Community paper for Glenfinnan, Lochailort, Glenuig, Arisaig, Morar,
Mallaig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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November 2002 Issue
Contents of the online version:
The 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' but all the crab apples have disappeared overnight-it must have been the pine marten storing the larder, since there's no evidence left lying around! We have just been told there is to be a postal delivery to the door in future, now that Bernie has been supplied with an adult sized van that actually has four wheels. This will be a first as far as we are concerned and in at the deep end for Bernie, with Christmas on the horizon.
Last night Hallowe'en in 'The Old Forge' was the catalyst which caused brave Bob (the builder) to see his chin after it had been hiding for more years than he can remember. Beard was shaved off in the name of charity-£42 toward the village hall fund. Needless to say, Bob was presented with a strong reviver before being allowed home. We don't know whether Morag has been told yet. Meanwhile Galen won the prize for best dressed youngster and Sandy forhis interpretation of the grim reaper. The evening was rounded off with fireworks on the pier, produced by ghillie Alastair Smith.
Gordon leaves the pub this week to return to his previous occupation; we wish him well. A few privileged folk from Knoydart were treated to the first night of 'Miss Saigon' when it opened recently in Edinburgh. Amongst the party was Frank from Tarbet who was mistaken for a film star-Sean Connery, according to Frank!
Refurbishment of the school has finally been completed and very good to looks too, both inside and outside. Well done to Norman and his team.
ISLE OF MUCK
This month we welcomed the MacFadyen family to the island; Glenn, Julie, Amy and James. Though originally from Mull several generations back, the family more immediately come from Bovey Tracey in Devon. They have rented Godag House, vaant for nearly a year following the departure of Helen Harper for Kelso. Amy and James have joined the school whose roll has now reached eight.
On the farm it has been tup buying time and this year I attended two markets; Fort William and Dingwall. At Fort William the tup sale coincided with the Farmers Market where cooking apples,. Vegetables and baking were the main items on the Muck stand. Tup prices were very reasonable and I purchased a Blackface, Suffolk and Jacob.
Dingwall was very interesting as I had never been there before and it was the last sale before the market closes and moves to an out of town site. North Country Cheviots are remarkable sheep and the display of tups at the sale was no exception. This was a sale of the hill type of NCC and many of those had been bred in the Ullapool area. And as any of you who have driven through Ullapool to Lochinver will know this is some of the poorest land in the whole of the UK. Yet the tups (mostly 2-shear) were well grown and most impressive. And they were well presented, dipped but without any of the coloured wool which spoils many of the Blackfaces, and almost all were Scrapie tested. Dingwall was definitely a sellers market! For much of the day it was hard to find a sheep under £200. By joining with Duncan Ferguson from Eigg we were able to share transport and 10 tups made their way to the two islands.
Lastly, the birth is announced of Archie Hugh Traquair, son of Toby Flitchner-Irvine and Mary MacEwen. Weight 10lbs 14 oz. Congratulations are in order!
ISLE OF RUM
Rum has hit the papers recently with an outbreak of new businesses starting up on the island. Judith Hunter, artist and illustrator, is starting the Eilean Rum Gallery at her home in Kinloch. The Gallery will display her own watercolours, arts and prints, as well as the wares of other local artists and crafts people.
She hopes to set up a website to make the local landscapes and crafts available all over the world. Norwegian Ragnhild Rostrop has taken over the local postal service contract. The distances and terrain on Rum make a vehicle essential and, being environmentally conscious, Ragnhild opted for a bike rather than a landrover or van. The new bike has strong front and rear suspension. Ragnhild has set up the third new business on the island - Eilean Rum Crafts. She produces hand made scarves, hats and jewellery which she will be selling through various outlets in Lochaber, and through her website, www.isleofrum.co.uk
All three businesses have been made possible by HIE Starts, a programme run by Lochaber Enterprise, which provides a regular income in the first few months of trading. Ragnhild also received a Lochaber Enterprise grant towards the cost of her bicycle.
ISLE OF EIGG
The calm weather of the second half of the month encouraged large numbers of seabirds to remain around the island, with noticeably high numbers of gannets and razorbills (many hundreds) for the season as well as late records of Manx shearwater and puffins. Minke whales continued to show well throughout the month and there were a couple of sightings of basking sharks.
In general, bird migration was fairly slow, with only small numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings and a few passing Whooper Swans recorded. Best sightings were a couple of Merlins, a long tailed duck - first since 1998 - and a passing rook, a rare occurrence on the island.
Sadly the Barn Owl population is now down to 3, following the discovery of a dead Barn Owl in the Cuagach Hazel woods by the island children. It may have come to grief in the high winds and was then eaten by a mammal, probably a rat, thinks our bird warden. The children were understandably upset, having been introduced to that lovely bird when the Isle of Skye Falconry team brought a Barn Owl and a Tawny Owl to the island as part of a school project: they all had a go with the handling glove and were able to admire these beautiful birds at very close range!
