Saturday, 31 July 2010


Morven and Alasdair's new son has been named Cailean. He's a fit, healthy and active young man, particularly in the middle of night.

The Dangerous and the Beautiful

As if trying to earn a living from working a croft isn't already hard enough, these nasty little beasts make it even harder.

Mink, the descendants of animals which either escaped or were release from mink farms back in the 1990s, are a plague here. Their numbers seem to fluctuate - there were many more a few years ago - but they seem to be making a comeback, with a vengeance.

This one was caught by Alasdair MacLachlan on his croft at Achnaha. Before being trapped, it had killed 11 chickens and 10 pheasant chicks. It had dragged the pheasants out through a small hole in the wire but the dead chickens were left scattered around the run. No sooner was it removed than another appeared, also a male, but it killed only one chicken before it was dealt with.

Along with the picture of the mink, Alasdair sent me this one, of an Achnaha adder. Like the mink, the adders seem to come and go, but this is a boom year for them. It's not a very clear picture - but then, I don't suppose Alasdair was too keen to get close.

An adders bite may seem little more than a sting for most people, but their venom can be much more dangerous for children and people with heart conditions. Although there is an effective anti-venom, the results of an adder bite can be nasty, so medical help should always be sought. Link here.

And I'm grateful to Ricky Clark for a photograph which should cheer us up - of the clouds clearing to give a beautiful Kilchoan sunset.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Two Busy Weekends

There are the first signs in the countryside of the coming autumn. The hazel along Ormsaigbeg is heavy with nuts, and the first flowerings of heather are beginning to colour the hills. And, with August, come two more of the year's big events in the village.

Sonafest 2010 is a weekend of live music at The Sonachan Hotel, starting this Saturday at 8pm, with performances from Skerryvore, Gunna Sound and Trail West. Sunday is Family Day, with a farmers' market, stalls, bucking bronco, clairvoyant, BBQ, balloon race and, from 1.00pm, more live music from Trail West and Gunna Sound. Tickets £12 from or phone 01972 510 211.

Next weekend is the West Adnamurchan Regatta, starting on Thursday 5th August at 11.00am with the Ellan Vannin Wind Surfing and Sailing Race. The main events take place on Friday 6th August, with briefings at 8.30am and the first race at 10.00am. Then, in the evening, the Regatta Committee is running a licensed dance featuring Gunna Sound, in Kilchoan Community Centre, starting at 8.00pm.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Happy News

Morven and Alastair have had a baby son, born yesterday at 4pm at Raigmore Hospital. Mother and baby are fine, and are due to return to Kilchoan today.

Sad News

From Frances McKean

It is with great sadness that I send news to you all that Alison Campbell, formerly of Achnashie, has passed away peacefully on Tuesday 27th July after a short illness, bravely borne, with her family at her side. I know that the time she spent in Kilchoan after she had moved away, she loved so much.

She is survived by her husband Joseph, daughters Frances, Eleanor and Kathleen, and 5 grandchildren.

Her funeral will be held on Monday 2nd August at St Columba's RC Church, Viewpark, and afterwards at Bothwellpark Cemetery.

Alison, as a girl, with her mother Marion.
From the WAVP collection, courtesy Stuart Good.

Floating Fiends

by Rachael Haylett

My favourite time of year has arrived: the long nights, sunny days, warmer waters and plenty of opportunity for outside fun. The only downside is that the jellyfish have also arrived.

Everyone has phobias, and one of my biggest has been jellyfish, ever since I first moved to Ardnamurchan.

The waters around Kilchoan seem to contain two main species of jellyfish over the summer months. The most common are Aurelia aurita, or moon jellyfish, which are clear with purple rings. These are the jellyfish which one might well see
held in children's hands as they run around Sanna beach, because they do not sting humans.

Unfortunately Ardnamurchan waters also contain jellyfish which can have quite a nasty sting. Commonly known as Lion's Mane, (Cyanea capillata), these jellyfish can grow to quite a size in the colder and deeper waters around the peninsular. They can be recognised by their deep orange colour, and should be avoided.

