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Harbour News – February 2019

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Mallaig Harbour News: February 2019

Current Engineering Issues

Delays have occurred to both Harbour Projects that were highlighted in the January issue of West Word: i) The Passenger Access Pontoons; and ii) The new Mallaig Ice plant.

i) Problems with a prefabricated steel beam which resulted in the need for a new beam to be manufactured and then galvanised has been the main cause of the delay with the Passenger Access Pontoons.  Once the beam is on site and in situ all the other components – the access platform, access ramp and the placement of the pontoons – will be able to be placed in position.

The new amended completion date is now the 22nd February 2019. We do apologise for the delay.

ii) Mallaig Harbours new Ice Plant is nearing completion and should become operational by the end of this month.

The containerised Ice Plant arrived from China – it’s country of manufacture – on the 16th & 17th January and, at the time of writing, is now 95% complete.

Utility connections (power, water, broadband line) are proving an issue and that is part of the reason for the delay in the commissioning of the plant.

Past Times

The Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation Ltd (SFO) calendar for 2019 is entitled The Fisher Folk’s Story and it contains historical black & white photos of fishing scenes from the past.

There are a couple of photos of Mallaig Harbour including this one, the cover shot of the calendar, which carries the sub-title “Valiant OB191, landing lobsters at Mallaig.

The picture dates back to the late 50’s/early 60’s and was probably taken one Saturday morning, the normal day from the Mallaig Lobster Sale.

After being away for the week, fishing on the west side (of the Hebrides) the Mallaig lobster boats of the time, the “Valiant” owned by Jimmy Henderson, the “Beulah” (Jimmy McLean); the “Excellent” (Jimmy Aitchison); the “Winner” (Willie MacDonald); and the Speedwell (Alex Duncan) among them, would return to Mallaig on the Friday afternoon/evening with their catch and then “steep” the lobsters in the bay, the line of boxes being supported by a buoy at each end – this being done to keep the lobsters alive of course.

On a Saturday morning to save all the boats going out into the bay to haul up their boxes one or two boats would venture out, pick up the boxes of lobsters and take them back to the pier for the auction which is why on the deck of the Valiant you can read the name “Excellent OB343” on one of the boxes.

When all the boxes were landed onto the pier, the Auction would commence with Salesmen Ian MacLennan & Robbie Hepburn eeking out the best prices for their clients.  Some of the buyers involved around about that time would be George Aitchison; Alex Henderson; Bill Henderson; Andy Duncan; Jimmy Sanderson and Wm Simpson & Sons.

Can you identify the fishermen on board the “Valiant”?  Names below.


Robert MacMillan


01687 462154

Names: (left to right): Duncan Henderson, Jimmy Henderson, Jimmy Aitchison, Ian Campbell, Eckie Aitchison, Jimmy Philip.

Harbour News – January 2019

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Mallaig Harbour News: January 2019

Projects for 2019

This new year will herald the completion of two projects that have been bubbling away for the past few months.

The Passenger Ferry Access – which will replace the steps – will be in situ by the time the February 2019 issue of West Word hits the streets.  Contractors Gael Force Ltd will be on site on the 8th of January, will begin lifting in the guides on the 11th, the pontoons on the 14th and the access ramps and bridges on the 16th January.

Mallaig Harbour Ice plant is due to arrive in Mallaig mid January.  The Ice Plant which consists of two 40’ containers one on top of the other will then be assembled, commissioned and become operational early in February 2019.


It’s been a dismal end to what has been a dismal year for our fishermen with not even an end of year boost for the sprat trawlers.  There’s been no sprat landings (so far) this winter.

It all adds to the doom & gloom as it’s fair to say that since October 2017 – a total of 14 months – the prawn fishing in the South Minch has been poor, the usually abundant grounds providing sparse return for the effort and fuel expended by the skippers.

One could argue that the fishing industry in Mallaig is at it’s lowest ebb ever, certainly within living memory and its extremely worrying with only a handful of fishing boats left in the port.  Not so long ago Mallaig used to boast over 40 locally owned vessels employing up to 160 (mostly) local men eager to put to sea and eager to get the rewards.  It would seem that a way of life is fading away before our very eyes.

Tommy Ralston, an ex fisherman, prawn buyer and Lifeboat Coxswain, who sadly passed away last year, wrote a book entitled Captains and Commanders which contained this nostalgic poem also called Captains and Commanders.  Read it please and ponder!

