chips night of the season. Good craic was had by all.
Looking forward to next weekend's ceilidh and BBQ - lots of venison and Salmon too, donated by Mowi.
ISLE OF EIGG
The month started with a great weekend for running ladies: superb weather, great off track running and fantastic food are now enticing the group for a 3rd Trail Running Retreat next year! Then for me, as well as the Canna folks, it was a great day on and for Canna on Saturday 6th April for the opening of the renewable grid by Island and Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP. "A fantastic day" echoed the minister, who commented how he really appreciated the opportunity to connect with the islanders over the course of the day instead of the usual short ministerial visit! It ended with the announcement of the consultation on the National Island Plan, an exciting prospect for the islands, as it is putting into action the vision of "Our Islands, Our Future" which is now enshrined in the Island Act.
With MV Loch Nevis being sent away for repairs, typically just in time for the visit, the message that our ferry service is certainly not as resilient as it should be ought to have been received loud and clear, a message that the CalMac community board has been at pains to reiterate time and time again! Long term investment is required throughout the fleet, although compared to Islay or the Outer Isles we can hardly complain, especially as we are now benefiting from all singing, all dancing freezer-ambient vans for the transport of frozen chilled food and of team of dedicated freight workers.
Apart from changes to the freight operations, car parking has been an issue on the island as we do worry about the proposal of making Mallaig's West Bay car park a temporary one. It's going to have a pretty negative effect on our visitors let alone ourselves. Survey of numbers affected and island opinions have been sent to councillors as well as the Highland Council principal traffic officer.
With warm weather coming in, the Easter holidays have been very pleasant, with a good number of family and visitors coming for the spring break, and joining us for the customary Easter Ceilidh with Fras who got folks on their feet with their customary gusto. The sizeable group of American MacLean descendants seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves! Jim Bates, the leader of the group, also attended the Easter service with his family and was able to play his pipes for St Donnan church's congregation. It was nice to see the return of old island friends like Prof John Hudson, back to his favourite island.
Another cultural highlight this month was the visit of the classical world music trio, Kosmos, who offered an eclectic menu of gypsy, klezmer and eastern-European tunes. Totally amazing to hear the power of classical music sound, no need for amplification whatsoever - and mesmerizing to see the virtuosity of the violinist in particular....
And there was an Eigg first with the visit of Martin Rees, aka Magic Man Martin, triple Guinness world record holder, at Galmisdale Bay on Friday 12th. Impressive tricks including the squashed beer can magicked back into life and poured into a pint glass! Great patter as well: four year old Freya McCarthy is now convinced that there is a magic bug, and that when you catch it, that's you, a magician for life! A great evening for everyone and we hope Magic Man will come back for another amazing magic session!
Everyone gathered at Stephen and Frances' for Colm's 4th birthday, and there was one very happy pirate! Stephen has now started on his oyster business and the baby oysters appeared to be settling very well in the waters of Kildonnan Bay.
Last Friday was Mick and Jacky's golden wedding anniversary which they celebrated with fish and chips and prosecco at the tea-room, and in case anyone asks, no, there were no Pink Floyd tunes!
Friday was also Climate Strike day for Eigg Primary and new colourful and meaningful placards and banners were made in time for demonstrating on Saturday afternoon: the large group of Edinburgh hillwalkers that arrived that day thought it was great and cheered us on! Eigg Extinction Rebellion is going from strength to strength! Expect more demos throughout the summer!
Eigg Extinction Rebellion demo at Eigg pier
Monday 29th will be a special day for Eigg as Strathclyde University is dedicating its forum "A Social Justice Approach to Community Land, Energy and Forestry" to the memory of John Booth, in recognition of his role in helping to set up the Eigg Energy system.
Our thoughts are now with the Jobson family as their courageous daughter Niamh is undergoing surgery on her leg on the 30th. The whole community is joining in sending her their best wishes for a speedy recovery.
New film showcases cinematography of Margaret Fay Shaw
A new film celebrating the footage collected by Margaret Fay Shaw premiered at an event in South Uist on 3 May. Created by the National Trust for Scotland's Canna House archivist, Fiona J Mackenzie, Solas (Gaelic for light) uses rediscovered film shot by the US-born folklorist who dedicated her life to documenting Gaelic song. The screening took place as part of the Moladh Uibhist weekend.
