Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
September 2007 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
'PUMA' SEEN IN ARISAIG AREA
Just as West Word went to press last month, a regular visitor to the area was driving along the new stretch of the A830 between Moss of Keppoch and Kinloid when a 'huge cat the size of a labrador' ran across the road near the underpass, leapt the fence and ran off towards Craigmore.
'It was definitely a cat of some sort', he said, 'but bigger than any cat I've ever seen, and definitely not a wildcat.'
Big cats of puma size have been seen in Lochaber before, but none, as far as we know, in this area of North West Lochaber. No animals have been reported killed or maimed by a big predator.
There have been reports of a big cat dubbed the 'Lochyside Panther' seen near Fort William over a number of years, the most recent in November 2006. It is thought the beast could be a puma and it has reputedly killed hens and ducks.
In Scotland as a whole, almost 200 sightings were reported by members of the public to Scottish police forces between 2000 and 2006. Police in Grampian and Fife recorded the highest number of sightings, 55 and 42 respectively. Other hotspots include Lothian, with 30 sightings, and Strathclyde, with 27.
But the true number of sightings could be a lot higher, as there is a view that most people don't report what they have seen. Big Cats in Britain (BCIB) is a group dedicated to researching the alleged existence of big cats and they reckon they register three sightings on average a week in Scotland. They believe there could be up to 40 big cats roaming wild in Scotland.
Of course, there are a number of theories of what the beasts might be. The Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1972 required owners to apply for a licence to keep such animals, and individuals who didn't want to comply are suspected of releasing their 'pets' into the wild. Another idea is that the animals have escaped from registered ownership or that consumer demand for designer cats spawned a new generation of hybrids. But the most radical theory claims there is a native species of wild cat in Scotland that has not been identified to date. According to BCIB, people consistently give the same description: round head, black body and pointed ears. This is not a description that fits that of a puma, wild cat or lynx, or any other possible wild animal.
ARISAIG SURGERY HOURS CUT
As from Monday 3rd September, restructuring of the medical services in Mallaig and Arisaig has resulted in a number of changes in the way the practice will operate.
The opening hours of the Arisaig Health Centre have been cut in the restructure, and Mallaig Health centre will hold all medical records.
There is now one practice - the Mallaig & Arisaig Medical Practice - and patients have the choice of attending in either the Mallaig or the Arisaig surgery. With recent arrivals Drs Schultz and Stangroom joining Dr Iain Gartshore, the area once again has three GPs.
Arisaig Health Centre will be open for two afternoons and two mornings a week, but will be closed outwith those surgery times. Any Arisaig enquiries, repeat prescriptions or requests for an appointment must be done through Mallaig.
The reduction in hours and the fact that records will only be kept in Mallaig have caused dissatisfaction amongst Arisaig residents and a petition of over 250 names deploring the reduction in service provision to the village has been sent to Fergus Ewing MSP, Nicola Sturgeon, MSP Minister for Health & Wellbeing, Theresa James, Locality General Manager, Mid Highland CHP, Cllr Coutts, Chair of NHS Highland Board, Councillor Allan Henderson, Arisaig & District Community Council and to Dr Gartshore. Until this month, opening times for the Arisaig Health Centre were from 9 am - 5pm Monday and Friday, from 9am to 6pm on a Tuesday and from 8.30 am to 5pm on a Wednesday. It was closed on Thursdays These times enabled local workers to be able to attend the surgery without taking time off work.
At an open Community Council meeting in the Astley Hall in April this year, Dr Gartshore answered a number of questions from around 40 anxious residents of Arisaig who were concerned about the proposed cuts.
His reply to the suggestion that Arisaig's service was being downgraded was that he was instigating an improvement and redistributing resources more evenly through the area. He maintained that there is no change to the service offered, and no reduction in the clinics or hours cover for Arisaig residents, but they now have a choice of doctors, including a woman doctor if preferred, and a choice of locations, Arisaig or Mallaig, five days a week. He has recently reported that there have been instances of Mallaig residents coming to the Arisaig surgery.
The subject of the shorter hours for Arisaig was raised at the most recent Community Council meeting on Monday 3rd September. Concerns were expressed about the possible difficulty in collection of prescriptions, and that the lack of morning surgeries could delay getting prescriptions and the sending off of blood samples. There is a big gap in provision between the Medical Centre shutting at 12pm on a Friday and not reopening until 2pm on a Monday.
Dr Gartshore has repeatedly emphasised that the Arisaig Medical Centre will not close and that Mallaig Health Centre could not manage the volume of patients alone. There is also the possibility of using the Arisaig building for other clinics, e.g. the chiropodist, and for training and meetings.
The Community Council will keep a watching brief on the changes for two months and will then look at the situation again. It will be suggested that a suggestions box be placed in the Medical Centre for feedback from patients.