Robert MacMillan


01687 462154   

Harbour News – December 2018

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Mallaig Harbour Ice

Contractors TRS Ltd have recently informed the Authority that the arrival of the new Containerised Ice Plant due to be delivered to Mallaig Harbour on Tuesday 8th January 2019 has been delayed by one week.  The new delivery date is now Monday 14th/Tuesday 15th January 2019 with engineer onsite for the following 2.5 weeks to assemble/commission the plant.

The Authority remains hopeful that the new Ice Plant will therefore become operational February 2019.

Passenger Pontoon

Gael Force Ltd have been given the contract to construct the Passenger Pontoon and place it in situ in the inner harbour so making the existing passenger steps redundant..  It was hoped that this would become operational prior to the year end but unfortunately this will not now be the case as work will not now commence until week beginning the 14th January 2019.  The new completion date is now end of January 2019.


The non-appearance of shoals of sprats in the Minch this winter is a major disappointment as it had been hoped to end what has been a pretty dreadful year for the fishing industry in Mallaig on a high but this is clearly not now going to be the case.

Festive greetings to all Harbour users from all at the Authority.

Robert MacMillan


01687 462154   

Harbour News – November 2018

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Landing Values

As can be seen from the attached chart the port of Mallaig is ranked No 8 in Scotland on the value of catch landed for the calendar year 2017:

Mallaig Ice Factory

The dramatic downturn in fishing boats using Mallaig Harbour in recent years has already impacted on the availability of shoreside facilities.

The latest blow is the decision by Denholm Fishselling Ltd to close down the Mallaig Ice Co later this month.  The Mallaig Ice Co was formed in 1948 – 70 years ago – and its closure is a sad reflection on the current state of the west coast fishing industry.

However the Mallaig Harbour Authority has sourced 50% EU funding for a new containerised ice plant which is due to arrive on site early January 2019 and allowing three – four weeks for erection and commissioning, becomes operational late January.

There will inevitably be a lack of ice during the change over period from one ice plant to the other and unfortunately this will impact on the fishing fleet using the port.


  • Here is an interesting photo showing the original Lovat Pier (bottom right) and the wooden pier constructed by British Railways. Not sure of a date, 1920’s?


Robert MacMillan


01687 462154

Mallaig Harbour News – October 2018

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Birthday Celebrations

Over 100 people attended the 50th birthday celebrations of the Mallaig Harbour Authority held in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre on Friday 14th September.  The celebration took the form of a photographic exhibition, augmented by various other memorabilia spanning the 50 year life of the Mallaig Harbour Authority, a buffet served up by the West Highland Hotel, and a look forward with plans/drawings culled from the Harbour’s Masterplan illustrating the way ahead for the next 10 – 20 years.

The Exhibition was an opportunity to look back at some of the major milestones in the life of the Authority – formed by an Act of Parliament on 24th July 1968 – but also to look ahead with the future blueprint now in place via the recently published Masterplan.

In paying tribute to people and events of the past Chairman Charlie King stated in his welcoming address that over the years the Authority has always been forward looking, doing its best not only for the harbour but also for the village,  it’s people and environs.  This forward thinking is set to continue he stated with future plans and aspirations including new Outer Breakwater, new ferry terminal, deep water berthing, land reclamation, Local College, enlarged yachting marina, and the soon to commence passenger pontoon access all highlighted courtesy of the Harbour Masterplan.  There’s some exciting times and challenges ahead for the Authority concluded Mr King.

Instrumental in establishing the Mallaig Harbour Authority in those early days was George Gordon Jackson, the first Secretary, and William John Manson Vice-Chairman of the Authority up until his retiral in 1982 – one wonders what they would have made of it all 50 years on.

The Authority is grateful and wishes to thank all who contributed to the success of the Exhibition.



Mr Andy Race (left) is pictured receiving his farewell gift from Harbour Chairman Mr Charlie King.  Mr Race who retired from the Board in March 2018 after 28 years of service to the Authority, was warmly thanked for his commitment, input, diligence and contribution to the Authority over the years.



Former Fishing Skipper Mr John McLean (Mallaig) was the winner of the bottle of Mallaig Harbour Water.  John came closest to correctly naming the year the following pictures were taken.  He got two of the three questions right and was one year out with the third.