As the tourist season hots up in Ardnamurchan, it's worth knowing how best to treat a jellyfish sting should an accident occur. If nothing is available to you, then soaking in sea water helps. Coating the wound with vinegar is recommended, alongside the careful removal of the tentacles from the stung area. On no account rub the sting - that just bursts the nematocysts - and do not apply ice or hot water. If possible, one should gently apply baking soda or shaving cream and shave with a razor or credit card - this prevents the release of more toxins. Then reapply the vinegar. More detailed information can be found

However, it is worth remembering that we are lucky that our waters do not contain much more dangerous floating fiends. On my parents' recent visit to Bermuda they found loads of Portugese Man of War jellyfish washed up on the beaches. A sting from one of these could lead to a visit to a local hospital. So there's one reason why the cold Scottish waters aren't so bad.

Photo of Aurelia aurita (top) courtesy of 'Sheriff of Nothing' on Flickr

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Burst of Agricultural Activity

Following the University of Kilchoan's course on sheep shearing, Tom Bryson sent the Diary this photo of Donald MacDougal, who is staying with Alastair Cameron at the moment, showing how it should be done - the old way. Donald can shear a sheep with clippers as fast as most people can do it with electric shears, and more neatly.

Meanwhile, up at the Garden, the men have filled in the holes reported in the Diary a few weeks ago, with concrete, and the frame for the polytunnel is now up.

And, just to show what the garden can do, here are the magnificent lettuces presented by West Ardnamurchan Community Garden to the Annual Sports and Show, where they were used at the barbeque. Many thanks to Tom Bryson for the pictures.

The University of Kilchoan, under the supervision of its dynamic Vice-Chancellor, Pat Glenday, is at it again this week, with a butchery course. There are ten participants, five from the Estate, and five from the village, of whom two are women. The course wouldn't have been possible without the co-operation of Donald Houston, who made available the lardering facilities at Ardnamurchan Estate.

The trainer is Barry Dean, right, who runs his own business. He works at big hunting estates and has travelled to all corners of the country - north, south, east and, now, farthest west. He used to work for Tesco, and has visited far-flung places like China to show them how to prepare meat to the sort of standards the big supermarket expects.

The students dealt with venison and lamb carcasses provided by the Estate, and....

.... a pig provided by Dave Cash. This is undoubtably the Diary's favourite picture: perhaps readers could provide some captions to go with it.

Many thanks to Pat Glenday for pictures and story.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

New Layout

The Diary has a new layout. Apologies - the management is still working on the glitches.

1,001 Uses for a Horse

Bitter experience has taught me that horses are uncomfortable in the middle and dangerous at both ends, but this pied wagtail has found a good use for the horse at Meall mo Chridh, where it was enjoying the insects put up as the animal grazed.

Pied wagtails are one of our earliest spring returnees from their annual migration. Unlike the swallows and martins, they don't go far - to England or, possibly, France - so we often have them back, as we did this year, before the winter has fully left us.

They're aggressive little birds, seeing off members of other species and quite unfazed by our cats. Talking of being seen off....

.... a hoard of small birds were having a go at this young cuckoo, seen sitting and mewling rather plaintively on a power line by the shop. It must have been very upsetting for the adoptive parents, who were probably amongst the pack whizzing around, to watch their young charge being so abused by their neighbours.

Meanwhile, a flight of what I took to be starlings collected on the power lines below Tabar na Biolar. Like many of the smaller birds, they seem to have had a good breeding season, probably because of the fine weather we enjoyed in the spring and early summer. Our bird feeders are besieged at present: what we need is a sparrow hawk to weed some out.

We also have a large number of gannets operating in the Sound of Mull this year, dropping from great heights into the shoals of fish that have come inshore as the sea has warmed. On a reasonably still day, we can hear the "thump" as each gannet hits the surface: they must have armoured skulls. On this particular occasion there were twenty or more feeding just below Trevor Potts' camp site along Ormsaigbeg.

Trevor also runs a Study Centre at the camp site where, last Saturday, he hosted a talk about Antarctic krill given by his Argentinian friends, Rodolfo Werner and his wife Virginia, who are experts on the subject. A super evening.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Kilchoan Kayakers' First 2010 Outing

We had a good turn out on Thursday for the revived Kilchoan Kayakers with 6 paddlers taking to the water in a collection of boats.

It turned out to be a perfect evening with a light breeze and plenty of sunshine. We started off with a quick cruise around Glas Eilean point where we mingled with the seals and enjoyed the beautiful views of Kilchoan from the sea. Going back into the breeze required a little more effort.

After returning to the jetty we practiced a few rescue moves, helping swimmers back into a boat, righting a boat with the help of another kayak and getting back into a boat unaided - all useful skills and best practiced in the sheltered waters with plenty of helpers around if needed.

