Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Roe Deer

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for sending these pictures of two roe deer doing what roe deer do....

.... as he puts it, "eating seaweed and watching ducks".

Scotland's Oldest Fuel Pumps?

It was good to go down to the shop yesterday afternoon for a paper to find Dave Fraser of D&S Forecourt Services, Inverness, working on the three fuel pumps. Our association with Dave and his company goes back.... the time we first bought the shop, and to the shattering news when the old petrol station was condemned by Highland Council's Protective Services because the unleaded tank was leaking.

The dips on the unleaded tank used to go up and down in an erratic way: we later discovered that the holes were in the bottom of it, so the fuel moved up and down with the water table. The diesel tank, being above ground, was fine, as was the leaded.

We were saved by a grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise which enabled us to rebuild....

....the whole fuel station, all the fuel-related work being done by D&S's predecessor company, Fuel Tank and Pump Services. They were excellent, as was the company which did the building work, MacRae Brothers of Laide.

With the grant, we were offered brand new electronic pumps but refused. We reckoned that the existing pumps, the diesel being a Wayne and the petrol pumps Gilbarco Trimlines, all with Veeder-Root heads, were easier to maintain and mend, and would last longer in the exposed, salty, windswept environment. They've lasted another twenty years, far longer, Dave told us, than the electronic ones they were installing in other stations at the time.

Our eldest daughter Elizabeth painted the local wildlife on the front of the pumps, and they became quite a feature with visitors.

To Dave's knowledge, no other public petrol station is still using these pumps so they're probably the oldest working public fuel pumps in Scotland.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

An Erratic Walk

We're pretty determined to walk whatever the weather as long as it isn't too miserable and we don't put ourselves at unnecessary risk so, despite drizzle, a brisk wind, and a forecast for rain and high winds later, we walked to the northwest of Ormsaigbeg today, following....

....this, sadly un-named, burn upstream before working our way up the hillside towards the ridge line.

The advantage of a walk like this is that, had the weather suddenly deteriorated and the cloud come down, we had only to walk downhill until we hit the burn, which we could then follow downstream to the road.

The land shows no sign of emerging from winter, the only colour being provided by some of the mosses, including the brownish-reds of the sphagnum, but we weren't short of company. As well as the sheep which spend their whole year out on the Ormsaigbeg common grazings, we put up several birds, including snipe and woodcock, but....

....the highlight was coming across a pair of red grouse - the female is just visible to the left.

Sadly, they weren't willing to hang around long enough for us to get close but it was good to see them: they aren't common here.

After a bit of hunting around we found our objective for the day, a rounded boulder of a rock which is not local. It looks like a granite, and was brought here, and dumped on top of the ridge, by the glaciers which covered this area some ten thousand years ago. From it there's a great view down the Sound of Mull and across to Mull itself - on a fine day.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Honey Bees Abroad

Last Thursday it was the first bumblebee of the season which attracted our attention, today it was the first honey bee in our garden. It came from the hives which Trevor Potts keeps on the Ardnamurchan Campsite, where three had bees coming and going. At the time, the temperature was a balmy 11.7C.

The garden also boasted its first pansy of 2017 whose petals bore evidence either of the activities of other insects or of the recent blustery weather.

Where Bound?

There was a time when one of the few ways of finding out where a ship was going was to contact it with an Aldis lamp with the words "What ship?" and then, if you were lucky enough to receive a reply, "Where bound?" This was often the job of the ship's cadets dragged from their bunks in the early hours of a morning when a bored officer of the watch spotted a distant light and was looking for entertainment.

These days, all one has to do is go to the Marine Traffic website - here - where the ship's intended track is recorded.

So the Yeoman Bridge, above, when she passed Kilchoan this afternoon, was on her way from Glensanda quarry to Brunsbuttel, Germany. More, she was travelling at 11.3 knots, had a draught of 13.2m, and is due Brunsbuttel at 6am on Thursday.

There are no mysteries in life any more.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Archaeology Expedition

Saturday saw a small but very determined group from Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association brave low cloud and persistent drizzle to find and then map structures high on the slopes to the west of Bourblaige - a description of the morning's work is here.

We're trying to make these expeditions to investigate Ardnamurchan's superb archaeology and history a regular feature. If you're interested in joining us, contact us through the Diary or through the AHHA website, here.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

The War Memorial

From Kenneth Cameron:

It would be great to collate specific details about each individual on the war memorial in Kilchoan. To this end, I am looking for anyone who has information about or is related to any of the men named on the memorial and listed below. Any information, no matter how small, would be useful. Photographs would be an added bonus - it would be great to put faces to names. There are possibly others from the area who were killed in either of the wars but are not included on the war memorial: their details would also be of interest.

