2015 Writing Competition



1.       Introductions and Apologies

2.       Declarations of Interest

3.       Chairman’s Comments

4.       Approval of the Minutes of the last CC meetings

5.       Matters arising from the Minutes

6.       Co-option

7.       Treasurer’s Report

8.       Correspondences

9.       AOB from CC members

10.   AOB from the Public

11.   Consultations

12.   Planning and Licensing Issues

13.   Dates of Future Meetings


Issued at 12noon on Thursday 22 January 2015.

Draft Minutes of Garve & District Community Council meeting held 6th Jan 2015 in Garve Village Hall

Present: Kenny MacLean (Chairman), Jean Bailey (Treasurer), Jean Hollingdale (Secretary), Jennifer Haslam, Sue Tarr (Minute Sec), Bob Moir; Cllr Ian Cockburn; Val MacIver (Platform PR), Simon Lejeune and Leanne Taylor (E-On); Laura MacGill (Eneco); 1 member of public.
The Chairman welcomed everyone and opened the meeting at 7pm.
Apologies: Eliza Leslie Melville, Martin Macphee.
Declarations of Interest: none.

Chairman’s Comments: Condolences to former Chair Helen Grainge whose husband Harry passed away.
The Chairman noted that HC have announced budget savings to be implemented over the next three years.
There will be no Church of Scotland service at Kinlochluichart on 25th Jan; there is a Soup Lunch in Strathpeffer Church Hall on Sat 10th Jan.
Approval of the minutes of meeting held 2nd Dec 2014: Proposed, Jean Bailey; seconded, Jean Hollingdale.
Jennifer Haslam wished to clarify the minutes from the previous meeting (4th Nov 2014) should have stated that Jennifer Haslam was requested by G&DCC to find out about entertainment for the Over-60’s Party.
Eneco Update – Guy Madgwick has supplied information about the energy discount scheme – 11 customers have signed up and these have now received their £250 rebate, in total £2750. The remainder of £46750 will be paid into LCT. Eneco are investigating a choice of tariffs and suppliers.
Laura MacGill reported that the Windfarm was working well. The access road required snow clearance on several days in Dec. This is done by a local contractor. 5 turbines are still requiring warranty repairs by Siemens, this is progressing as weather allows. All other turbines are generating.
E-On Update – The chairman welcomed E-On representatives as it had been some time since G&DCC had been updated on the Corriemoillie Windfarm. Simon Lejeune has taken over Matilda Urie’s role and is based in Newcastle and will attend G&DCC meetings.
Work progress at Corriemoillie – All the trees on the site have been felled and stacked within 500m of the existing access road. These are being chipped and chips taken off site to a local biomass site; this will continue for several months.
E-On are currently implementing planning conditions to be submitted to consultees (SNH, SEPA etc). Peat work survey has been delayed slightly due to the weather. When these are approved civil works estimated to start end of Aug 2015 – firstly expose the 5 borrow pits, then construct internal roads and carry out off-site road modifications; followed by turbine base construction and cable work. Turbines arrive June 2016. Commissioning scheduled for Oct 2016 and finalised by 2017.
Q: about the access roads; the windfarm construction will use Eneco’s access road from Glascarnoch with a small spur into Corriemoillie Windfarm. The access currently used for tree clearing from the Corriemoillie side is purely for timber access. It will not be removed when timber work is finished as it is a shared access.
Q: about the sale of Corriemoillie Windfarm; Negotiations are progressing. It will be a financially sound, reputable Windfarm company but details are confidential at this stage. Divestment should happen before construction starts but if not, E-On will continue with construction.
Q: about Community Benefit; E-On have a commitment to community benefit but there is not an agreement in place yet. There are slightly different planning conditions attached to Corriemoillie than Lochluichart.
E-On propose to set up a Construction Community Liaison Group (which is appended in full at the end of the minutes) which would be made up of community council members plus any members of the public who are interested, to a maximum of 15 members. All agreed this was a good idea.
E-On wish to try and avoid any traffic snags during transport of turbines; it should be possible to benefit from Eneco’s experience. Members highlighted problems at Garve level crossing, Gorstan junction, and ferry traffic times; and that radio traffic updates would have been helpful.
The Chairman thanked both Windfarm parties for attending.
Bob Moir joined the meeting having been delayed in travel.