Junior Games at the Mallaig & Morar Highland Games
This year's Knoydart games were very nearly a non-starter due to the marquee being destroyed by some of Scotland's finest summer weather. Sandy the barman was helping winch up the main pole when the whole thing snapped and the canvas came billowing down on top of him. His wincher-in-arms, Kenny, managed to sprint to freedom (a spectacular sight I'm told) leaving Sandy's life to go flashing in front of his eyes. Fortunately he was spared certain death and celebrated with a fantastic display of swearing. Onlookers were treated to the sight of a Sandy-shaped moving bump, spouting an impressive medley of flavour-some language, as he crawled towards to freedom.
An attempt was made the following morning to patch up the venue but at the last minute it was decided to move the event to the village instead. A great day was had by all; wheelbarrow races, shooting galleries, face painting and a tombola were just a few of the delights on offer. The traditional ceilidh that night had everyone twirling and spinning with glee and the general consensus was that all had been salvaged, despite the shaky start to the weekend.
Last month the village was the recipient of a visit from a Danish Viking longboat on a tour of the west coast of Scotland. As is traditional when one's village is being threatened by Viking marauders, everyone saw fit to greet the (rather terrified apparently) crew on the pier at half two in the morning brandishing various "weapons" from mallets to garden strimmers. The tired seamen, once they had gotten over the sight of 50 tooled up, tartan wearing villagers waving various blunt instruments at them, spent the rest of the weekend sampling the Knoydart hospitality and I'm told were very impressed with the village.
Finally, Inverie was pleased to welcome country and western legend, Hank Wangford and his trusty sidekick Reg to the village hall last week as part of their "No Hall Too Small" Highland tour extravaganza. The village hall was decked out with various light-shades purloined from the Pier House and Hank and Reg regaled the village to musical delights from their "Best Foot Forward" cd. Songs such as "Must You Throw Dirt In My Face" brought the house down and the two hour gig converted many to Stetson wearing glee. A big thanks to the duo for providing such an entertaining night and yet another opportunity to dress up in silly hats.
Well it's time for this Cow-gal to shimmy off into the sunset. Until next month…yeehaw.
ISLE OF MUCK
This month I would like to mention the new School Hostel in Mallaig, a project which is very important to the Small Isles but one which seems to be constantly disappearing over the horizon. Rumor has it that the council are planning an iconic structure costing £ millions, set to win architectural awards but probably costing more £ millions to maintain over the next 50 years. We already have a structure like that at Holyrood. All we need is a building fit for the purpose staffed by people who care about those in their charge and who command their respect, it is as simple as that.
At a presentation on the 19th in the presence of Muck Eigg and Mallaig Coastguards Sandra Mathers received her long service medal from the sector manager of the Fort William district, Phil Wren. Sandra is notable for being the first woman member of the Muck unit and the first head.
On the farm it is sale time again and because those in Fort William were late in starting none were cancelled because of the Foot and Mouth scare and it's a dismal story. At the first sale were most of the lambs were from Canna and Muck - our best Suffolk crosses made only made £27, more than £10 less than two years ago. Unless there is a major improvement in prices there will be no sheep in the north west in a few years.
Silage is now all baled and it has not been an easy season. Both July and August lacked any long dry period but we now have a mower conditioner and two dry days are all that is needed to make good silage.
The other success story this summer has been bracken spraying, much of the bracken on Muck is accessible to a tractor mounted machine and most was covered during July. Even when the spraying has been carried out eradication is seldom achieved and further work with a slasher will be required next summer.
Lastly, thank you Allan Henderson for taking up the broadband problems it is good to know that we have an advocate working on the issues which really matter.
MUCK COATGUARD AWARD
Pictured right is Sandra Mathers receiving her 20 year long service medal from Sector Manager Phil Wren. Sandra, a member of the Isle of Muck Coastguard Rescue Team was previously Station Officer for many years. Her son, Sandy took on the role in 2004.
To this day Sandra's house at Port Mor, which overlooks the harbour, becomes a Coastguard Ops Centre for any incidents that occur on the Island and surrounding waters. As a remote Island (with a population of under 30) where the ferry arrival is never guaranteed, especially in winter, their team training and self sufficiency often proves invaluable. The presentation took place at the guest house where a marvellous buffet was provided. Members of the Mallaig Coastguard Rescue team from the Mainland and team members from the neighbouring Isle of Eigg were also present. As Sandra now wishes to retire from the Service we wish her well and my thanks go to her for 20 years of dedicated service. Taking her place on the team is Colin MacEwen whose family own the Island.