I have managed to find basic details of the deaths/burials/regiments/ships sailed on, and in some cases the names of the U-boats responsible for sinking the ships. The next step is to research the individuals' military/naval records. There are some anomalies and inconsistences, which is to be expected, and a few whose details are limited. It will take a few more months to research these and confirm details.

So far, I've learned that the dead are mainly from the merchant navy and army and include individuals from New Zealand and Australia who had emigrated from Scotland leaving relatives in the Kilchoan area at the time of the wars.

I feel it’s very important to record as much information as we can about these individuals for this generation and future generations. Hopefully when we have sufficient information, we can produce a detailed report for the community.

Anyone with information or photos can contact me by email at

The names on the War Memorial are

Great War:
Duncan Stewart d1915
Duncan MacLachlan d1916
Archibald MacPhee d1917
Allan Cameron d1917
John Cameron d1918
Donald Nisbet d1918
Donald Stewart d1918
Angus MacGillivray d1917
John Cameron d1917
Hugh MacPhee d1917
John MacLachlan d1917
John Livingstone d1918
John MacGillivray d1918

Second World War:
Alexander Cameron d1939
Hugh Henderson d1940
John Connell d1940
Alexander Campbell d1941
Norman Mackenzie d 1941
William Mackay d1941
Allan C MacDiarmid d1941
John Carmichael d1941
Donald Campbell d1941
Reginald Campbell d1941
George MacLennan d1946, buried in the old cemetery at St Comghan's.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Buzzard Ambush

I'm the top raptor around here, the lord of Ardnamurchan's lands and waters, the master of all I survey, so when I take a gentle perambulation along my fiefdom of Ormsaigbeg I don't....

....expect to be ambushed by a wretched little buzzard who, the coward that he is, comes at me from one of my blind spots, and....

....very nearly causes me to stall and come tumbling out of the sky in a heap of undignified feathers.

In fact, I only just managed to recover after which, thank goodness, the buzzard turned away, leaving me.... regain my regal dignity and continue upon my way.

Frogs A' Courting

David Littler writes, "The frogs have been making lots of courting noise at a garden pond in Achosnich when I recorded them yesterday evening around 5pm. I'm sure the cacophony is going to get louder over the next few weeks. The lochan up behind Sonachan was a particularly noisy place last year, although that was almost three weeks later than now."

Click here to listen to hear David's recording of the Achosnich frogs a' courting.

Many thanks to David for the recording.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


We walked from Ockle to the mouth of the Allt Eilagadale this morning in weather which started with heavy rain and then kept promising sun - but never quite delivered. Despite this, it's a glorious walk through wild and rugged countryside, except....

....where, a little upstream from the burn's mouth, there is some arable land, enough to have supported perhaps three families. Two of the dwellings are on the west side of the burn, on the right in this picture, while the third is a little higher on the east.

All three dwellings have a layout which suggest they are late 18th to early 19th century construction but they also have a feature which we have seen elsewhere in pre-crofting dwellings but which we have yet to explain.

This picture is of the more northerly of the two buildings, and the structure in question is a metre-square stone 'box' seen in the far corner. It's about 0.5m to 0.75m high and might be a container of some sort, perhaps for storage.

This quick sketch gives some idea of the structure. It took up a considerable amount of the space within a building which would have been cramped, so whatever its purpose it was important.

They are usually located in the corner of the building but the other dwelling at Eilagadale has it beside the door.

Has anyone any idea of what these may have been?

Early Bumblebee

This must be a record for the earliest bumblebee on the wing. This chap was enjoying the profusion of periwinkle flowers in our front garden at midday yesterday, when the air temperature was touching 12C.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Pig Warning

In the old days, there was little warning of the arrival an Atlantic gale, except the signs in the sky like red sunrises. Now we have detailed forecasts which are usually right. 

The same sort of evolution is occurring with the arrival of Hughie's pigs in Ormsaigbeg. At one time they just turned up. At least we now get warning and, as you would expect of the modern, mass-pig farmer, it's all very high tech. We get an email with a picture of what's coming our way.

Many thanks to Hughie for the picture but not the pigs,
and to Cameron Beccario here for the wind map.

An Early Riser

As Kilchoan Early Bird, who took this picture, says, "Someone is up early this year!"