Future meetings have been moved to Wednesday at 6pm to avoid clashing with the fire service training.

If you are interested in joining us please email No experience required and we can provide kit with enough notice.

Geoff Campbell

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Jaws off Ardnamurchan Point

Visitors to Ardnamurchan Point Lighthouse yesterday were stunned to see a French diver take to the waters to swim with three basking sharks that were feeding close to the Point.

The largest shark was some 10m (30ft) long....

....and passed within inches of the swimmer.

These fantastic photos were taken by Eilidh Dewar who works at the Lighthouse. She ran to the top of the Lighthouse - up 152 steps and two steel ladders - to take them.

Davie Ferguson, who manages the Lighthouse Visitors' Centre, said, "It's a great year for basking sharks. We've seen as many as nine at one time swimming off the Point, and we watch seals, sea otters and minke whales regularly."

The Lighthouse website is here.

Many thanks to Eilidh and Davie for pictures and story.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Great Day at the Show

A beautiful Kilchoan day for West Ardnamurchan's annual show and sports, and a terrific turnout to support it. The competitions were great fun, the new arrangement of the marquees was a success, and the committee's decision to replace the Dance with a 4pm barbeque was fully vindicated: the last revellers left just before 11pm.

Mind you, the youngest generation did have to sort out the announcers who were obviously not quite up to the job....

.... while, of course, most of the serious organising was done here.

The baking competitions attracted more entries than ever, with some very high standards in the exhibits, judged by Jennifer Fairbairn....

.... and the horticultural offerings showed the super quality of the vegetables that can be grown in the area.

The stock judging took place during the morning, the general feeling being that the standard of the animals on show, and their presentation, was higher than ever.

The overall champion was this gimmer, a yearling ewe belonging to Angus John Cameron of Portuairk.

A huge number of people were involved in making the day such a success. Congratulations to the organisers, who had the courage to make changes which, in the event, greatly enhanced everyone's enjoyment.

Many thanks to Tom Bryson for some of the photos.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Wild Atlantic Salmon

These are the sad remnants of two very rare and very fine fish - wild Atlantic salmon caught in the traditional way off the coast of Ormsaigbeg. The remains of the one on the right weighed over 13 pounds, so the whole fish was far more. Both have been attacked by seals.

Dochie Cameron has been catching salmon off Ardnamurchan for more decades than he cares to remember. As a young man he worked for Fascadale Fisheries, whose boats went out from Fascadale Bay and Kilchoan slipway - this picture (courtesy of Catriona MacMillan) shows salmon nets drying below the Ferry Stores in the 1960s.

When the Fisheries' equipment was sold off, Dochie bought nets and a coble - a salmon fishing boat - while Donald Houston of Ardnamurchan Estate acquired the salmon fishing rights round this coast. For the last few years, Dochie has been the only remaining fisherman catching salmon the traditional way, using nets fixed to the shore. During the short season Dochie must check his nets twice a day, five days a week - there is no fishing on Saturday and Sunday. The photo below shows him going out in the coble, with the Sound of Mull and the entrance to Loch Sunart behind him.

When he worked for Fascadale Fisheries it was not uncommon to land 35 salmon in a single haul. In the whole of 2008 Dochie landed two whole salmon, in 2009 eight, as well as others which the seals had eaten. There are very few wild salmon left, but those that do return from their long migration are mercilessly harried by the local seal population. And the seals are clever: they've learned how to break into Dochie's net, where the salmon are at their mercy.

The salmon he lands go the Estate, who send them away to be thinly sliced, smoked, and despatched to the finest restaurants in London. But the declining population, the depredations of the seals, and the sheer hard work required mean that this is another centuries-old Highland industry which cannot survive.

Many thanks to Sue and Dochie for the story. More vintage photos in the WAVP collection here.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Mary's Story

Mary MacGillivray is one of Kilchoan's most popular residents, and it is therefore thrilling that her memories of her upbringing on a croft in Ormsaigbeg have now been collected in a booklet, published this week.

Mary was born in 1928, so her recollections go back to the early 1930s. Along with her brother and sisters, she attended Kilchoan Public School, as it was then called. She left without the opportunity of a full secondary education - in those days, going to secondary school was expensive for the parents, and the students had to travel to the High School in Oban, where they boarded for the term. So when Mary left school she worked in the village.