Sector Manager, Fort William
ISLE OF RUM
Small Isles Games 2007
The weather may have been dismal, but the craic at the games was top notch as usual. Emma Walters, active schools coordinator, came over for the day to help with the kids events, which swiftly turned into a two horse race between Muck and Rum as there was only one child from Eigg (well done Bryony for making the effort). Poor turn out nearly cancelled the hill race with only one entrant till Sorcha, wee James from Muck and visiting Meiggidh Fraser, all aged 10 and under, wanted to join in too. After checking whether they were fit to get round the course numbers soon rocketed to 6 !! and off they went. All three adults came back to produce a Rum 1st, 2nd, 3rd slowly followed by Sorcha, James and Meggidh, who made it round in about half an hour. Good on them !!!
The adults events caused the usual stampede for the beer tent but after some cajoling, Grace, Stewart, Lewis and Karen Helliwell (the Eigg team) showed us what they were made of but still managed to sabotage each other in the tattie and spoon race. Eigg numbers were boosted later when Cap'n Helliwell turned up on his Yacht bringing order to the chaos and Aidan, after hunting for the Glasgow team, finally plumped to join the Eigg squad, with a few helpful additions they managed to get a team together for the tug o' war. The folk from Muck braved the elements to get here but with exhaustion setting in after the Small Isles epic school trip and a few dodgy hips and knees, they didn't manage to bring the Rum team to its knees. Result: 1st Rum, 2nd Muck, 3rd Eigg
Exodus to the shop… and barbeque. Many thanks to David Birks and the Castle for providing a feast fit for kings. This year's band was 'The GrouseBeaters' who were Adam Sutherland, John Sommerville, Mike o'Brien and Hamish ?? (the keyboard player). All of you who didn't come missed an absolutely storming ceilidh, the tunes were top notch. Many thanks to everyone who helped, Emma Walters and to the lifeboat for visiting.
ISLE OF CANNA
Here's a last ditch attempt to catch the deadline for this month…we don't know where the last few weeks have gone! Suddenly we're into September and we're thinking, like most people…whatever happened to the summer? And we won't mention the recent weather, although there have been glimpses of a large shiny object in the sky on occasion, albeit fleeting. At least we're not short of water this last month. Even the puffins have decided that they might as well be on the water, as they went off to sea around the middle of the month. Not quite sure where exactly, but somewhere warmer than here, that's for sure.
Much of the month has been taken over with assorted training and certification, which has sharpened up some skills as well as a few chainsaws. By the end of this month most of us should be proficient in spraying, cutting, burning, fork-lifting, cross-cutting, four-wheeling and grinding. Teeth, that is.
Sheep news…a delayed start, but the sales are finally underway. Initial reports suggest that our lot did not too badly, after all. Still early days yet, and we won't be counting our chickens (if we had any, that is…).
Things are slowing down a bit here on Canna, after what seems to have been a hectic summer. Even so, our local historian took the time out to appear on the telly…accompanying Mr. Crane on part of his Great British Journey around the West Coast, following in the footsteps of Thomas Pennant - explorer, pioneer and island-hopper extraordinaire. Apparently he was intrigued by the phenomenon of second sight, said to be possessed by the inhabitants of this very isle. That very night I had an eerie feeling of déjà vu and I thought I might be beginning to experience myself the gift of 'the seer', but I soon realised that the programme had been on two nights earlier and I was watching the repeat. Typical.
Building works still progress, and ongoing up the back of the New House a new road appears as if by magic. Even stranger goings on when two wheels mysteriously disappear off the wagon, and Paul Daniels nowhere to be seen. Second sight, eh? Well we all saw that coming..!
Back at school this month, and the pupil roll doubled overnight with the new term's intake of one. Our new boy joined the rest of the children on their own wee Odyssey around the Small Isles, as part of the Year of Highland Culture. Many thanks to all the parents and helpers both on and off the Isles for their help and support. No doubt there'll be a more detailed report of all the shenanigans in next months West Word.
And finally, after many months of expectation it's confirmed. More residents expected sometime soon, with the arrival of a family of four. And hopefully we'll be seeing something of a population explosion on Canna, in the New Year…when another couple arrive.
ISLE OF EIGG
Well, I'm filling in for Sue this month (who is away sunning herself in Tuscany with her family) so apologies if I forget anything important since I only stepped in at the last minute and haven't been paying as much attention as I might have been if I had known I would be making my West Word debut!