Margaret Fay Shaw left the world a fascinating collection of images and invaluable film of a lifestyle which no longer exists. She not only took film and photos in the Outer Hebrides but also on the Isle of Canna, where she lived with her husband, fellow folklorist John Lorne Campbell, from 1938 when they bought the island, until her death at the age of 101 in 2004.
This film collection was recently re-digitised by the National Trust for Scotland, who have cared for the island since 1981, to ensure its preservation for years to come. In the process of carrying out this work archivist Fiona J Mackenzie uncovered some previously unseen film, including footage of such historically important events as the first plane landing on the Cockle Strand on Barra, 1936.
Solas uses Margaret's images, films and words to tell the story of her life and the people in that life. Using two broadcasts which Margaret made for the BBC in the 1950s and the words of her close friend and companion, Basque born Magda Sagarzazu, their own recorded voices tell how their lives were affected by the islands, the people, the animals, crofting, the birds, the songs and the sounds.
The film also uses samples from the sound archive recorded by John Lorne Campbell during the 30s and 40s in the Hebrides, primarily Barra, South Uist, Eriskay and Canna.
Image of Canna looking to Rum, taken from Canna House Garden in 1938
During the production of the film, Fiona was also keen to demonstrate how an archive can also inspire new and current creative work. Lewis piper, James Duncan Mackenzie, was commissioned to produce a new soundtrack for the film, inspired by watching the films and responding to them. James and his musicians spent a week in Canna House, using the films to produce a suite of new music. The Canna House front door, the Canna Steinway piano, John Lorne Campbell's bugle, Margaret's typewriter and the servant's bells all make an appearance in the music.
Fiona said: "I am delighted that we have been able to produce this lovely piece of work, to profile the work of an incredible woman who had the foresight to save for the world today, a piece of Scottish lifestyle which would have otherwise disappeared.
"It is only right that the film is premiered in the middle of the community which took Margaret to their hearts and were so generous with their time, language, love and culture. Margaret said that Uist was the place 'where she was loved the best' and we hope that this will be evident in the film. South Uist was where I personally first studied the songs collected by the Campbells and I am pleased to be able to give a voice and vision to Margaret's work.
"We are very grateful to the National Trust for Scotland USA Foundation for making this project possible and also for the opportunity to prove that archives can be a living entity, not merely a collection of boxes on the shelf.
"All of the people involved in the production, the editor, the musicians, the studios, have been inspired by the work of Margaret and John Lorne Campbell and all are keen to continue this work, using the wonderful resources contained in Canna House today, to celebrate the life and work of these two incredible people. John and Margaret Campbell would be delighted that we are using the old to create the new."
ISLE OF EIGG TRAIL RUNNING RETREAT 2019
Spring has sprung on Eigg and that means it's time for runners from all over the UK to descend on the island for four days of trails, yoga and amazing food!
Once again the weather played ball for the annual women only trail running retreat, hosted by Katrin Bach and Laraine Wyn-Jones, of Straveigg - Wild Island Running. After the huge success of the 2018 run retreat, we were frankly a bit concerned the bar had been set high and the second retreat just wouldn't live up to expectations, particularly as we had returning participants. Luckily though, the weather could not have been more perfect; mizzle and cloud on Friday as everyone arrived, providing atmosphere and drama as we ran around Galmisdale and the Fairy Woods with An Sgurr peaking out of the cloud, and then glorious unbroken sunshine for the big runs on Saturday and Sunday, through the forest, across Laig Bay and ascending An Sgurr. The weather broke just in time on Monday for our visitors to experience a true west coast spring on our guided walk around Kildonnan, with rain, hail and strong winds. It's not a true Hebridean experience until you've felt sideways rain at 30mph!
Based once again at the ever hospitable Glebe Barn there was plenty of relaxing around the fire, comparing race stories, training regimes and dream running routes. Within the group we had brand new trail runners who had never set foot off road, we had returning runners and we had ultra runners who regaled us with amazing stories of iconic races such as the Marathon de Sables. It was thanks to our volunteer run leaders Becca, Fee and Tamsin that we could provide group support to cater for all abilities within each run.