The family home was this house, Port Beag, on the Ormsaigbeg road. Mary's memories include details of how the croft was worked, the people who lived in the township, and daily life around the village.

The booklet, profits from which go to Kilchoan Community Centre, is on sale at the Lighthouse, the Ferry Stores and the Community Centre, priced at about £2.00.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Recycling with a View

Nothing in Kilchoan is ordinary, and its Recycling Centre is no exception. For a start, while most such centres conjure the idea of dim, dirty work environments, Kilchoan's has the most wonderful view across the Sound of Mull to Morvern and Mull.

The centre is run by Davie Ferguson. He deals on-site with paper, cardboard, newspapers, packaging such as tetrapaks, cans, scrap metal, household furnishings, electrical goods, batteries, white goods such as washing machines and fridges, used oil, paint and, at the facility by the fire station, bottles and clothing. In fact, Davie deals with just about everything except builders' rubble and plastic - and he'd like to take plastic but Highland Council, at present, can't cope with it.

The blue plastic boxes which, with the help of Alayne and Gillespie Cameron, are collected weekly door-to-door from all over West Ardnamurchan, are sorted, the contents packaged, and then Davie takes it to Claggan, by Fort William. All Kilchoan's recycled material is weighed there before being moved on to Perth, while the contents of the black bin bags are compacted and removed by lorry. Davie says that Kilchoan does extremely well in the proportion of waste it manages to recycle.

Electrical goods such as computers, televisions, video and DVD players go quite separately in this container and are broken up for recycling.

The Centre is open to the public every Wednesday from 12 midday to 1.00pm. Full details here.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

West Ardnamurchan Show....

...and Sports - this Friday.

Gathering has begun to prepare the animals for this Friday's Agricultural Show, which starts at 9.30am and should finish about 12.00. A huge amount of work goes in to this, and the competition for titles is intense, making it well worth a visit. My picture shows Nan MacLachlan, helped by brother Hughie, working her sheep in her Ormsaigbeg field. Nan is a frequent class winner.

The bar opens at 11.00am and stays open into the evening. Teas, coffee, sandwiches and other refreshments will also be available throughout the day.

The Sports start at 1.00pm, featuring the famous hill race, Junior Sports, and Junior and Senior heavy events, while further entertainment comes from a bouncy castle, pipe and drum displays, beat-the-goalie, tug-o'-war, horticultural and baking competitions, stalls, and a pet parade.

Controversially but bravely, the organising committee have replaced the evening Dance with a 4.00pm Barbeque, at which local venison and seafood will be served. The hope is that this will encourage everyone to stay on after the prize-giving, and strengthen the idea that this is both a wonderful opportunity to meet old friends and a thoroughly enjoyable family day.

See you there!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Kilchoan Fc V Coll FC - Full Report

Kilchoan FC travelled to Coll on Saturday to fulfil a promise to play an away match after last year's fixture in Kilchoan. The weather leading up to the game was dreadful but thankfully it cleared enough for the voyage to go ahead.

Tobermory based Sealife Surveys provided the transport for our party of 49 who braved the choppy 2 hour morning crossing from Kilchoan to Aringour. Sunshine broke through the clouds as we stepped ashore, and we had our resident piper, David Doherty, leading our ranks down the main road to the Coll Hotel. The home side had kindly organised minibuses to take us the 3 miles to Cliad Park where the game was to take place.

There was an impressive turnout to watch the game with almost 100 people cheering on the teams. Kilchoan's squad consisted of 14 men - a mixture of locals and ex-pats, and we also 'adopted' a few players to help bolster our team. In the squad was: Justin Cameron, Gus MacLean, Ricky Clark, Gordon MacKenzie, Stevie Canning, Donald Sinclair (Inverness), Tristan Fairbairn, Danny Anderson (Acharacle), Iain Macdonald, Richard van de Peer, Kevin Morrison (Lochgilphead), Calum MacPhail, Shaun Fisher (Bunessan) and Neil Munro (Ulva).

