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Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
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March 2018 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO PROTEST AGAINST BANK CLOSURES
MP Ian Blackford will be at the Royal Bank of Scotland branch in Mallaig, at 10.30am on Saturday, March 10th to campaign against bank closures as part of the SNP's 'National Day of Action' and invites anyone who would like to voice their concerns to join him.
SNP MPs, MSPs, and local campaigners will also be gathering in towns across the country to collect petition signatures asking RBS chiefs to halt their "damaging and misguided" plans to shut down 62 Scottish branches this summer.
After huge pressure from the SNP and community campaigners, RBS announced a reprieve for ten local branches - but the fight to save the remaining banks continues.
Ian says 'We know just how vital it is to maintain bank branches in small communities and we must now do all we can to convince RBS and the UK Government, which is the major shareholder, that these must be maintained.
'Make your views known by joining me in Mallaig and others across the whole of Scotland on March 10th.'
A touch of magic for Mallaig
A new shop inspired by the world of Harry Potter is opening in Mallaig on 30th March, 'offering a range of wizardly wonders for fans and muggles alike.' Maria Wilson, from Fort William, runs the gift shop on The Jacobite and realised there were no Harry Potter attractions or themed shops in Mallaig itself, despite the fact that so many fans visit the village when they take a trip on the Hogwarts Express. 'Hagrd Alley' will be situated in the old Police Station and Maria says it aims to be an attraction as much as a shop, with a cauldron and other magical surprises for visitors to enjoy. The shop will also sell licensed Harry Potter clothes and accessories, and other magical gifts such including art, books and jewellery.
February brought snow, ice and sunshine to the West, and some fantastic photo opportunities.
Thanks to Laraine Wyn-Jones for her picture of the view from Laig Bothy on Eigg (above)
and Moe Mathieson for this shot of a snowy Morar station.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
The country seems to have ground to a standstill just now as it shivers under snow brought by the 'Beast from the East' - except, it seems, in Lochaber, where for once this winter we've missed the worst of it and the weather has remained cold but dry. Spring is on its way, with snowdrops appearing and birds singing, but the temperature doesn't look likely to rise much for a while yet!
Bear Scotland have their work cut out repairing the roads with all the damage the harsh winter has done, but they should be out fixing the worst of the potholes on the A830 this month.
As always my thanks go to Ewen and Morag for their help with the printing, Ann and Robert for proof reading, and also to Anne and Miya for sticking labels on envelopes this month!
New Writing Competition in memory of Niamh
So following on from last month, the Burn's Supper was as good as always. It was suitably packed, and the food was fantastic. Well done to all those who succumbed to Iain Wilson for speeches, it's always a nerve wracking time of year! It was also nice to have a ceilidh that wasn't packed with visitors, giving us lots of room to dance.
The crowd funding for the hall is going very well, more than half has already been raised with another 3 weeks to go! It's all very exciting! If you haven't yet had a look at the crowd funding campaign for the new hall, please do take a moment while flicking mindlessly through facebook or whatever to search for Knoydart Community Hall and donate if you can … Every little helps! Other forms of donation other than online will also be accepted. Phone a Knoydart local and someone will be sure to help you out!
This month we also had more power problems, with both the genny and the Hydro, leaving us for a brief period with no power again. This coincided, mind you, with a lovely snow day which meant the kids all got a day off school so that worked out rather well if you look on the bright side.
The first community plan meeting went ahead following on from the first community plan survey. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the survey results in detail and to look at how the information collected was going to be used in creating the first community plan. The second follow up meeting will take place on 27th February where the priorities to be actioned will be discussed and identified by the community. The meetings have been hosted by Andy Inglis from Scottish Participatory initiatives Ltd.
There are a couple of job opportunities on the horizon, for the new season. One at Knoydart River Cottage and one with Knoydart Carbon Cycle, the bike hire company. This would be 5 hours a week from mid-march to November, £10 an hour and would involve the maintenance of 10 mountain bikes. The hours and days are negotiable and the fares for the ferry would be covered for non-Knoydart residents. Could be a good wee job for someone wanting to get to know Knoydart a bit better!