Catering was provided by Eiggy Bread who, once again, surpassed all expectations and absolutely wowed our attendees with their imaginative and perfectly executed meals. A real treat for hungry runners!
Sunday afternoon was spent kayaking with Eigg Adventures and the weather could not have been more perfect; perfectly still crystal clear waters meant we could see the seals swimming all around us. As the first kayak session of the year the seals were particularly curious and friendly, and what a show they put on for us.
We were also lucky enough to enjoy evening talks provided by the ever entertaining Maggie Fyffe and Camille Dressler, who shared the stories of Eigg, both in the recent history and further back. Absolutely fascinating - a huge thank you to you both for giving up your evenings!
With the success of our spring retreat behind us, it's time to turn our attention to our summer yoga and trail running retreat taking place this August. We're looking forward to welcoming Laura Potts of Yoga for All who will be delivering Iyengaar Yoga each day to our participants, followed by some relaxed ambling around the island. We've also released dates for the spring trail running retreat in 2020 and we're delighted to say we're already half full!
We think it's going to be a fantastic year for Straveigg - Wild Island Running, and we can't wait to welcome more runners to our magical island. For more information please visit Straveigg on Facebook.
Commemorative Plaque campaign for Morar Hotel
In recognition of a composer's connection to the Morar area and his great contribution to classical music, the British Music Society are campaigning to have a plaque installed at the Morar Hotel through Historic Environment Scotland's Commemorative Plaque Scheme.
Morar's bemused villagers must, on first sight, have unknowingly dismissed English composer Arnold Bax as some sort of eccentric. All they saw, back in the 1930s, was a mysterious tourist who for some reason repeatedly visited the Western Highlands during the cold winter months. Come warmer springs and summers he was gone.
"He must be mad," puzzled locals might have concluded in the public bar of the splendid Victorian edifice, The Station Hotel. "Just who is that strange man and why does he spend winters here?" they would have questioned.
Bax always stayed in the same room of the Station Hotel during the 1930s, with a blazing log fire and a heavy woollen overcoat as his only comforts, in a bid to insulate himself from the bleak, wet and cold of Western Scotland's penetrating winter.
He fell hopelessly in total love with the beauty and rugged loneliness of the surrounding area, which inspired many of his great internationally-renowned works, and adopted it as a 'bolthole' to escape the hellhole of London and replace it with the quietude of this largely hidden bucolic idyll in Morar.
The Morar area is well known for its rugged mountainous land and appealing seascapes with its famous silver sand beaches and colourful flora and fauna. No wonder Bax felt it was such an inspirational place to stimulate his musical artistry. So great was the success of his works - including symphonies, tone poems, songs and chamber works - he was knighted in 1937 and this accolade was soon followed in 1942 by his esteemed appointment as Master of the King's Music.
Bax enjoyed increasing popularity but felt besieged by the hubbub of London. He yearned for peace and quiet and found it in Scotland. He would take overnight sleeper trains from King's Cross and spend more productive working time in Morar and its surroundings.
Indeed, Western Scotland became firmly rooted in the composer's psyche. Bax lodged, sometimes in solitude, but mostly with his partner Mary Gleaves, at the Station Hotel (since renamed the Morar Hotel). He was always careful to secure the same room, where he worked intensively on scores and it became his regular winter workplace. Even Bax's own upright piano was hauled into position to become a crucial composing aid for music created amid the quiet beauty of Western Scotland.
Indeed, Sir Arnold's Third Symphony was conceived and written entirely in his shivery hotel room, with its view of the misty silhouette of the distant island of Rum, haunting the horizon before slipping away under the cloak of a frivolous sea-fret shrouding the Hebrides, the composer working for hours while puffing on a pipe, helping his creative mind produce some of his best-loved music.
So, the man who had understandably been originally labelled by Morar villagers as "an eccentric" was destined to bring cultural fame and fortune to picturesque Western Scotland. Bax's hard-won pre-World War II fame eventually faded however as concert halls and recording companies didn't give him the full recognition he so obviously deserved. Scotland and its rugged topography is a place of unequalled natural beauty that many Britons are still quite rightly proud of.