The weather has mostly been quite kind through August, apart from some weird and wonderful mist and a fair amount of drizzly rain at the end of the month - but I think most of the hay got baled in time at least. It definitely feels like Autumn is here already, and it seems to be a particularly splendid year for the heather and the scabious, and lots of other wildflowers still going strong. Things seem to be slowing down generally on the island now, and there haven't been any (official) ceilidhs this month, although Hank Wangford and Reg Meuross put on a fantastic night on Friday 31st to finish the month off in style, as part of their "no hall too small" tour. It was great fun - good country songs and entertaining tales (not to mention splendid shirts). Everyone had a great night, with a surprise performance from a visiting Spaniard with a guitar and a few dances accompanied by the island's own musicians too. A few folk still made it onto the Sheerwater on Saturday to head over to Rum for the island games as well. Other things of note which have happened this month have included the official opening of the school, and a return to school and nursery for all the children, of course, with Mia and Heather moving up into the school class. The past week has seen all the primary school off on an "island odyssey" around Canna, Muck, Eigg, Rum, Knoydart and Mallaig, and a few weeks ago we had a two-woman film crew, Lucy and Sasha from London, over for a few days to document Bryony Kirk's departure from the island as she started at Mallaig High School. Of this year's school leavers, Abby Lines is off to Herriot Watt University in Galashiels to do a course in fashion and textiles, Brendan Greene is starting a music course at Jewel and Esk College near Edinburgh, and Ewen Kirk is currently working for the electrification scheme while he cooks up his plans for the future.
The Credit Union had its first collection day on Eigg, with a few people joining - hopefully the first of many. A team of Spanish volunteers were here to work on the Catholic church in Cleadale, and the end of the month saw the departure of the last of the SWT volunteers too - many thanks to them.
The electrification project continues apace, with more of the cables and transformers being put in place. The extension at Sue and Alistair Kirk's is likewise moving on. Tasha is now offering Swedish Massage treatments, which I can personally recommend very highly. Eileen and Duncan Ferguson are away again - this time for their daughter Lesley's wedding, in Oban. Of birthdays that I can think of, the month started with David Kirk's birthday and Grace Fergusson celebrated her 30th on the 28th August - congratulations!!!!!!
Well, that's all I can think of just now, so I'll sign off.
New Nursery for Eigg
A joint venture between Highland Council and Lochaber Housing Association on the Isle of Eigg has resulted in a £440,000 facility which includes new nursery provision, a flat for teacher Mrs Ibrahim, and a school office. The nursery and school office are on the ground floor of the former schoolhouse, which is next to the school in the middle of the island, and the flat is on the upper floor. A community room is included. The work was carried out by the island's own Construction Company, which saved the considerable further cost of ferrying workmen over to the island to carry out the project. Up until the opening of the new facility, the nursery was held at Tigh Corraraigh, a social work building two miles away from the school. The former schoolhouse was in such a poor condition it was unusable. At present the nursery has two pupils, the primary school has six.
The traffic on the road seems to be worse this year than previously and the near misses more frequent. Either I'm travelling it at different times of the day to other years or frustration from some of the delays is causing thoughtless driving. I'm actually beginning to look forward to the new road.
Huge bare patches appearing where once stood fine trees - I keep trying to envisage the clear run and lovely views we might have once it's all finished. Good to know some of the wood is being used on Knoydart. But one question bothers me - the otters' pool at Loch nan Uamh is being re-sited, we were told - but do the otters know this? I feel that once all is finished they will be long gone to quieter waters.
The owls are also feeling a bit displaced I think.
Speaking of trees, I'm afraid the poor old copper beech at the Hall is now showing severe signs of distress. It hasn't been very leafy for the last few years and now it is dropping its leaves and a lot of beech mast, far too early. Closer inspection of the fallen leaves shows that they look burnt on the outside and still green in the middle, and 'live' at the stalk end. If we needed further confirmation that it was dying apart from the rotten trunk, this is it. I had hoped several months ago to report that the inside of the hall had been repainted, and one of the outer doors, but still we wait...
Some excellent concerts, Daimh filled the hall to the seams and we ran out of seats; Flook and the Ceilidh Trailers the following week as part of the Blas Festival packed in over 80. A large number came to both and some called out as they left-what's on next week? You'll have to wait until the end of this month, I'm afraid, and I hope Harem Scarem have a good turn out for what is the last concert of the year. I have a vested interest as the line up includes both my son and daughter-in-law but even if that were not the case I would still find intriguing their unusual and experimental use of rhythm and the songs from Inge. Let's round off the year with a foot stomping concert!
New '20 is Plenty' signs at Strath View are a good move - we should have them in the rest of the village too!
Sun Fish Surprise off Mallaig-Vaig
On the afternoon of Thursday 9th August, whilst fishing along the shore of Mallaig-Vaig, we came across a very unusual sight. As we entered the Mallaig-Vaig bay, 10 year old Michael Edgar jokingly spotted what he hoped was a Great White Shark, but it was in fact an extremely large Sun Fish, which is alien to these waters, more commonly founding places such as the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea areas. We approached the Sun Fish as close as possible, trying not to put him under any stress, he didn't seem too bothered by our presence. We managed to get a few photos on our camera phone and attract the attention of passing diver Tam Baillie, who also managed to get alongside and along with ourselves, he agreed that it was an incredible sight, nothing that we had ever seen in the Mallaig area before. The Sun Fish looked to be around 4 to 5 feet in length, with two large fins extending from the top and lower halves of its body. The fish was a light grey in colour with large black and white eyes. At one point the fish seemed to be watching us as we watched him. He swam with us for a few minutes before diving for a short while and re-surfacing about 15 minutes later just ahead of our boat. We also managed to attract the attention of the Mallaig Marine Training Centre trainees, who also managed to get a look at this unusual sight.