It's also starting to look promisingly like spring is in the air, (or y'know, is on its way at least…) Some brave daffodils and snowdrops have appeared and dare I say, we actually have seen something large and bright in the sky recently! Here's hoping it continues!
That's it for now folks,
ISLE OF MUCK
So far February has been wet. Like January and the five months previously. Seven wet months in a row looks like a possibility and that is unusual. Mark, Molly and Kitty are leaving us; going to Scalpay, Harris. With High School looming for Kitty it was time to make a move and as Mark is a biologist with Marine Harvest and covers the 'Long Island', Harris seemed an ideal base. Taking over Pier House and hopefully here before the March West Word reaches the newsagents will be Ed and Sharon Hawan who are already well known on the Small Isles as Ed was for a number of years warden for SNH on Rum; though they are coming from Meoble on Loch Morar. Daughter Georgia is already on the island and Jenny is handing over the baton in the Craft Shop after 34 years behind the counter.
May I at this juncture pay tribute to Jenny's remarkable record. Rising at 5am every day all summer to make bread followed by delicious cakes of every sort. No wonder the Craft Shop is well known far and wide. May I also wish Ed and Sharon every success when they take over.
Muck should be on the screen in a small way in the future. First Cindy from Holland came to make a film where stories from the past were linked to scenes of the present at various locations. The enthusiastic students from Bournemouth University also did well. Their locations were mainly in the byre where my beautiful cows and calves were the stars - and the school where the pupils even made their own 'short'.
Muck had its own Burns Supper in the Hall. This coincided with 'Beaters Day' in the Lodge so we had the pleasure of the company of a number of stalkers who had assisted Toby on Rum. I addressed the haggis, the school sang followed by more music and singing. An enjoyable evening.
The sun is shining, temperatures are rising and the snow on Rum is melting! I have even heard the sound of some hopeful birds!
ISLE OF CANNA
Yet another wet and windy month with more snow, storms and thunder and lightning. Roll on Spring. Despite the freezing temperatures we have avoided the "Beast from the East".
Progress is being made on the Sanday road with the National Trust for Scotland carrying out an archaeological survey of the planned route with no major cause for concern.
We also welcome three more members to the Canna Coastguard team and I am sure there will be some good photo opportunities when they undertake their first water training in hopefully slightly warmer conditions.
The first of our Zwarble lambs have arrived and are happily playing around in the barn.
Judging by the expressions on some of the Cheviots it won't be long before they start producing as well.
Most of our works at the pier have been completed with new concrete steps at the old cattle ramp and new safety railings installed, all of which improves the overall appearance of the pier and harbour.
We have also had our first tourists of the year braving the cold and it will not be long before we see our first visiting yacht. We also hope to have the guest house on the island open soon along with the café.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
January is a busy month in the Celtic Arts world and Fiona took that opportunity to work on several Canna House advocacy projects. She has been working with the Gaelic theatre company "Theatre gu Leor" in a drama project for young people, entitled Leabhar Phooni or The Book of Pooni, about the Campbell's Siamese cat. The resulting 'Testroom' project, which was a short ten minute 'tester' piece (designed to be a snapshot of what a full length project could be), was produced first in The Tron in Glasgow then the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, both to packed houses. The intention is that the show will go into full development over the course of the next year.
For the last 6 months, Fiona has been working on a show entitled Twine it Weel, with well-known Scots singer Christine Kydd. The show's theme is that of a Woman's Life told through song, image, spoken word and film, all of which come from the Canna Archives. The show was staged as part of Celtic Connections at The Tron Theatre with the band of five, Fiona, Chris, Katie Mackenzie, Gillian Frame and Yvonne Lyon, on vocals, keyboard, guitar, fiddle, Shruti box and clarsach. The show earned critical praise for its innovative use of the archive material to tell a story of women, whether sung in Scots or Gaelic. It is hoped that further opportunities to stage the show will come through this year.
