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News from Mallaig Harbour: April 2021

By April 16, 2021News

We are continuing to progress with projects around the Harbour, and since last month, we have been fortunate enough to be successful in our application to the Scottish Government for funds to install shore power for the fishing fleet. This fund had a very quick turnaround, with works to be complete within the financial year, but it’s something that fishermen have been requesting for a number of years, so it’s great to finally have the funds to make it a reality. There are 6 ‘towers’, each with a combination of single phase and three phase connection points, in the scheme, which was designed based on the requirements of the local fishing fleet.

There has been no secret over the last few months about the difficulties the fishing industry has been facing, so it was interesting that a relative of mine came across this article from 17th July 1894 as part of a scrapbook in Cockenzie House, and was kind enough to send it up.

“Mr William Anderson Smith, Commissioner for the Fishery Board of Scotland said there was a great difference between herring caught on the west as compared to those got on the east coast. The former were too rich, and would not stand carriage either in a fresh or salted condition. They had to be sent to markets near at hand. The west coast crabs were too small to be of any value, and as for the west coast cod, they were not worth much more than 4d as compared with 2s 4d got for cod on the east coast, as they were small and of inferior quality. The effort of the government to turn the Crofters into fishermen had not been a success. Upwards of £30,000 had been invested with the object in view but it had been an absolute failure. He did not believe they had created a single new fisherman, and the bulk of the boats had been thrown back on their hands. The Crofter stuck to his land and would do nothing else. There had been much less fishing throughout the West since the date of the Crofter’s Act. The security of tenure on their crofts had made them less desirous to fish, and on those boats where one of the crew was a crofter, he frequently kept the boat from going to sea, as he devoted his time to the land. The fishing in the West Highlands had for years been decreasing, and they had now to face competition with Norway and Sweden, which reduced the price of second-class fish. The white fishing inside the Hebrides was of no value at all. The fish were so full of roe that they would not carry to market, and even if the Mallaig line were made, the fish would be of little value to the Southern markets. The bulk of the people in the district to be affected would not go to sea. He had a very poor opinion of Mallaig as a place for a Harbour; and, as a Fishery Commissioner would decline to grant it any money to convert it into a fishing harbour….

In further examination [he] said he did not think this Mallaig line would benefit the West Highlands”

Thankfully, someone disagreed and Mallaig benefitted from both the Harbour and the Railway not long after!

We are hopeful that the Marina will re-open from 26th April in line with the easing of restrictions, but we are awaiting further guidance on this mid-April. CalMac have published their summer timetables, which are also due to start on 26th April. Although there is obviously a bit of nervousness about restrictions easing, it will be nice to see a bit more activity on the visitor side. There has been lots of freight activity on the Harbour recently, with loads of plant and equipment heading to Knoydart in preparation for the works on the Hydro scheme, and all the materials needed for a new house build on Knoydart too. It’s one of the perks of having an office overlooking the Harbour that you get to see all the comings and goings for building projects on Knoydart and the Small Isles!  We’re often first to know about any filming going on locally as they request permissions to film on the Harbour, and by the time you read this, Sandi Toksvig will have been filmed for the next series of her ‘Great Escapes’. Hopefully the weather will have been kind to her and her crew!

It’s also the time of year where we advertise for new Board Members, and you will see the advert in the vacancies section of the web site. When Mallaig Harbour Authority was reconstituted in 2012, in line with Scottish Government guidance, the new constitution allowed for Board Members to serve two, three-year terms; and under exceptional circumstances, a third term. At the end of their second term, Board Members were in the midst of the development of the Masterplan, and it was agreed that they should serve a third term to see the Masterplan published. However, we are now at the stage where all the original Board Members who began in 2012 will have retired this year. Board Members are not directly involved in the operations of the Harbour, but provide support and guidance on the strategic direction of the Harbour Authority, including future plans. Although there are some uncertainties about vessel deployment which need to be resolved before the business case for the new Breakwater proposed by the Masterplan can be made, we have a number of shorter-term development plans, including the Outer Breakwater Development. We have three vacancies to fill, and if you would be interested in becoming a Board Member, I’d be happy to talk through what it involves.

Jacqueline McDonell

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