The game started at a ferocious pace with chances for both teams to take the lead. It was end-to-end stuff throughout the first half but Kilchoan seemed to have more possesion and it was only some fine saves from the Coll goalkeeper which stopped the men in orange making the breakthrough. Kilchoan, whose back four had a combined age of 182 years, showed their experience by snuffing out any threat from the much younger Coll team, leaving goalkeeper Justin Cameron with little to do. At half-time the score was still 0-0 but Kilchoan were confident that if we kept the same gameplan then we could take the lead in the second half. The ball was in the back of the net during the second half but this was after Coll had fouled our goalkeeper as he claimed a high ball in the air. There was a huge cheer from the home support but this was soon silenced when the referee correctly chalked off the goal and awarded Kilchoan a free kick. Kilchoan also had goalscoring oppurtunities with Richard, Calum, Gordon and Iain all coming close however after 90 minutes the game was still 0-0 so we went into extra time. Coll threatened Kilchoan early on, only for Donald to snuff out their attack and he cleared the ball up to Kevin Morrison who skipped past the last man and confidently put the ball in the back of the net. The travelling support went wild with delight and even some of the tired Kilchoan legs were jumping for joy. We managed to see out the game for a memorable win which made the post-game drinks all the more tasty back in the Coll Hotel.

Staff at the Hotel had kindly made a curry for us all which was enjoyed in the beautiful sorroundings of the hotel garden. We were all fed and watered and before we knew it it was 7pm and time to board the boat and head home. Again we were piped down to the pier and had a great send off from what seemed like the whole population of Coll. Thankfully, for a few of us especially, the homeward journey was a lot calmer than the outward one and we were soon back on the mainland where some of us continued our celebrations in the familiar sorroundings of the Kilchoan House Hotel.

All in all we had a great day and there are some people whom we have to thank. Thanks to James and Richard Fairbairns and their staff at
Sealife Surveys for escorting us all safely to Coll and back. Thanks to the staff at the Coll Hotel and Cliff at the Kilchoan House Hotel for putting on food and for their great hospitality; and finally a huge thanks to the Coll boys for organising the minibuses. We look forward to returning the favour when they come over to Kilchoan next summer for the next fixture.

Iain MacDonald

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Ships in the Sound

It's been a busy week in the Sound of Mull, with an unusually large number of ships passing. This, of course, was the most important, Sea Life Survey's Sula Beag bringing Kilchoan's winning football team back from Coll yesterday evening.

Earlier in the day, in muckier weather, the Scot Venture passed, bound for Hallstavik, a port on the Baltic coast of Sweden which specialises in paper making. She's a 3,200 dwt bulk carrier of goods such as grain and timber. It's good to see that she'd British-registered, in Inverness.

And with that poor weather we've had the prawn trawlers steaming up and down in these more protected waters. This one is Kirkaldy-registered KY340, "Guide Us", a 17m, wooden-hulled boat built in 1973 and based in Eyemouth, though at present it's working out of Oban. For anyone that's interested, she's for sale.

This one, also a prawn trawler, I couldn't identify, as her name is so small as to be unreadable even using a fairly powerful telescope, and her registration number is invisible, unless it's the "K.2" she has on the starboard side of her wheelhouse. However, she is Scottish, judging by the Royal flag of Scotland, the lion rampant, flying at her foremast.

Keeping an eye on everything is what I take to be the Scottish Fish Protection ship Minna. The reason I'm uncertain is that she does not appear on the AIS, she has her name painted in small letters on her bow, and she has no identification number as do all Royal Navy ships. Adding to the uncertainty is a saltire painted below her bridge with the word MARINE above it.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Kilchoan Wins World Cup!


Kilchoan beat Coll 1-0. A Coll goal was disallowed.

Well done Kilchoan!

University Grant Doubled!

In an age of savage financial cut-backs, the University of Kilchoan has just been handed a huge accolade - a doubling of its grant to support its work in West Ardnamurchan.

Pat Glenday, the University's Vice Principal, said, "I submitted a similar bid to Highland Council last year, and we were given £1,500. This year we've been allocated £3,000. It's this money that lets me cut the cost of courses like keeping hens, bike maintenance, beekeeping, and street dance. The fact that I've secured a bit more this year should let me bring in top tutors from within and outside the area, as well as hopefully allowing me to do something about helping out with childcare for parents who want to attend the classes."

Pat's success has largely come from tailoring courses to the needs of the wider community, and through her efforts to consult with her potential students before arranging courses. She is hoping to distribute a flyer round all the houses in the local area in early August detailing courses that are scheduled, and asking for more ideas.

Asked about her new Mini Cooper, Pat commented, "New? I've only had it a few days and it's already pretty battered! A lamb took a dislike to it and put three dents in the driver's door. Perhaps it was something to do with our recent butchery course."

Contact Pat here.