ISLE OF RUM
Yes, it's cold but it's not raining, so that's fine by me.
February has been pretty quiet on the whole; highlights included curry night on the 23rd at the hall with visiting supply teacher John Fisher and partner Catrine. Lots of different dishes including venison curry with a difference - the difference being it was roe deer, from Colin's freezer, and the kids made chapatis at school.
Rum Primary has been chosen at the only school in the north of Scotland to be an 'Ocean Guardian' by Surfers against Sewage. This means they will get a beach clean kit and make a commitment to look after the beaches on Rum. They're quite excited and team leader Ali Morris has organised a beach clean this Saturday 3rd March to kick it off, especially as these easterlies will be bringing more rubbish onto the beach.
No further news about Kinloch Castle. The KCFA are over in March and looks like a decision will be made on whether they take over by then. I should say, though, that regardless of the outcome, daily tours of Kinloch Castle will still be continuing this summer - pass it on!
The cold weather has frozen the river, which last happened in 2010 perhaps? This shows that the winters have been a lot milder in recent years. Regge reminded us on Facebook that once she delivered the post on skis; we do get snow sometimes, just not often.
Lastly, welcome back to the Goddard family who are back from their travels at the beginning of March.
ISLE OF EIGG
January 27th/28th was a very quiet weekend on Eigg this year: half the island had departed to Celtic Connections to attend the Eigg 20th Anniversary at the Drygate Brewery venue on the Sunday, which featured most of the musicians who have made the anniversary such a great event over the last 20 years, including Daimh with special guest Hannah Read, whose years on Eigg in her childhood made such an impression on her that she chose to film her latest promotional video on Laig Bay. Maggie was the MC and she did a wonderful job of introducing the acts in her customary relaxed style, chuckling all the way of course! First time in any case that Celtic Connections included a Heavy Metal act with Massacre Cave, complete with mosh pit! A wonderful and memorable way to finish our celebratory year!
But another special anniversary also started this February as the first day of the month marked the 10th anniversary of the day when we switched on power from our green grid, so expect events to celebrate this momentous achievement this June. In the meantime, some of us are working with other islands in the EU to take part in a Horizon 2020 project to look how we can improve on this first generation microgrid and continue to inspire others to follow suit. Complicated by Brexit of course, but the good news is that Scotland's expertise is very much in demand and we hope that this will enable us to retain our global connections. Our Green grid has already been visited by people from 47 countries in the EU and beyond!
Meanwhile, The Poozies having also selected Eigg as the venue to film their own promotional video for a song involving a bath tub, Eigg friends obliged - and a bath tub was dragged to Grulin in a howling gale to provide the necessary prop! I think it is still there, so maybe we could invite visitors to take selfies of themselves in the tub and post them on The Poozies' Facebook page! Ideally you need to be four at a time, but one will do! This visit provided the perfect opportunity for Saira and George to get their patio concreting done in time for a Viking themed fundraising night for the Ulva community buy-out in Laig Byre after filming was done. Bedecked with horned helmets and furs, the band backed by Dolphin Boy in the small hours was brilliant, and the Eigg party goers deployed a wealth of imagination and ingenuity to match the style of the current Vikings series. George was fabulous as Floki and I think Saira is now having trouble to persuade him to stop staying in character, as he is has taken to speak like him at all times! Quite uncanny! As to Colin, with the double carrot headgear, he probably won the prize for last minute improvisation! £300 will now make its way to Ulva. This fun night really raised everyone's spirits after the dark and cold days of winter, the snow and the ice; it was a hybrid Norse-Celtic feast that very successfully marked Imbolc, one of the Celtic Year quarter days, which is celebrated in our modern era as Pancake Day! And now spring really seems around the corner, with songbirds starting to tweet in every bush around the island.