FISHING FOCUS by John Hermse, Secretary of the M&NWFA
The weather has been mixed over the last six weeks after a fine start to the summer. In recent years, the climate has certainly changed with a lot more wind and rain throughout the year. Prices for prawns , although not as high as they were in spring time, are still good - badly needed, as high fuel prices seem to be here to stay.
A point of interest was a sunfish spotted in Loch Nevis by local youngsters and divers. There are only a few previous sightings of sunfish so far North from their normal Mediterranean habitat. This would point to warmer water temperature and changes in current patterns; the same patterns which have played havoc with fish stock estimates and caused fish to move area following feed, rather than having been caught by fishermen. There seems to be more cod in the West than for several years and this is maybe due to cyclical behaviour which seems to be forgotten about by some people. It's sometimes too easy to blame global warming and carbon footprints for everything rather than consult historical data which can sometimes show changing trends over decades and even centuries.
Inshore Fishery Groups (IFG's)
The IFG process, which is intended to devolve fisheries management to grass roots interests has been the subject of a taking stock exercise by Fishery Departments. This was requested by the new Scottish Government to ensure that there was consultation at grass roots level. There have been meetings held all round the Scottish Coast to sound the message and discuss any remaining problems and concerns from fishermen in the hinterlands who may not be fully aware of what the IFG system entails.
I attended a meeting in Oban on a Wednesday evening which attracted a diverse cross section of marine users and although feisty at times, the meeting was a great success. Conversely, I attended another of the IFG meetings in Inverness on a Tuesday at 12.45pm and there was virtually no fishermen in evidence. No wonder! How can working fishermen attend at such a time. Maybe we will have to increase the training of Civil servants to ensure they are aware of fishermen's timetables. I am a great believer in the IFG system, provided the Groups have the proper mix of interests and remain focussed on producing a meaningful local management regime. It is all too easy to be infiltrated by the pedants of this world, who would discuss minutiae till the coos come hame, rather than dealing with urgent issues. We seem to have been infiltrated by an inordinate amount of such types on the West Coast, who are semi-retired and looking for something to do, or someone to annoy, to pass their time.
The European Commission has now turned its attention to dealing with the thorny problem of fish discards. Fishermen have said for years that discards are a product of the Quota management system and wish other systems which reduce or do away with discards completely. Scottish fishermen, seeing a massive upsurge in cod stocks, have suggested a system of Real time Closures, where up to eight fishing grounds of up to 225 square nautical miles are closed for 21 days if high numbers of juvenile cod are present. The system has been backed by our Fisheries Departments and a pilot scheme is already underway.
Sea Fisheries Councils
The new Scottish Government have floated the idea of having a Sea Fisheries Council to deal with all matters pertaining to fishing. I think that fishermen would welcome the idea as long as the Council had full fiscal powers and represent the Industry at a European level. I think I would go further and suggest the formation of a Fisheries Department that could deal with all aspects relating to fishing such as sea safety, certification, training, marketing, management, licensing, quotas etc etc. It would be important to have such a Department staffed by people with industry knowledge who could be retained in the Dept rather than be shifted every other year to other Government Agency's. Such a system would ensure as build up and retention of experience. High staff turnover is a major fault of our present system and new civil servants are constantly being thrown in at the deep end trying to cope with issues that they have no real knowledge of.
Name the Mallaig Greyhounds
Regular readers will recall that Sue and Doug Beedie, Michael Ridley and Greg King form N.S.W. Australia and Dougal Ridley, England, are racing greyhounds under the kennel name of Mallaig'.
Doug has sent us this email:
'Hi, greetings from Coffs Harbour Australia. Just an update re our Mallaig greyhound racing and breeding syndicate. Mallaig Mist is the star at the moment, she has won three of her last four starts. One of the new dogs, Mallaig Mohr has won his first race start. 'We have a number of new pups soon to be named. Perhaps your reader may have some suggestions? Five of our group will be in Mallaig Monday & Tuesday 17th &18th September.'
Well - have any of you got some good names? To refresh your memories, the syndicate have dogs called Where's Mallaig, Mallaig Mhor, Mallaig Miss, Mallaig Claymore, Mallaig Lass and Mallaig Mist.
Suggestions to West Word - preferably before the 17th September…..
Feeding time at Mallaig harbour
THE KNOYDART GOATS - To cull or not to cull?