Photo 1 – 1977

Photo 2 – 1996

Photo 3 – 1998



Robert MacMillan


01687 462154

Harbour News August 2018

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The Chairman and Board Members of the Mallaig Harbour Authority cordially invite you to come along to the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre on the afternoon of Friday 14th September to help celebrate the 50th birthday of the Authority.

A buffet and light refreshments will be available from 12.45 with a Photographic Display created by the Mallaig Heritage Centre and The Harbour Authority and other memorabilia on show.

There will also be the chance to mingle and discuss future Harbour Board developments with Board Members – past and present – Harbour Engineers and employees.  Local businesses will also attend the occasion which is open to all members of the public.

Robert MacMillan


01687 462154

Harbour News July 2018

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Annual Report

Here are some excerpts from my Annual Report, compiled to accompany the Authority’s end of year (31st March 2018) accounts:-


There is little doubt that the introduction of RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) on the west coast ferry routes continues to have a positive impact with more and more passengers and vehicles making use of the services.  This is certainly the case as far as the Port of Mallaig is concerned as can be seen via the statistical tables below:-

1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017                               1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018

Passengers       :           301,237                                   Passengers       :           343,847

Cars                 :             71,127                                   Cars                 :             82,230

Coaches           :               1,874                                   Coaches           :               2,375

Commercials   :                  744                                   Commercials   :                 851

The above figures equate to a 14% increase in passengers and a 15% increase in vehicles making use of the Mallaig Linkspan.  However the 2017 summer season was, once again, blighted by poor vessel deployment and tidal issues leading to a myriad of cancellations on the Mallaig Armadale and Mallaig Lochboisdale routes.

With 285,483 passengers conveyed over the sea to/from the Isle of Skye, the Mallaig Armadale service is CalMac’s 5th most popular summer route and it’s also interesting to note that it comes out top of any other route when it comes to the carrying of coaches.  In 2017 coaches numbered 2337 – a 20% increase on 2016 – used the Skye Ferry Service.

Steamer Pier Surfacing Repairs

Surface defects on the Steamer Pier including ponding, drainage channel issues, and concrete erosion were all addressed via a £60,000 contract carried out by Gareloch Support Services.  Work was completed prior to the commencement of the 2018 summer season.


The laundry, shower and toilet facility now available at the Mallaig Marina Centre, along with disabled access and baby changing amenity, continues to be appreciated by pontoon/yachting patrons who are generous in their praise of the state of the art facilities

Usage of the Marina showed an increase on the previous year as the following table illustrates:-


Occupancy                  Short Stay                   Locals

2017                    1547                             42                               65

2016                    1482                             43                               65

2015                    1481                             29                               58

2014                    1503                             33                               56

2013                    1338                             81                               60

It should be remembered that the actual size/capacity of the Marina coupled with the seasonality of the yachting calendar really prevents any major increase in berthing uptake.

In addition to the above a further 58 vessels made use of the moorings at the Marina.

Waste Oil

Waste oil collection figures for the year to 31st March 2018 were as follows:-

Waste Oil:                   11,640 litres

Oily Water/Sludge:     49,924 litres

The full report will shortly be available on the web-site

Board Membership

As at May 2018 the composition of the Harbour Board is as follows:-

Charles King (Chairman)

Anthony Kenning (Vice Chairman)

Gavin Davis

Michael Foxley

Allan Henderson

John MacMillan

Jim Wilson

Jacqueline Wright


Robert MacMillan


01687 462154

Harbour News – June 2018

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Cruise Ships

There were three cruise ship visitations by the French owned “Le Boreal” last month, Saturday 12th May; Thursday 24th May, and Saturday 26th May.

This is the third successive year that “Le Boreal” has called at the Port of Mallaig with the holidaymakers on board either being picked up or dropped off so that they can enjoy the delights of the steam train journey on the West Highland Line.

There was one further visit by a cruise ship, the 156 metre “MV Silver Cloud” operated by Silver Sea Cruises, Fort Lauderdale, anchored off the port on Friday 25th May awaiting the embarkation of its 300 plus passengers who had enjoyed a trip on the steam train.

No other cruise ship visitations are planned for 2018.