In anticipation of the oncoming visitor season, a new wildlife ranger has been appointed on Eigg, and it was with great pleasure that we learned the successful candidate was Norah Barnes from Eigg Connections! Congratulations to Norah, she will make a great job of it! In the meantime, we are expecting the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust to come up and share their plans to make Eigg part of their proposed Whale Trail and plans are afoot to tackle marine plastic waste through a creative project that will involve a plastic upcycling creative residency on Eigg: watch this space! Meanwhile, a young otter was found one particularly cold morning lurking around in the Pier building! Slightly bewildered by the attention, it found refuge in our big green shed where it made short shrift of some smoked mackerel from the shop: the most unusual customer ever? See the video on the West Word Facebook page!
VOICES OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
A concert to commemorate all those who served in the First World War, particularly those who did not return, took place at St Mary's Church, Arisaig on February 25th. The date was chosen to commemorate the centenary of the sinking of HM Hospital Ship Glenart Castle which was sunk on February 26th 1918. One of the eight nurses to drown was Nurse Mary McKinnon of Rhu, Arisaig.
The charity Glen Art was founded in order to commemorate the life of Nurse Mary McKinnon by her great niece Fiona MacDonald, who wanted to continue the work of Nurse McKinnon, by supporting veterans of today, and a party of 11 veterans travelled from Glasgow for the occasion.
200 people filled St Mary's Church for the performance of the Fauré Requiem, and to hear readings of poetry and letters associated with Nurse Mary McKinnon. Captain Chris McGinley represented the Royal Navy with Nicola Finlay Secretary of the WRENS Association, and veteran of the Afghanistan conflict Mick McConnell read. A Naval Wreath was later laid at the Arisaig War Memorial by Capt. McGinley and Morag MacDonald of Ard na Fuaran, Arisaig, who is the niece of Mary McKinnon.
Morag MacDonald with Fiona
Glen Art plans to return later in the year and to put together an exhibition in memory of all those who served in the First World War. If you would like to be involved or have any items, press cuttings or letters that you would like us to include, do please get in touch with [email protected] 07980 631 110.
Eigg Anniversary Celebrations at Celtic Connections
Although January normally sees a few Eigg residents brave the weather and head off to Glasgow for Celtic Connections, the idea of an event to recreate Eigg's 20th anniversary ceilidh meant that around a quarter of the population felt it important to be there.
Drygate Brewery was the perfect venue for the celebration on the 28th January and in the spirit of the occasion had also collaborated with Laig Bay Brewing Co to produce a special beer for the occasion which proved so popular that they sold out!
First up was JaMaTha ceilidh band (who have played at every buy-out ceilidh and featuring Eigg's own Eddie "Spoons" Scott) soon had the crowd dancing and the celebratory mood was set.
Next up was Daimh ~ their mixture of gaelic song and high-octane trad was a joy as ever. Eigg residents featured not only with regular band member Gabe McVarish on fiddle but also with Damian Helliwell on banjo and 16 year old Niamh Jobson on bass.
A slight change of direction with the arrival of Pictish Trail ~ singer Johnny Lynch (who runs Lost Map records from Eigg) was in suitably glittering flamboyant mood, and kept the dancing going ably assisted by Eigg born Joe Cormack.
And if that wasn't enough excitement, those who didn't have work in the morning were treated to possibly the first time a metal band has featured at Celtic Connection ~ Massacre Cave fronted by Eigg brothers Ben and Joe Cormack. A wonderful moment when they were joined on stage by Daimh piper Angus MacKenzie and the audience responded by doing a highland schottische in the middle of the mosh pit!
Massacre Cave with Angus MacKenzie (Photo: Forest of Black)
As ever, DJ Dolphin waited patiently to round off the night with his unique mix of tunes.
The west coast was well represented with friends from Knoydart, Canna, Arisaig and Skye but there were also folk who had travelled from Holland and Germany and singer/fiddler, Hannah Read had flown in from New York to join Daimh on stage.
A good link was made with the old and the new with Info displayed and mention made about the Ulva buy-out ~ we may be celebrating 20 years of community ownership but there's hopefully more to come.
Thanks must go to Ross Martin for coming up with the idea and a big thank you to Celtic Connections for letting us bring our own brand of party to Glasgow!