In August's edition of West Word, the Knoydart article contained this paragraph:
'The hot topic of conversation in Inverie just now is goats. Our goat population has risen dramatically over the past few years. The herds tend to be concentrated on the west coast of the peninsula, and they are doing large amounts of damage to vegetation. The west coast is particularly vulnerable. Following much research, it was decided quite a while back to have a more active management scheme. We're finally getting round to the time when a cull is due to take place, and several people have signed a petition in protest. Knoydart is about as democratic as you get (check out the number of community meetings there are), so I've no doubt the petition signers will put their views across at a meeting in the near future.'
Sure enough, the petition signers do want to put their views across. The petition stated: 'We the undersigned deplore the suggestion that a cull of the Knoydart goats should be undertaken. We urge the Knoydart Foundation to re-consider this action.' Started on 19th July 2007, by 17th August it had been signed by 62 people, 30 of whom were visitors to Knoydart. Bernie, who sent West Word this result, says 'I suggest that the result is quite significant considering that the aveage turnout on Knoydart for a Parliamentary election is in the order of 34.
There is also a response from Iain Fleming, a former Knoydart Ranger, who has exchanged the Knoydart peninsula for the Arabian one. He writes in West Word's Internet Guest Book:
'I would like to address a matter that has long been a concern of mine which was mentioned in the Knoydart article of the August issue. The debate that has always been undecided, whether the goats that are resident on the peninsula are having a negative impact on its bio-diversity. Well, yes, they are eating a lot of pansies and other latin named sedges, berries, even trees! So it would seem the answer is- cull them, aye! I would say, steady on, not being without a bit of experience in the matter having been previously employed as the first Knoydart Ranger, There are other factors to be taken into consideration.
First of all, The community owned peninsula was secured by a number of bodies including the John Muir Trust and the Highland council along with other trustee's and most importantly through personal donations from the general public. The 'Appeal' to raise funds to secure the estate, was mostly successful due to its main attractive feature, Its wild terrain commonly known as the Rough bounds of Knoydart. Our Main strategy which was definitely a winning factor to attract donors, was its new description, 'the Last Wilderness' on all our T-shirts, press releases. (you won't see a mention of that now.) The JMT are now one of most active organisations in promoting and preserving wild land, in fact at the first 'Wild Land' conference ran by JMT in Pitlochry. I was privileged enough to attend. A very interesting conclusion was made by the JMT Chairman. 'How do we determine what is Wild Land'? In his opinion, which I totally agree, 'If Golden Eagles thrive there, then that is Wild Land'.
During my time as the ranger on Knoydart I monitored the Golden Eagle activity as much as possible and established in 2004 that the number of nesting pairs were more than could be considered normal for these territorial Birds of Prey. Not to mention the occasional visit from the wandering juvenile Sea Eagle also being tolerated.
The Goat cull? Well due to the scarce food supply during the winter months, for our last great predator, you would think the eagles would move further east toward the more lush habitats of the Cairngorm national park, But they don't. The reason possibly is the fact that the goat herd on Knoydart predominately have their Kids January/February time, ideal sized takeaway meals to sustain the eagles through the incubation period on the nest.
Personally, I would prefer to see the Eagles. The exposed western coast line is a harsh environment in the best circumstances anyway, under constant pressure from the elements. Go easy on the goats and give the Eagle his day on the Rough Bounds. The peninsula I work on at the moment has some serious bio-diversity issues, but the goat herds are thriving away, next to the camels.'
West Word - ten years ago
The September 1997 issue of West Word (Vol 3, Issue 11) was the (for then) usual 32 pages long. Cover stories, two of them illustrated, included A Polish Ceilidh in Arisaig, describing how a group of artistes had travelled from Gdansk (celebrating the millennium as a city) to Scotland to help celebrate the strong historical links - indeed a part of Gdansk is still called Old Scotland after the Scots merchants and weavers who lived there years ago. West Word's own literary competition prize giving and booklet launch was was also highlighted as was the news that Mr Malcolm Chisholm MP. Minister for Transport, would be visiting Mallaig later in the month to view for himself the state of the A830.
Page 2 carried news of the first ever Feis na Mara Festival planned for the 10th, 11th and 12th October. Workshops to take place along with the Feis were advertised on page 12 and the next committee meeting was in the What's On's - one would think that Editor Jill had something to do with the Feis!!!
Councillor Charlie King's news on page 3 also mentioned the Minister for Transport's visit to Mallaig and the fact that the Scottish Office was in the process of conducting a Roads Review of all Trunk Roads. Mr Chisholm would also be pressed on the provision of jetties for the Small Isles. Other important issues in Mr King's remit were the ongoing Health Centre, Sheltered Housing and Day Care Centre plans for St Elmo and The Croft areas in Mallaig and some type of interactive centre at Arisaig's Old Smiddy, etc. Regular features like Fishing News, On the Rails, Lifeboat Log, Coastguard Report, Weather,Aunt Prudence's Astrological Advice and Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner, were dotted throughout the publication which included a healthy letters page and graduation congratulations to Jamie MacDougall and Ian Smith in the middle page spread. The middle page also contained the sad news of the death of Mrs Elizabeth MacDonald who, as Lizzie Crawford, had taught at Mallaig Junior Secondary School for a period of 25 years.