For Sir Arnold Bax, Morar and its dramatic beauty wasn't a place for relaxing holidays. Morar was a home, well-loved and familiar since his childhood days and family holidays. Scotland was almost a sacred destination which dominated his professional and personal life and turned out to be so inspirational for a fertile musical mind. Sir Arnold Bax's distinctive works are still recognised and celebrated worldwide.
A heartfelt 'thank you' to Sir Arnold Bax, in the form of a commemorative plaque, for helping to put Scotland on the international cultural map is now possible.
Historic Environment Scotland say 'our Commemorative Plaque Scheme celebrates significant people by erecting plaques on the buildings where they lived or worked. The scheme celebrates the link between person and building and emphasises the social and human element of local architecture.
'Anyone whose life and achievements have made a significant difference to Scotland and its people will be considered for the scheme. We also include people who have gained international recognition for their impact and accomplishments.'
YOU can help support the campaign for a plaque in Bax's memory by sending a letter or email of support c/o:
West Word, Morar Station Building, Morar, PH40 4PB or firstname.lastname@example.org
All messages of support will be passed on to the British Music Society.
British Music Society music critic
MALLAIG HARBOUR NEWS
Mallaig Passenger Ferry Pontoon
Harbour Engineers Wallace Stone issued the Completion Certificate for the Passenger Walkway Pontoon on Friday 4th April 2019 signifying that contractors Gael Force Engineering had completed the project at a cost in the region of £193,000.
Mallaig Harbour Ice
Several weeks behind schedule it may have been, but on Friday 5th April half a dozen fishing boats took on board ice from the new Harbour Authority owned Mallaig Ice Plant.
The new plant has not yet been fully commissioned and questions remain about its overall ability to provide ice at the touch of a "computer button" but progress is being made and ice is being manufactured and delivered to fishing vessels although it's only available during office hours on week days at present. Service will be improved once the IT side of the operation is in situ.
MALLAIG LIFEBOAT LOG
8th April 2019 Medivac from Isle of Eigg
Launched at 15:55 by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg. A twelve year old boy had come off a trampoline and injured his wrist. First responders on the Island attended and suspected that the child had broken or fractured his wrist. Lifeboat berthed at Eigg at 16:35 and the Paramedics were transported to the casualty's location by local Coastguards. After being assessed the casualty was brought to the pier and taken on board the Lifeboat. Arriving back at Mallaig at 17:00 the patient was transferred to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further assessment. Lifeboat ready for service at 17:45.
19th April 2019 Heath Fire at Kyles Morar
Request from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service via Stornoway Coastguard to convey Firefighters to Kyles Morar in Loch Nevis to attend to a heath fire at 15:50. A rapidly spreading fire was reported to be encroaching on property at Kyles Morar where kerosene was stored. On arrival on scene it was discovered that the fire was some distance from the properties and had slowed down because it was now in a sheltered location and was not being carried on the wind. The Fire Brigade spoke to the local Gamekeeper and between them they decided to set a cordon around the properties and if breached they would return. Thankfully the fire burnt itself out later that evening and no further action was required. Lifeboat returned to Mallaig at 18:00 and ready for service at 18:15.
21st April 2019 Medivac from Inverie
Launched at 13:10 by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie. A local female resident had fallen on the shore and sustained a head injury. Arriving on scene at 13:30 the Lifeboat was met by the casualty's partner who had brought her to the pier by car. Once assessed on the pier by the medics it was decided that the laceration would require stitching at Hospital. Berthing at Mallaig at 14:10 the patient was transferred by road ambulance to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further treatment. Lifeboat ready for service at 14:20.