It was a wonderful atmosphere and confirmed that community is all important.
New landmark planned for Arisaig
Fèis na Mara is moving to Arisaig!
We are very excited to announce that the whole festival will, this year, take place in what is downright undoubtedly the best village in the world!
It's going to be a more intimate, exclusive affair with limited tickets available - these are on sale now at earlybird prices so get in there quick people! The five headlining bands are all bands you've seen and loved over the last six festivals - bands who are at a stage in their career where they're selling out the Fruitmarket and the Barras and playing to thousands of people in the Hydro - all coming together to make this the absolute best wee festival ever!
Dates are Friday 5th and Saturday 6th October, with the legendary sesh na marathon in the Crofter's Rest on the Sunday as usual. Tickets and more info on www.feis-na-mara.com
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
18th February 2018
Launched at 07:39hrs by Stornoway Coastguard to the assistance of the cargo vessel GEC Universe. Kyle of Lochalsh ILB also launched to the casualty. Whilst on passage North through the Kyle Rhea narrows the cargo vessel lost steering, with her rudder jammed hard to port. Unable to proceed any further the cargo vessel quickly deployed her anchor. Fortunately the tide was slack at the time and the anchor was holding well. On scene at 08:14 Mallaig Lifeboat berthed alongside the casualty assisted by the Kyle crew who were also alongside after their relatively short journey to the Narrows and briefed Mallaig on the situation. On speaking to the Captain it was decided to remain in position and monitor until a tug could be sourced to assist with towing.
Mallaig Lifeboat alongside GEC Universe (Photo: Kyle RNLI)
After a while whilst the Coastguard organized the sourcing of a tug the tide was noticeably getting stronger with the ebb going South. This started to put strain on the anchor, causing the fully laden ship to veer across the tide. Stornoway Coastguard informed both Lifeboats that a tug from the BUTEC base in Kyle was preparing to put to sea to assist in towing the casualty.
As the tug approached the top of the Narrows GEC Universe's anchor lost its grip in the ever-increasing tide and began to drift down between the two slipways at Glenelg and Kylerhea. Mallaig Lifeboat slipped her lines and proceeded upstream of the casualty taking the strain on the tow rope which had been prepared earlier should this situation develop. Kyle ILB proceeded onto the casualty's port side and began to push the casualty to starboard away from the shore. Between both Lifeboats the casualty was held in position long enough for the tug SD Kyle of Lochalsh to take up position on CEG Universe's port quarter and make her lines fast. With all three vessels applying power the casualty was slowly taken up tide retrieving its anchor as it went along.
Mallaig Lifeboat alongside GEC Universe (Photo: Kyle RNLI)
Once the casualty's anchor was retrieved Lifeboats and tug increased power and started to make headway up the Narrows until out of the worst of the tide. On entering Loch Alsh into calm water the tow for Kyle proceeded at a comfortable 6 knots without incident. CEG Universe was berthed at Kyle railway pier at 12:00hrs much to everyone's relief. After a cup of decent coffee and tea at Kyle lifeboat station Mallaig Lifeboat proceeded back at 12:50hrs to Mallaig berthing and fueled ready for service at 14:24hrs.
Mallaig Lifeboat and Minch Harvester entering Mallaig Harbour (Photo: Moe Mathieson)
23rd February 2018
Launched at 07:35hrs to the assistance of Minch Harvester CY702 by Stornoway Coastguard. Whilst on passage North in the Sound of Sleat the trawler's prop was fouled by some rope. Unable to free the obstruction, the casualty informed Stornoway CG of their predicament and the Lifeboat was duly launched to assist. On scene at 08:00hrs the tow rope was passed to the casualty. Once secure the casualty was towed to just outside Mallaig harbour. The casualty was then brought alongside the Lifeboat for the final leg into the harbour. Casualty moored at the pier at 09:50hrs. Lifeboat back on the pontoon ready for service at 10:00hrs.