New Vessel

Congratulations to Joe Blower and the Western Isles team on the arrival of their new passenger ferry, the 14m long “Larven”.  The “Larven” built by Powerglide in Wadebridge, Cornwall is licensed to carry 42 passengers plus 3 of a crew and it’s expected to take up service at the start of the month.


Local fish merchant Mr Andy Race stepped down from the Authority in April of this year having served a period of twenty eight years as a Board Member of the Mallaig Harbour Authority.

Andy was duly elected onto the Board of the Authority in 1990 to represent “other harbour users” and on the 1st June 1990 attended his first meeting!  Sitting around the table with him on that day were Michael Currie, Peter Downie, Willie Jack (all Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association): Charlie King and Michael Foxley (Highland Regional Council); Charlie MacGillivray and Cpt RCS Campbell (Caledonian MacBrayne); Charlie Sinclair (British Rail); and Willie Sutherland (Scottish White Fish Producers).

A presentation in honour of his 28 years with the Authority will be made to Mr Andy Race later this year!

Taking over from Andy will be Mr Jim Wilson, an ex Morar resident who now lives in Pitlochry.


Robert MacMillan


01687 462154

Water Supply disruption Monday 21st/Tuesday 22nd May

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To All Harbour Users

Water Supply disruption Monday 21st/Tuesday 22nd May

Due to the Authority having to comply with Scottish Water Bye-laws, a new non return water valve needs to be fitted to the Harbour water supply system.

Work to install this valve will be carried out later this month and will necessitate an overnight break in the water supply throughout the harbour area, Monday evening 21st May to early morning Tuesday 22nd May.

Robert MacMillan


Harbour News May 2018

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Mallaig Harbour News: May 2018

Passenger Ferry Pontoon

Plans are well in hand for the construction of a passenger ferry pontoon/walkway in the Inner Harbour.  This will replace the existing wooden steps and make future access to the small passenger ferries much safer and much more user friendly particularly for the elderly and infirm.

With no objections raised following the advert placed in The Oban Times on Thursday 1st March 2018, Marine Scotland has subsequently granted the Authority a licence to carry out the necessary works.

Construction is expected to commence October/November 2018.

Marina Day

In 2015 Marina Sant Carles, Spain, introduced an annual open day to attract the public, create a customer event and seek better integration with the local town and its businesses.  The event was a huge success for all concerned and was quickly adopted by the rest of the marinas in Catalonia.  In 2017 the event was adopted by the whole of Spain and is now firmly established in the annual calendar.

So why shouldn’t Mallaig Marina host its own Marina Day?  That’s exactly what we are going to do and it’s on Saturday 9th June 2018.  Hopefully the weather will be kind and, helped by local marina users, local lifesavers and other local groups, a fun day of “street fair” type attractions with music, BBQ, boat trips etc will hopefully ensue!

Put it in your diary 11am to 4pm on Saturday 9th June 2018!


As stated in previous West Words, the Mallaig Harbour Authority is 50 years old this year, and we are planning some celebratory event possibly in the Mallaig & Morar Community Centre in September for harbour stakeholders.  Once our plans are finalised they will be published in West Word and on our web-site.

My quest for photographs of the harbour and harbour related events goes on so if you do have any photographs of Mallaig Harbour covering the period 1968 to present I would be obliged if you could send them to me. (They will be returned).

Here is one taken on the 30th May 1986 on the occasion of the opening of the Breakwater Extension to the Steamer Pier by Lord Gray of Contin, Minister of State for Agriculture and Fisheries at the Scottish Office.

Left to right:  Michael Currie, Harbour Chairman; Mgr MacInnes; G. Gordon Jackson, Former Harbour Secretary; Sir Russell Johnston MP and Lord Gray.  To mark the occasion young Roslyn Currie (7) presented Lord Gray with a night time photograph of Mallaig Harbour.  Harbour Authority Board Members and Senior Staff as at 1st May 1986 were as follows:-

Chairman:                                                        Michael Currie

Vice-Chairman:                                              Charles King

Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd:                        Capt R C S Campbell

Charles MacGillivray

British Railways Board:                                Clive Evans

Highland Regional Council:                         Councillor T Kirkwood

Mallaig & NW Fishermens Association:    Peter McLean

William Skinner

Other Users Representative:                        Ronald C Reid

Other Vessel Users Representative:            George Alexander

Secretary:                                                          Robert MacMillan

Harbour Master:                                              Capt John Murray


Robert MacMillan


01687 462154