21st April 2019 Recover Drifting Sailing Dinghies
Launched at 09:25 by Stornoway Coastguard to investigate two sailing dinghies drifting off Morar Estuary. A scallop diving boat reported to the Coastguard that they could observe two sailing dinghies drifting by off Morar Estuary. Unable to leave the scene due to having its divers down, the scalloper reported to Stornoway Coastguard. Arriving on scene at 09:25 the Lifeboat quickly located the dinghies and were about to recover them to Mallaig when their owners contacted the Lifeboat. It transpired that they had been anchored off the beach at Camusdarach by their owners the previous night and somehow they had come off their moorings. The owners arranged to meet the Lifeboat off the beach in their kayaks and tow the dinghies back to the mooring they had come off. With the Lifeboat standing by whilst the dinghy owners remoored their craft and happy that all was well the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig, berthing at 10:30 ready for service.
24th April 2019 Assistance of Capsized Kayaker
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of a capsized kayaker of Ardvasar, Isle of Skye at 11:20. As the Lifeboat was launching the Coastguard notified the Lifeboat crew that the casualty had been recovered by others. The kayak was still adrift and the Lifeboat was requested to recover the craft. As the Lifeboat arrived on scene the kayak had also made landfall and was being recovered by others. Lifeboat returned to station and berthed at 12:10.
25th April 2019
Launched at 05:40 by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to the Isle of Eigg. A female visitor at one of the Island's hostels was experiencing severe abdominal pains and on occasions passing out. Once on scene the Medics were transferred to the location by a local driver. After examination and assessment it was decided by the Medics that she could remain at her location as she was showing signs of improvement since the call was made and all her vitals were well within the required parameters. As soon as the Medics returned from the casualty location the Lifeboat departed Eigg at 07:10, berthing at the pontoon at 08:00.
On and Off the Rails
The Jacobite gets off to a flying start
Good Friday, April 19th saw the first Jacobite steam train service into Mallaig in 2019. The passenger numbers were good, and first-class seating was totally sold out. Luckily, after quite a damp and windy start to the year, Easter was blessed with a good amount of sunshine. The only downside was that due to a prolonged dry spell of weather the grass and undergrowth, plus wooden sleepers on the track in many places, were tinder dry for the whole of the journey from Fort William to Mallaig! With the risk of line side fires a possibility from either the ash pan or sparks from the chimney, the operators of The Jacobite, West Coast Railways, made the very responsible decision to run the steam engine in "light steam" and assist the train by attaching a diesel locomotive to the rear of the carriages, thus minimising the fire risk. As I write this column this decision has certainly paid off as there have been few line side fires that could be attributed to The Jacobite. The extra running costs involved, including drafting in extra qualified drivers each day plus accommodation etc., will of course be absorbed by West Coast Railways.
There has been considerable "muir burning" between Mallaig and Fort William, but mostly well away from the railway line; so don't go blaming the steam train for every fire that you see! Our thanks must go to West Coast Railways, Network Rail and the fire brigades involved for their tireless responsible actions, such as allowing the steam train to operate in the extremely dry conditions. Without everyone's involvement the train would not run and an additional 350 passengers plus followers in cars and coaches would not be visiting all shops, restaurants and services that Mallaig has to offer.
Update on extra luggage space on our ScotRail service
Last year ScotRail/Abellio announced that they were to introduce extra luggage space to our existing two and four car class 156 Sprinter units, as previously reported in my West Word column. This extra space was to be in the form of a modified class 150/153 unit, with some seating removed and possibly some catering facilities. To date this plan has been delayed due to more pressing issues within the ScotRail/Abellio network!
Firstly, late arrival of class 390 EMUs for use in the Central Belt (Glasgow - Edinburgh via Falkirk High), and secondly late arrival of modified class 43s and rolling stock released from GWR (Great Western Railway), and thirdly withdrawal of class 314s from the Glasgow Central - Wemyss Bay - Paisley Canal route.
As is normally the case, any disruption further south has a knock-on effect upon the West Highland line and in particular the West Highland branch line (even though time and again we are voted the most picturesque route in Scotland). Consequently even when this extra capacity arrives it will be the Oban line that benefits first, we are told. Yet again all we can do is watch, wait and apologise!