Ian Blackford calls for immediate reinstatement of Emergency Towing Vessel
Since the above incident involving CEG Universe, MP Ian Blackford has been calling once again for the immediate re-instatement of an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV) in Stornoway to better cope with emergencies in Scotland's Coastal areas. Scotland currently only has one dedicated ETV, which is stationed in Orkney. An accident involving an oil tanker, or a cargo ship transporting nuclear waste or other toxic substances, could potentially be devastating to our area. These risks, and those to mariners, are compounded by long ETV response times.
KIMO, the Local Authorities International Environmental Organisation, have previously stated that ETVs provide essential risk mitigation in the protection of our coastlines from pollution arising from maritime incidents and that the cost of maintaining ETVs will be repaid many times over if they are successful in preventing just a single vessel disablement becoming a major environmental disaster.
However, the UK government maintains that the ETV provision gap can be plugged by using commercial towing vessels. Commercial tugs, however, do not have sufficient bollard pull to maintain a tow of a large vessel in extreme weather out in the open sea nor are they guaranteed to be available in the event of an emergency. As such, they are no substitute for dedicated ETVs and availability at the time of an emergency is also questionable. Ian Blackford said 'this is something we just cannot go on leaving to chance. An emergency towing vessel, based within a short steaming time of the West Coast is vital, and I will continue to make the case for this".
Mallaig Harbour News
A faulty generator appears to have been the source/cause of a fire that started within the works container belonging to the construction company Gareloch Support Services who are currently carrying out repairs to the Steamer Pier and vehicle assembly area prior to the commencement of the summer ferry service at Easter.
The fire, which occurred early evening on Monday 19th February, was spotted by Harbour Master James McLean who quickly alerted the local Fire Brigade who dealt with the fire efficiently and effectively.
Thankfully the fire caused little damage - some GSS equipment stored within the container being affected.
Mallaig Harbour Authority wish to thank the local fire unit for their prompt response and effective handling of the situation.
Container Fire. Credit Ms A McKay
New Board Members
There's exciting times ahead for the Mallaig Harbour Authority and you can help mould the future!
Do you have the knowledge and experience required to be a member of the multi-faceted Mallaig Harbour Board? If so, the opportunity to become a Board Member and be instrumental in assisting the Harbour Board fulfil its aspirational Masterplan proposals will be available in the next few weeks. As can be seen from the advert contained in this month's West Word the Authority is seeking three new members - anyone interested can get application forms from me at the email address below or give me a phone to discuss. Closing date for applications is Friday 23rd March 2018.
On and off the Rails
Dates for your diary
Friday 30th March to Friday 6th April: the Easter Special Jacobite steam hauled service will run daily into Mallaig from Fort William. Arriving into Mallaig at 12:25 and departing at 14:10. More details at www.westcoast railways.co.uk or telephone (0844) 850 4685.
Monday 9th April: the morning Jacobite starts operating Monday to Friday until October 26th. It will be steam hauled. Later to be joined by the weekend and afternoon services.
Sunday 25th March: We 'spring forward' as Daylight Saving Time (as it is called) begins - and we put all our 'non-atomic' clocks and watches forward one hour at 0200 hours! AND yippee - we recommence Sunday Abellio Super Sprinter 156 train services in and out of Mallaig three times each Sunday, each way. Depart Mallaig 10:10, 16:05 and 18:15. Depart for William 12:12, 16:19 and 22:14 arriving into Mallaig at 13:34, 17:43 and 23:35. Plus it is Palm Sunday this day as well.
Sunday 1st April: Easter Sunday this year commemorates 117 years since the 'West Highland Extension' railway line from Fort William to Mallaig was officially declared open to traffic on April 1st, 1901. The first steam hauled passenger train arrived at Mallaig pier alongside steamers from Portree and Stornoway which had carried passengers to Mallaig with through ticketing to board the train for the first public journey to Fort William. Wouldn't I just have loved to have been on the journey!