Page 14 contained a whole page of information from the Mallaig Police under the sub headings of National Seat Belt Campaign, Parking in Mallaig, Vandalism and Tourism - wouldn't it be nice to get some local police input nowadays!
The results of the Mallaig & Morar Highland Games were documented while Knoydart's Anne Trussell provided news and results from the Knoydart Games, which was officially declared open by Tarbet's Donald MacDonald. Inverie Primary School told of future IT links and in my Personal Angle I told how the Radio Broadcasting Authority had granted Nevis Radio the frequency 102-3 fm for the Mallaig area.
Unable to lock on to that frequency would have been Knoydart's Giles Trussell whose sense of adventure article was filled with his sea-going exploits as he headed towards Grenada and South America. Somewhat closer to home was Mary Johnson's stories of her Mallaig childhood in the 1930's.
Re-cycling efforts being made on Muck, Salsa Celtica at Glenuig Hall, Rum's Hannah Hollingworth winning a Royal Mail competition, the Shearwater doing several sunset cruises out of Arisaig, a visit to Eigg via Tristan da Cunha of a Sooty Shearwater - all give just a flavour of the many and varied news items by the West Word's 'stringers', who faithfully provide input into our Round and About section month after month after month!
The Old Library's Alan Broadhurst provided a couple of recipes, including Bread and Butter Pudding, but West Word Editor Jill de Fresnes was determined to shed some lbs and had agreed to act as a guinea pig by having a Fitness Assessment done at Mallaig Swimming Pool, and then try out some of the keep fit classes on offer at the Pool, including the gym. Mallaig & District Canoe Club, Loch Morar Angling Club, Lochaber Scout Group AGM, Arisaig SWRI and Arisaig & District Gardener's Club all filed their current news reports as did The River Fund, who had raised over £400 in the last month for medical equipment.
Page 9 carried the news that Shireen Eddie had won the Bank of Scotland Colouring-in Competition judged by Mission Superintendent Murray Campbell. The report went on…and all the sinning entries will be displayed in the bank! Even ten years ago the odd printing error occurred!
Crofting roundup by Joyce Ormiston, SCF Council Member
The Scottish Crofting Foundation will be holding their annual gathering this year at Ross County Football Stadium, Dingwall on Thursday and Friday 6th and 7th September 2007. Start time 12..00 noon . There will be a varied and interesting programme of events and at 6.00pm on the Thursday there will be the Angus MacRae Memorial Debate . The Motion will be 'This House asserts that: the regulation of crofting no longer serves a useful purpose' .Michael Otter, will propose the motion and Brian Wilson, will oppose the motion. The debate will be chaired by Professor John Bryden, Director, UHI Policy Web Booking forms for the Crofters conference are available on the SCF website or call Marion at 01599 566 365.
Dangers of Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea).
The dangers to livestock of ingesting the weed are well documented but every year it seems to be on the increase with millions of seeds being carried along the road ways by traffic coming in . The Animal Health and Welfare act 2006 sec 38 allows Ministers to issue guidance on how to control the spread of ragwort to land managers even if they are not responsible for any animals. In other words if you are vigilant and keep your fields free from ragwort but seeds are blowing in from a neighbouring field or roadside you have a duty of care to your livestock to inform Seerad of the names and addresses so their officers may issue guidance to the land owner.
If gentle persuasion and guidance fail then Control of Injurious weeds Act gives Seerad officers powers to issue an enforcement notice to clear the weeds. However this is a last resort and if people who have land and do not keep it free from ragwort could watch the video made with kind permission of the vets at Liverpool university of a horse dying from ragwort ingestion, severely affected be blindness and staggers, they would help more with the problem ."Ragwort is dangerous and can kill," says Professor Knottenbelt.[Liver pool] "Death is slow and very distressing, but it can be prevented. We have to make horse, cattle and land owners responsible - they have to eliminate (if necessary by pulling out) the ragwort weeds from horse and cattle fields and it must be done urgently. There is no excuse - ragwort seeds can survive for up to 30 years .
Wolves to be reintroduced?
I recently received a questionnaire asking me for my views on the reintroduction of wolves to the Highlands, a subject that crops up every now and then. Unbelievably there are people who want to bring them back and they suggest that it would be a good way to control the deer population, but my guess is that there would be many more lambs taken before they start on the deer.
Interestingly the Highland Cattle society just received an enquiry from Russia from the farmers there who are looking for Highland cows to protect their own cattle from wolves. Guaranteed the wolf would come off worst.