On Thursday 18th April I looked forward (as I always do) to travel on the 10:10am Mallaig to Glasgow train. Just an average day - or so I thought. The front two coaches were reserved to pick up 41 "Rail Discovery" touring holiday guests with very large wheelie suitcases from Morar. Well and good - the company had booked ahead to go to Glasgow - very responsible, the seat reservations well in order 10/10, but where were 50 pieces of luggage going!! The guests had had a very nice time at the Morar Hotel - now they had to board the train with the luggage through the only accessible door (in the middle of the four car unit - due to the short platform) to the space where six bikes would normally go. The very polite conductor/guard and the driver had to load the luggage as quickly as possible before the flashing lights at Morar level crossing "timed out" causing a "please explain" situation at Control! There are no catering facilities (again) this year on the branch line, no bikes (luckily) had been booked on, but this is before we had even reached Fort William which was heaving with bemused passengers who soon became irritated passengers. Praise to the crew on board for the splendid job they did in such a short time. I just wish that ScotRail/Abellio bosses would travel on our train service (and this is only April!) and see for themselves how staff have to cope with such inadequate facilities, and share our concerns about our beautiful area as well as attending to Central Belt issues. If "they" cannot accommodate large amounts of luggage then they should not accept these types of bookings from touring companies (of which there are now so many!)
I understand that this baggage situation at Morar is becoming a common occurrence. I do not blame the hotels, the guests, the scenery, the weather et cetera et cetera. We, including the train company, want to welcome anyone that wants to share our beautiful railway line - but - we need a luggage car to cope with the bikes, prams, wheelchairs and suitcases. It is not rocket science surely - or am I missing the point, Abellio?
Furthermore - what does the front cover of May's issue of the Scots Magazine portray? It says in large tempting words "The greatest journey . . . Explore the stunning West Highland line from Fort William to Mallaig" with Glenfinnan viaduct pictured; and inside, five pages of stunning photos with the banner headline "Great Scottish rail journeys". All free publicity - but where is the luggage space!!!
Dates for your diary
Jacobite steam train morning service: now operating Monday to Friday until October 25th plus Saturday and Sunday from Saturday May 4th to Sunday September 29th.
Jacobite steam train afternoon service: Monday to Friday, from May 13th to September 13th plus Saturday and Sunday from Saturday June 15th to Sunday September 1st.
With all luggage facilities and on-board catering - both trolley service at your seat and buffet car, courtesy of Light Garden Catering, who offer an awesome menu plus an activity bag and crayons for children. Plus the gift shop in coach D with Harry Potter and steam train souvenirs; pre-booked flowers, champagne and chocolates at your seat. Read this and weep, ScotRail/Abellio.
See you on the train,
No Road into Morar
I once wrote for West Word about how, in January 1882, Simon Fraser Lord Lovat 'walked the moss from and to Arisaig so as to get a new road made straight through to Arisaig.' That was from the Morar river on the line of today's much improved A830. He was 120 years ahead of his time.
Another old paper has come to hand dated 5 February 1818. It was a letter from John MacDonald of Borrodale, Clanranald's right hand man on the mainland, to Peter Anderson, factor for the Lovat estates on both sides of the Highlands. Anderson's employer Colonel Alexander Campbell Fraser had died three years before.
While still in life he raised a memorial to his achievements in the Fraser mausoleum, but North Morar was a problem property. Fraser threatened to evict every person who did not labour, 'when in health, six full days in each week.' He thought of making idlers build a road into Morar from the east by way of Finiskaig at the head of Loch Nevis.
Colonel Fraser did nothing to support continuing the road from Fort William to Arisaig. Civilisation ended there with the inn and a new post office. Money for Highland roads would soon no longer be on offer unless local landowners made an appeal for it. Lord MacDonald, who built Armadale Castle, now lived mostly in England.
Reginald George MacDonald, Captain of Clanranald, had built a mansion near Arisaig. The district formed part of his property, but he had lost his way after Eton College and fell heavily in debt through gambling - despite a huge income from the tangle known as kelp. He began selling off his island estates, and would soon sell Arisaig.
So much for introduction: The letter which Borrodale sent to Beauly starts: 'The very strong Interest the Lovat Family have in the matter on which I take the liberty of addressing you will, I trust, be a sufficient apology for doing so. I regretted very much not being at home when you visited North Moror last season.'