The first sod to commemorate the new line's construction had been cut four years earlier in January 1897, by Lady Margaret Cameron of Lochiel. This year will see the Jacobite steam hauling passengers on the commemorative day into Mallaig. How many will realise the significance of the date?
FOTWHL Spring Issue Magazine now out
Doug Carmichael - Editor of West Highland News Plus - has again put together a first-class edition of the Friends of the West Highland Line's thrice yearly magazine. This 54-page edition is bursting with past, present and future rail information, plus the ever-interesting features in the 'On the Waterfront' section. In glorious glossy colour where appropriate plus black and white photos reproduced in the appropriate era. It is worth every penny of its &163;3.50 cover price plus &163;1.30 postage from me, either by letter to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, 5 Marine Place, Mallaig, Inverness-shire PH41 4RD or telephone me on (01687) 462189.
One archive item by John MacGregor, researched in North British MacKenzie Papers, held by the West Highland Museum, is priceless, as is the wonderful photograph above it on the same page: a black and white image from 1956 showing train crew and workers posing for the camera in between carrying out some Permanent Way track repairs near Glenfinnan, with a steam crane and locomotive simmering away in the background, courtesy of the National Railway Museum.
To find out more about the society go to www.westhighlandline.org.uk or purchase the Spring 2018 issue of the magazine.
As we go to print there is much discussion over the fate of our Super Sprinter Class 156 units that (usually!) faithfully transport us from Mallaig to Oban via Crianlarich and Mallaig to Glasgow, Queen Street station.
These units are 30 years old, and yes the interiors are shabby; the toilet retaining tanks that have been added to stop waste being dispersed onto the line work well - but yes, the water retaining tanks run out of water to flush them. The drivers do their best, as do the conductors to keep the heating high, but with no interior doors at the toilet end of the train, when the doors to the platform are open (as at Corrour) to allow up to 20 persons on with skis, climbing gear, rucksacks etc (good on them!) a lot of heat is lost. So it was decreed the class 158's were to come here, eventually. These 158's are more powerful, with a 350 HP engine in each carriage (compared to the 285 HP in a 156) and have slightly faster acceleration and 90 mph top speed. They have a similar number of seats to the class 156 and ScotRail has been modifying them by fitting a larger radiator to enhance cooling after units on the Borders line overheated causing the engines to shut down!
On our branch line all platforms would require platform clearances as the doors open differently to 156's. Currently the target for introduction is from the December timetable change 2018, but with RETB signalling equipment needed to be fitted in the units and crews trained and platform alterations not yet started December 2018 is looking highly unlikely.
The latest word is that the faithful 156's will be undergoing a refurbishment plan to bring them up to a better standard. Draft proposals for an extra two services to run between Fort William and Glasgow daily are under strong consideration as well as a new timetable for the whole route from Mallaig to Glasgow/Oban from May 2019.
Competition winners for Scotland stations - a Traveller's Guide
A good selection of postcards arrived in my post box by Tuesday 20th February and the first two entries drawn were:
1) Geoff Thomas from Arisaig
2) Roy Dalgety from Stow.
Congratulations to you both - hope you enjoy your books. Should anyone else require to purchase the book at £14.99 plus £2.50 postage ring me on (01687) 462189.
See you on the train,
Local museum wins national award
Every February, the Heritage Railway Association holds an Awards Dinner at which members that have performed particularly well over the year are recognised by both the HRA and Editors of the four leading railway magazines.
This year, the awards ceremony was held at the Burlington Hotel in Birmingham on 10 February. In the company of some 200 attendees from the heritage railway sector in the UK and Ireland, representatives of Glenfinnan Station Museum learnt to their amazement that they were the winners of the Annual Award for Small Groups. The judging panel had visited Glenfinnan on 1 April of last year and liked what they saw.
The award is a replica brass panel from a coach provided for Queen Victoria by the Great Western railway company. It was won by Glenfinnan Station Museum for its unique and hands-on introduction to West Highland railway heritage.