A Little Genealogy by Allan and Elizabeth MacDonald (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
"West Word's" Guest Book had some genealogical enquiries in July. One was from Maureen Strickley from Canada, who is looking for ancestors descended from Neil MacLellan. She was particularly interested in Archibald and Angus MacLellan. I have referred her to the article I wrote in W.W. for July 2007; more specifically, Gary MacLellan's information. Could this be a fourth branch of this family?
Donna MacEachern from Quebec is enquiring about the MacEachens who emigrated to Nova Scotia in 1791 (MacEachens were passengers on the Lucy and the Jane which left from Druim an Daraich in 1790) and I refer her to the W.W. articles of Feb. and March 2007 when I wrote of these MacEachens. Incidentally, it was Ronald, son of Donald, who married Christian MacEachen, not the other way around as Donna had it. Donna's descent could be through Jane, dau. of Ronald and Christian, who married Hugh MacGillivray ( possibly one of the Màmaidhs aka "Vamies" of Gleann Màmaidh, the glen at the head of Loch nan Uamh) and went to Canada. Jane was married a second time though I don't have any more information on that. The other possibility is that, Donna is of the MacEachen family represented today by the Rhu/Tullochgorm, Arisaig, branch.
Australians, John Cameron and his wife, Jana, visited us a few weeks ago. John's ancestors came from Tarbert, North Morar and they had come to visit the old home. John's g.g.g.grandparents were Donald and Catherine Cameron b. ca.1735, who had a son Duncan, b. in Lochaber in 1776 and who died in Australia in 1880 aged 104 years. Duncan married Jessie MacPhee b.1803 in Kinlochmorar, who d. in 1869, in Australia. It is possible that Jessie MacPhee was a member of a family of MacPhees who lived in Glen Pean for many generations and whose ancestral burial ground was at Loch Beoraid
Duncan Cameron and Jessie MacPhee had 6 children. 1. Donald. 1827-1884 m. Mary MacDonald. 1820-1881, dau. of Donald MacDonald and Jessie Cameron. Donald and Mary had had 7 children and the eldest, Jessie, m. Donald Alexander MacPherson of whom more later. This couple emigrated to Aus. in 1847. 2. Alexander, 1830-1906, m. Catherine Cameron, dau. of Alexander Cameron and Jessie MacDonald. They had 9 children and were next to emigrate to Aus. 3. Ann 1833-1854. died aged 21 years and was buried in Meoble graveyard. 4. Ronald (christened Reginald) 1837-1907, m. Isabella MacRae 1847-1938 and they had 18 children, one of whom was stillborn and one who drowned in a creek. ( John Cameron of the present day tells us that Ronald and Isabella came back to Kinlochmorar some time after emigrating but, only stayed for about 6 years before returning to Australia) Isabella MacRae was of a family who were neighbours in Scotland, of the Camerons and the two families travelled to Australia together in 1852, on the emigrant ship John Davies. 5. Ewen Cameron b.1841 and who died young. 6. John Cameron 1844-1902, m. ? and had 5 children. He emigrated to Australia also. N.F.I.
A family of MacNeils from Arisaig, travelled on the same ship as the Camerons and the two families farmed close to each other in Australia. Our visitor, John Cameron, has MacNeil as his middle name.
Duncan and Jessie Cameron (b. Lochaber and Kinlochmorar) both died in Australia but we don't know when they arrived there. The family's last 3 recorded births in Morar Parish Register showed that the family was living in Kylesmorar (Caolais Mhorair) at least until 1841 when Ewen was christened. The church at that time would have been in Bracarina. Where was the family when John Cameron, 1844-1906 was born as, his baptism is not registered in the Morar Baptisms of that time? Ann was laid to rest in Meoble in 1854. Were her parents still in the area, emigrating at a later date or, had Ann married and remained at home. Jessie Cameron (dau. of Donald Cameron and Mary MacDonald) m. Donald Alexander MacPherson whose parents Martin and Ann ? (See W.W. June 2005) had Tarbert Inn. At that time I wrote an article on Warren MacPherson, a visitor from New Zealand, whose ancestor Allan, brother of Donald Alexander MacPherson was married to my g.grandfather's sister, Ann MacDonald from Tigh na Mara, Arisaig, I have put Warren MacPherson and John Cameron in touch and hope for further information there. In conclusion, Heather and Willie Simpson, Mallaig Bheag, looked after John and Jana superbly and took them to Meoble to visit the graveyard and all the other places relevant to John's history. We hope that the Camerons had a rewarding visit. Last, but not least, a hearty pat on the back for West Word which is read in so many corners of the globe! This entire article has been prompted by online readers, responding to genealogical information in W.W. Glé mhath Anna agus a'chairdean.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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