A new line of caring Lovat landlords was about to begin in the person of Thomas Fraser whose roots were at Strichen, Aberdeenshire. As an adult he turned Mallaig into a fishing port through the Lovat Pier but at this point he was boarding at Stoneyhurst College in Lancashire. The estates were meanwhile in the hands of trustees.
The letter goes on: 'It would occur to you that a line from the Arisaig Road to the Entrance of Lochnevis would at once open an useful communication and be of the greatest service to the Inhabitants of North Morar, which can be done at a very moderate expence if adopted while the Parliamentary aid can be secured.'
Borrodale knew Parliamentary aid was about to end: 'You will advert that Lovat is the person chiefly interested in the extension of this Line to Lochnevis, & that if omitted to be pushed and carried on immediately the aid from Government will be lost.' Lord MacDonald and Clanranald had little interest in the matter.
However there was a legal agreement in place: 'Clanranald, like Lord Macdonald & the other contributors are already bound and fixed beyond the power of retracting, so that Lovat has nothing to do but set the matter a going before it is too late. . . Lovat has the Ball clear before his foot, he should not delay pushing it.'
Finally a local detail: 'The Line can be drawn so as to make the one bridge over the Water of Moror serve the whole, and that one in such a narrow part of the River as not to be very expensive.' But the man who won back the title Lord Lovat, lost after the Forty-five Jacobite Rising, was only a boy of fifteen at the time. Nothing happened.
BIRDWATCH March 2019 by Stephen MacDonald
A bit more activity this month as birds started to move.
Whooper Swans were seen heading north from mid-month, including 17 over Loch Ailort on the 18th, nine low over the sea by Camusdarroch on the 20th and a large group of approximately 50 over Loch nan Ceall on the morning of the 30th. These sightings coincided with other reports from around the West Coast and Western Isles of early returning birds heading for Iceland.
During the last week of the month there were several reports of flocks of Redwings passing through, again with simultaneous observations elsewhere on the West Coast, presumably returning Icelandic birds.
On the 9th there were 35 Lapwing at Invercaimbe, with a further 15 at Traigh with several Golden Plover.
Skylark numbers built up as the month progressed. 12 were at Traigh golf course on the 11th and territorial birds were singing at Invercaimbe, Traigh and Rhubana by the month end.
Numbers of Shelduck on Loch nan Ceall built up and a pair were on the shore by Traigh boatshed from the 14th.
Black-throated Divers were noted back on Loch Eilt from the 21st and a pair were at the west end of Loch Morar during the last week.
The first Sand Martins reported were three birds seen feeding in Arisaig on the 31st.
On the 4th an adult Iceland Gull was roosting with other large gulls on the Morar Estuary. A Barn Owl was seen by the dunes at Camusdarroch on the 18th and a male Hen Harrier was hunting at Invercaimbe on the 24th. A Peregrine Falcon was seen at Camusdarroch/Glenancross area on the 23rd and another was seen near the summit of Sgurr Eireagoraidh on the 31st. Also at the latter site a Ptarmigan was seen on the same date.
The Little Egret was present throughout the month in its usual haunts. On the 16th it was noted that it had sustained an injury to its back, which may have been the result of an altercation with a Grey Heron. Although it looked quite serious, it was still able to fly and hunt successfully and by the month end there was little trace of the injury.
Photo by Stephen MacDonald
Two Siskins which had previously been ringed in a Morar garden, the first on 26th June 2015 and the other on 26th May 2018, were subsequently recaught within two days of each other at the same location on the Black Isle, on the 10th March and 8th March 2019 respectively. Unfortunately our Cormorant recoveries involve another dead bird. A Cormorant chick ringed on the Traigh islands on the 25th June 2016 was found dead on the Barr River, Loch Teacuis, on the south side of Loch Sunart, Morven on the 15th May 2018.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Here's Margaret Macphee and Pam MacDonald, outside the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela with their West Word, having walked 185km of the Camino de Santiago Francés!
Richard Lamont stopped to read his when he visited Glengorm Castle on Mull.
Kate, Grace, Agnes, Jaqueline, Ruth - and Isabel - took a copy with them when they went to see The Full Monty in Glasgow recently!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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