The other nominees in the group were the Bahamas Locomotive Society Learning Coach at Ingrow station; West Lancashire Railway for their 50th Anniversary celebrations; Rother Valley for the new connection at Robertsbridge; Telford Steam Railway for their Polar Express event.
Accepting the award on behalf of the museum were John Barnes, museum founder, Hege Hernès, museum curator, and Nick Jones, volunteer signalman and creator of the museum's pioneering "virtual signalling experience".
The Heritage Railway Association is an umbrella organisation representing the majority of the heritage and tourist railways, railway museums, steam centres and railway preservation groups in the UK and Ireland. The association represents its members' interest to Government and provides professional advice to its members.
HRA Chairman Brian Simpson handing over the award to John Barnes & Hege Hernès, both of Glenfinnan, and Nick Jones, Caol.
I've driven up and down the A830 for the best part of 45 years or so and in that time I've seen many changes. The biggest undoubtedly being the upgrading of the road to two-way status throughout its entire length. Along the A830 are many landmarks; Lochailort Hotel, Roshven Church, Prince Charlie's Monument at Glenfinnan, plus the railway viaducts and bridges. They are all 'constants' and ticked off in the mind as progress is made either on the outward journey or on the return home.
However one roadside 'constant' has now gone and whilst it certainly could never be listed as being a national treasure or a building worthy of note I find it sad to report the demise of the boathouse on the shoreline of Loch Eilt! For as long as I can ever remember the boathouse has stood on the banks of the loch resolute in all weathers but, as can be seen from the photo below, it has succumbed to February's stormy winds.
Another roadside constant situated immediately across from the boathouse and set back from the road is a group of commemorative cairns and I must admit that in all my years on the Road to the Isles, travelling to gigs with The Tiggers, The Revolution, Nevada and the Fergie MacDonald Highland Showband, travelling to play football in Fort William and beyond, to business meetings, shopping expeditions, Nevis Radio etc etc, I have never ever stopped to discover the meaning of the cairns! So for all of you who have wondered but never stopped to discover, you may wonder no more.
This cairn was erected by
Another cairn reads:
Francis Cameron Head
17th November 1896 - 14th May 1957
This cairn is erected
to his memory
by his neighbours and friends.
There is another cairn which I will feature next month.
I hope Roger McGough has more success with BBC Radio 4's National Poetry Competition than I had with my request to West Word readers to submit a limerick or two for publication in our award winning community newspaper. Only one has so far come my way:
A young harbourmaster named Pimmy
Was fed up being called 'double-chinney',
No more biscuits he said,
No more snacks when in bed,
And now he's thin, crispy and skinny!
Having penned a limerick for a workmate last month (Audrey) I must now, in this age of equality, pen one for another workmate who will remain nameless (!)
An a capella cleaning lady named Grace
Used to sing as she dusted the place
When singing contralto
Her voice oft went alto
Thank God she never sang bass!
Incidentally www.liverpoolgin.com/poetry is the website for the poetry competition.
Roger McGough was a member of The Scaffold who had a No.1 pop hit in 1968 with Lily the Pink. When I sang with The Tiggers, and The Revolution, we always played it regularly as it was a cracking Boston Two Step!!!
My thanks to Sarah Jefferson (née Johnston) for getting in touch:
"Looking at the photo of John Menzies bookstall in Mallaig Station, it's a lovely photo, and in the photo is our uncle Guy Johnston, he worked on Mallaig Station. So I was able to send this nice photo to uncle Guy's brother Bobby who lives in Gosforth. He's 96 this year. Thanks so much for that, it'll make his day."
World Wide West Word
Mallaig and District Bowling Club introduced some friends to West Word recently when they had a visit from the Thompson Family from the Gretna Green Bowling Club.
L-R Bill Robertson, George Lawrie, Peter Barrett, Bob Burt, Mark Thompson, Isobel Morton, Mrs Thompson, Jim Morton, Alistair Roberts and Dennis Eddie.
Readers Mr and Mrs Price from North Wales took their copy to India recently and are pictured in front of the stunning Golden Temple in Amritsar.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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