However they took lots of photos which will be part of a visual art exhibition currently at the Lodge - or rather in the Lodge windows, featuring photos of a musician's wedding by Louis de Carlo, portraits of young islanders by themselves, "island colours" or macro-landscape photography, and an installation by myself, " the Blue room" where passers-by are inviting to peep in the dream world of a shell, feathers and crystal mandala. It is sure to become yet another star visitor attraction…
But now that the days are shortening, it's nice to see that the frantic season is over and that the long nights are beginning. The Eigg karaoke nights are bound to become an art form in themselves, judging by the talent of the recent performers!
As I write this there is a meeting in the Astley Hall to discuss the proposed road repair programme starting next week. The stretch from Arisaig out to Arisaig House is being done-thank goodness, it's like driving over corrugated iron with pits in it-and the fact that it's single track mean considerable disruption. It will be closed for times during the day as well as at night so we're going to have to work it out carefully if we're going into Fort William. The winter programme in the Hall is starting up now, with the WRI, Whist Club, Youth Club and the Historical Society all on the go again. What's this I hear? Only four tables at the first whist of the season? Well, the first one perhaps is often not so well attended, so let's hope more will join in. This is the famous Arisaig Whist Club, folks, let's see it keeps its strength up! Meanwhile Kate is going to take on the Youth Club, so good luck to her with that.
I don't recall when I've seen the trees looking so lovely in their autumn colours. We don't often have such early frosts, and I think that makes the difference. It's a pleasure to see the leaves still on the trees so late, and not blown off by gales before they have the chance to turn.
We have a great concert coming up in the Hall on the 23rd, at rather short notice for any forward publicity except for West Word. Half the line up of Blazin' Fiddles-Bruce MacGregor (Cliar), Iain MacFarlane and Duncan Chisholm (Wolfstone), with Jonny Hardie (Old Blind Dogs) pay tribute to the man who taught them all they knew, Donald Riddell. I bought the excellent CD of the Clunes Collection at the Cliar concert and amongst the photos in the cover is one of Donald Riddell as an old man in the 80s standing with Tearlach and Iain MacFarlane. We has sellout concerts in the summer-come along and prove it's worth while to put them on un the winter too when the visitors have gone.
Bonfire Night I hear drew a large crowd-first one I've missed in years, but I was here at West Word. It stayed fine long enough for the fire to burn and the fireworks to explode anyway, although it was windy.
The Quiz Nights have started in the Crofters Rest again and I apologise for not putting it on the back page last month. It was during the October break so I think a number of the regulars were away. I wasn't there myself and there's no report on it this month. The next one is Friday 22nd November, so don't forget to hone those teams and sharpen those wits-or is it the other way round...
Coastal Ranger Report
Hmmmm, I’m a little bit confused. Is it just me, or have I somehow missed Autumn? You know, that couple of months where we get the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Certainly there is no doubt that the trees are certainly bearing a great crop of fruit, but my reading of “mist” comes a fair bit above rain or hail! Having said that the trees are well laden this year, although I have noticed one that isn’t following the trend, but maybe you can help me. Has anyone out there seen any hazelnuts? Now don’t get smart, you know that I mean on the trees! because, despite checking all the usual good spots, I find that most of the trees have only an odd nut here and there. It’s strange after such heavy crops the last couple of years, and the fact that everything else is flowering and cropping so prolifically. I’m sure that you are all noticing how the flowers are hanging on, some in fact coming into a second bloom. On this subject, it would be very helpful to me if you could possibly let me know if you spot any unusual blooms, crops, birds or animals, as all the Rangers have been handed the job of cataloguing (that spelling looks suspect to me!) any odd sightings. For example, I was told of a reliable sighting of a swallow this week, when all good swallows should be sunbathing in Africa! and I have seen several fragile Harebell flowers still bowing their heads against the winds. Come on, this is late October!
Anyway, what’s been happening? What have I been up to now that the walks are finished and the schools have been on holiday? Weeeeelll now, let me see! Truth is nothing very exciting. Certainly I have been fairly square eyed, no not T.V., computer screen. I’ve been at my two fingered best, bashing the keyboard (mostly the “back space” for corrections!) in a studied attempt at producing a small booklet of local walks, watch this space! Other than this I did have one very interesting day, when some very brave disabled ladies were bussed down from Fort William to Kinlochmoidart to venture out on what I hope will be the first “all abilities” path in Lochaber. Boy, did that open my eyes! You have all seen the size of the back wheels on a wheelchair? Yea! But did you look at the front? These wheels are only about 4 inches in diameter (around buggy size!) and with the weight of an adult in the chair, you can imagine what soft gravel or muddy surfaces will do! Even small stones around one inch high just stop the chair dead, and it then tends to tip forward, quite frightening for the helper as well as the incumbent. Nevertheless, if everything goes according to plan, by Spring next year I hope to have spent the little funding that I have managed to obtain and have a “grand”? opening of the first phase. By the way, if anyone is interested in the project for any reason, do get in touch, be it for more info. or constructive help, remembering that it will be an “all abilities” project.