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Community Council

Last night's Community Council meeting was notable for the number of items of good news, not least on the ferry front. On the Kilchoan-Tobermory ferry, CalMac have listened to the submissions from our Community Council and are putting on, as from April, the Loch Tarbert, a ferry which carries six more cars than the present Loch Linnhe (above). She will have an extra crew member, which means up to 140 passengers can be accommodated, and the Sunday sailings will continue throughout the summer timetable.

Andrew Baxter, our Highland Councillor, was also able to brief the meeting on his recent success in ensuring that the fares at the Corran ferry will NOT go up this year - Highland Council was threatening a 10% increase. Well done Andrew!

Some parts of the village have 30mph speed limits, some have 40mph. Highland Council has agreed to standardise them all at 30mph, and will also include the Ormsaigbeg road. The one anomaly is shown in this picture: cars passing along Pier Road will be able to accelerate along the short section between the houses and the pier.

The Council had also received a very helpful letter from Tracy Ligema, Deputy Director of Operations at NHS Highland, explaining the evolving changes in out-of-hours provision. The papers she sent were detailed and complex, though those who had read them felt that the service NHS Highland plans looks promising. Better still, Ms Ligema has offered to come to talk to the community, an offer which will be taken up. A greater worry remains the Emergency Responders provision, run by the Scottish Ambulance Service, where we still have only two of the six responders originally promised and other provisions which are stretched perilously thin.

Congratulations to WACC's officers for their efforts but, as always, there has to be some rotten news and it came, of course, from BT. Andrew Baxter read out a response to the many complaints he had collected about BT's service, a letter which was little more than corporate whitewash. He will be writing again to Brendan Dick, Director at BT Scotland.

The Ferry Stores - Community Meeting

As part of the ongoing process in which An Roth is preparing a report on the community's possible role in the future of the Ferry Stores, all members of the community are invited to meeting on Thursday 2nd March, 7.00pm in the Kilchoan Community Centre, at which An Roth will present a draft report report on its findings and listen to people's views.

The full report is expected later in the month.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Evening at the Point

This superb picture was taken by Kilchoan Early Bird this evening, looking out across Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse towards Coll, at the end of what has been another beautiful day.

It was taken from the hill which, on the OS map, is called Sgurr nam Meann, the peak of the kid, but whose correct name, according to a local source, is Coire Bheinn, the corrie hill.

To the right of the picture is an island, Eilean Carrach, the rocky or rough island, which is connected to the shore by a stretch of beach which may be completely submerged at high tide. Out of shot to the right, beyond the beach, lies Bay MacNeil.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A Morning at the Beach

The air temperature dropped to 2C last night, bringing another ground frost, but with a gloriously sunny day in prospect we decided to spend the morning at the beach.

The beach we chose is the one that runs from Maclean's Nose to Camas nan Geall, easiest reached by parking by the bridge that crosses the Allt Torr na Moine just to the east of Camas nan Geall and then walking over the ridge called Torr na Moine, passing the remains of several buildings associated with the clachan of Tornamona, which was cleared in 1828. These buildings are some distance from the main grouping of houses, and it's not clear whether they were occupied before 1828 or whether they were built after the settlement was cleared, perhaps to house the shepherds who worked from the big sheep enclosure which replaced it.

It isn't a single beach but a series of curved strands, each ending in a small promontory. There are two things special about these beaches: they have remarkably little rubbish washed up on them, and they're usually wonderfully lonely places - in winter, the chances of meeting anyone else are extremely low.

Having said that, as we walked back along this section of the beach we met a couple and their collie going the other way.

The beach here belonged to the clachan of Bourblaige and it, like Tornamona, has buildings well away from the clachan - in this case, two on the beach. The hill behind this one shows the characteristic striping of the rig-and-furrow arable system, and.... we climbed the hill we spotted an eagle flying along the crags towards Maclean's Nose. It was some distance away, but it looks like a golden eagle.

This picture look eastwards into Loch Sunart, towards Camas nan Geall and Ardslignish, and it was shortly after this that we saw a lapwing, which passed over us too quickly for a photograph. Lapwings are occasional summer visitors here, so this one is a very early arrival.

Archaeology West of Bourblaige

Next Saturday, 18th February, in the morning, the Ardnamurchan History & Heritage Association is exploring a number of structures which are to be found on the lower slopes of Ben Hiant to the west of Bourblaige - the area shown in this picture.

If anyone is interested in joining us, contact me for details - the email address is at the bottom of the right hand column of this blog.

Saturday, 11 February 2017


The Raptor writes, "I caught this shot of last night's moonrise over the foothills of Ben Hiant, but what I didn't notice until I uploaded it is that there is a deer captured beautifully on the horizon."

Many thanks to the Raptor for his picture.