To finish, let me just say what a wonderful month it has been! Why? I have actually spoken to six people who genuinely take the time to read my column! (I don’t include my wife, ‘cos I know that she just scans it!!) Furthermore, I couldn’t let this month go by without a gracious “thank you” to the author of the very comprehensive documentary in poetry for that graced last month’s edition! So now that the trend has been set, you can all jump on the bandwagon and contact me now that you know how easy it is! Not only can you phone me on 01687 462 983, but you can now write to me and address it either direct, or through the West Word in your best rhyming slang!!!!
Oops! Almost forgot. One other “thank you” to “Auntie Mary” for a most enjoyable and informative afternoon studying mushrooms. I picked up a little, but there is still plenty vacant memory to fill!………….Who said “what’s new!”
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
This question is especially for Angus and all the mushroom hunters after our excursion in late September. Thank you for an interesting afternoon. If a toadstool or mushroom has bite marks from from an animal eating part of it, is it safe for people to eat ?
No, it is not. Various creepy crawlies, such as slugs and snails, eat some toadstools and mushrooms, and may leave bite marks with their rasping teeth. They are able to eat fungi which are poisonous to people as these molluscs have different digestive juices from humans. They are able to digest some plants which if eaten would kill or make us very ill. So, the safety precaution with fungi is : If in doubt, do not eat them.
Dr. Mary Elliott
IN THE NAME OF CHARITY… Update
How have our intrepid readers got on with their adventures? Read on…
Isebail Mackinnon in MADAGASCAR
Here I am in Fort Dauphin writing on a French keyboard so excuse the mistakes. Staying a tent for ten weeks but we have a building for cooking and eating although it has no doors or windows.
I have to say a huge thank you to everyone who worked so hard to get me here, from coming up with ideas for fundraising to helping at events to donating money and lending me equipment for the trip.
It has been a long haul to get here especially as my car broke down at Glenfinnan on my way to Fort William for the first leg of the trip, after that I had two days in London and the lots of hours sitting in airports and an overnight stay in Antananarivo the capital of Madagascar. So since we have arrived we have been busy getting organised , learning Malagasy language, and organising the projects that we will be working on. The building that we are using is to become a community resource for training and demonstrating sustainable livelihoods systems such as fruit drying and a tree nursery to restock the depleted forests of Madagascar.
We have to very careful to keep clean and avoid all sorts of bugs and diseases that are about but we have latrines and showers on site although they are cold and outdoors; Parasy are a concern which are bugs that burrow into your feet and lay eggs but fortunately the guys here are very good at getting them out of your feet with a pin!
Tomorrow we move to Hovatria by dugout canoe which we have to paddle for three hours so that will be quite a trip. We are there for a week building a creche and then we are back here to build latrines for the town and carry on building work on our building at Lanirano. There are 11 of us on this pioneer scheme aged from 18 to 36 so it has been good getting to know each other and learning to work together on projects and we also have to cook together and live in the same space for ten weeks.
Weather wise it has been very windy and has rained a fair bit so not that different from home really but it is the windy season and it should pass soon, it is keeping the mosquitoes at bay at least.
Malagasy people are very helpful and friendly to us with our small grasp of the language and appreciate us making an effort to learn so hopefully I will learn a bit more and we also have to give English lessons tonight to everyone that comes to the centre so that should be fun! So I will say Velume for now and let you know next month how it is going out here in Madagascar.
SU COYNE HOME FROM ROMANIA
I had a wonderful and very busy two weeks in Romania with six other Scottish folk and a lovely team of Romanian monks, nuns and lay people. We saw lots of gardens, radically worked on three, and learned a lot about the talents and knowledge gaps of our hosts.
Main problems seemed to be the reluctance to stand up and say "I can do this", the lack of net working between monasteries to share skills and knowledge, the low regard of gardening as an occupation, and the truly awful tools. I have never tried to dig with a spade that actually bends!
What did we achieve? An enormous bond, and a foundation for future development. What of the future? We are all thinking hard and will soon meet up for discussion. We are keen to carry on and are considering forming a trust independent of any large umbrella charity. We all want to go back.
Want to know more? I hope to do a talk and slide show some time this winter. There will be a programme about our venture, made while we were there, on Radio Scotland on Christmas Day. I believe it will be called "To see a Flower" with Frieda Morrison (our Leader). Forget the Queen's speech and listen to me instead!
Want go there? If you like walking in beautiful alpine countryside, good food and wine, amazing churches and welcoming people, I can help you visit Romania. It would be particularly easy for a group of about eight to go and have a custom-made tour with minibus, English speaking guide, driver and all accommodation in monasteries. Highly recommended.
Ranald Coyne in Bangladesh
Ranald has arrived in Bangladesh after a frustrating time at Heathrow. They simply cancelled all the flights due to the gales on the 27th October. He had already checked his bags through from Edinburgh. After six hours queueing at a British Airways desk, a night in London with a friend, (hotels only had £150 rooms) back on Monday morning at 9 a.m to queue again, he eventually got off at 2 p.m., 24 hrs late on a new ticket via Ryadh. On arriving in Dhaka, Bangladesh, no bags!
Moral of this story? Make sure you have good insurance. If a flight is cancelled due to bad weather the airline has no responsibility at all. Not even a cup of coffee was offered.
Heather Clyne in Brazil and the Harry Potter book draw
Heather carried out her sponsored walk in Brazil from 12th to the 22nd October, in aid of Maggies Highlands. She walked 100 km (62 miles) over 6 days, through beautiful Chapada dos Veadeiros National Parque. The weather was very dry and the temperature was about 32 degrees C - which is very hot if you’re used to the West Coast!
And what about the Harry Potter books?
The draw took place on the site of the Quidditch pitch on the 9th October and the books were won by Mrs Hastings of Roy Bridge - who have a second’s hesitation handed them straight back again with the request they be used to raise more money for Maggie’s Highlands! Heather hasn’t yet decided how she will do this, perhaps with a raffle next year. She would consider selling them if a big enough donation was offered.
A Little Genealogy by Allan MacDonald (email: email@example.com)
An Arisaig Family - An Eigg Connection
Donald MacQuarry was born in 1708 and lived in Laig (Eigg) in 1764 when the infamous Census by Neil MacNeil, Catechist was compiled and NMN separated all families by religion and mixed marriages in the Small Isles.
He was married to Cathrina MacIsaac and had three sons: Lauchlan, aged 22, Donald 16, John 12, and a daughter, Cathrina, 14. They had left Rum about 1730.
Lachie MacQuarry had a son Neil who was married to Margaret MacAskill. She had, amongst others, a daughter Christina, who married Hector MacKinnon from Canna. Their daughter, Mary MacKinnon, married John MacDonald, and they took over the tenancy of Tigh na Mara at Back of Keppoch. John MacDonald was the second child of Ronald MacDonald and Kate Campbell of the Back of Keppoch boatbuilding family of Campbells. In all my research to date, I find no trace of Ronald, other than at his son’s christening in 1839 in Arisaig.
Ronald had three children—Mary, John and Anne. No family member appears on any census I have searched until 1861. Anne was married to Allan MacPherson whose parents had the Licence for the Inn at Tarbert, Loch Nevis. John was married to Mary MacKinnon and lived at Tigh-na-Mara with his sister Mary and his own family of children.
His children were:
Ronald: grandfather of the present day family, b.1863; John, Camus an t-Salainn, b. 1865 and grandfather to John Gladman in Susses; Christian, b. 1867, mother of ‘Johnnie Duncan’, and her husband was gored fatally by a bull; Hector, died in infancy in 1868; Alexander, b. 1869, grandfather of the ‘Johnnie Sandy’ family of Morar; Hector, b. 1871, whose MacLean grandchildren live in Fort William; Catherine, b. 1874, grandmother of the present day Keppoch Farm family of Arisaig; Mary Anne, b. 1879, an enigma still to be solved; Jane, b. 1881, who became a nun, entering a convent in 1904 and dying in a convent in Preston in 1969.
Regarding Mary Anne, I have some information that she got married, possibly in Greenock, and she was the recipient of the ‘Mary Box’. This was, by all accounts I can glean, a box of family mementos, handed down through the generations from one Mary to the first born christened Mary of the following generation, in which case a niece rather than a daughter cold be the next recipient. When Mary Anne died around 1952 the ’Box’ should have gone to Hector’s daughter Mary, but Mary Anne’s husband refused to hand it over.
Between 1897 and 1929, six Mary Anne MacDonalds got married, and the next time I am in Edinburgh I will check the Marriage register of that period to confirm May Anne of Back of Keppoch and who she married, and so goes on the search.
Mary MacKinnon’s brother, Allan, also came to Arisaig and married Mary Silver, a sister of John Silver of R. L.Stevenson’s novel ‘Treasure Island’, on whom R. L. Stevenson based his character ‘Long John Silver’, but gave him a parrot, eyepatch and wooden leg as a disguise. John Silver was a carpenter by trade and worked with the Stephensons when they were building Skerryvore Lighthouse.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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