Matters Arising:
Strathpeffer Community Council proposal – SCC has contacted G&DCC regarding a community micro hydro scheme at Garbat, on Forestry Commission ground. SCC is keen go ahead with building a community hydro scheme here but only the headwaters of the 2 burns are within their boundary. The turbine would be within G&DCC area. Investment of around £500,000 is required to go ahead with such a scheme. Members agreed that they would attend a SCC meeting to hear representatives from the two development companies involved (BabyHydro and Kirknewton Development Trust). It was noted that the site is close to some houses in the G&DCC area and it is not known what the residents’ opinions are; also that G&DCC does not have the money required. To proceed, a new group would have to be set up as G&DCC could not be directly involved with a development.

Achnasheen lights – the new light fittings have been installed. These are LEDs and direct the light downwards.
Broadband – G&DCC received emails from a member of public about recent problems with the broadband in Achnasheen. Engineers appear to have improved things. Lots of activity at the Garve Exchange too; it was general opinion that broadband service had been quite erratic in the area recently.
Traffic lights east of Garve – G&DCC were notified that these would be taken down for the Christmas and New Year period; they will remain in place now until 27th Feb. Jennifer Haslam raised the issue of the warning signs falling on to the road at weekends when the lights were taken away. Bob Moir queried why the traffic lights were necessary. They are causing some annoyance to motorists as they take so long to change. Some drivers are just jumping the red light because it takes so long to change. Sec to raise issues with SSE.
Rubbish in Gorstan layby – HC was out clearing litter the week after Christmas; G&DCC very impressed. Also the offlet at Torriegorrie has been cleared.
Strathgarve potholes – these were filled in within a week of Cllr Cockburn reporting them.
Garve Level Crossing Barriers – PC Beverly has confirmed that the police are not able to direct traffic across the railway line in the event of the barriers being stuck; however if they are notified of a problem they might be able to help get things resolved more quickly. Lochcarron CC are also taking up the issue of barriers coming down in the event of a power failure as they have two crossings in their area.
Network Rail will be carrying out work between Fodderty and Strathcarron 17-30th Jan renewing rails at various locations 11pm-8am every night.
Police Report (November) – speed checks are being carried out in the area with 4 persons warned and 2 persons charged with speeding offences; 1 for failing to wear a seatbelt and 1 for using a mobile phone whilst driving. There has been a theft of two boat oars from croft land next to Grudie River. There have been reports of persons using unregistered motorcycles within the village; if anyone has any information on these incidents or anything they wish to discuss please contact PC Beverly at Dingwall Police Station on 101.
The chairman also noted from the Lochcarron CC minutes that there was a road traffic collision at Ledgowan involving a deer; no-one was injured.
Resignation – G&DCC has received a letter of resignation from longstanding member Alex Mackenzie. His input to the community council was very much appreciated and members will miss him. It was agreed to send him a letter of thanks for his many years of service.
Unfortunately this means there is now a vacancy on the community council. G&DCC are looking to co-opt a member to serve until the election in Oct/Nov of this year. If you are a resident in the area and willing to become a member, please come along to the next CC meeting and let the Chairman know.

Contd over/
Treasurer’s Report:
Total balance b/f 3920.61

Senior Citizens Fund b/f 1978.22
Less Garve Hotel 41 x dinners -696.50
Less Garve Hotel entertainment & gratuity -110.00
Less Tesco 52 x vouchers -520.00
Less Tesco envelopes -1.00 650.72

Bench Fund – no change 100.00 100.00

War Memorial Fund – no change 140.86 140.86

Treasurer’s Acc b/f – no change 1701.53 1701.53

Carried forward £2593.11

Jean Bailey discussed the allocation of G&DCC funds. The proceeds from the Flower Show have been divided between the Bench Fund and the Treasurer’s Account. The Treasurer’s Account should be reserved for HC grant money and be spent on CC administration. It would be a good idea to have a separate fund for money raised from the public. This does not need to be a separate account. The treasurer proposed that a new heading of Community Fund be introduced for proceeds from fundraising which have been unallocated and that the Treasurer’s Account be solely for the HC grant. All agreed. Members requested the Treasurer calculate the non-grant money currently in the Treasurer’s Account and transfer that sum to the new heading of Community Fund.

Fundraising: 2015 Produce Show – it was agreed to hold a meeting to invite people along to discuss this year’s produce show and to look at the syllabus and provide some guidance on presentation techniques etc.
The meeting will be held in Garve Village Hall on Mon 23rd March at 7pm – all interested parties welcome. Watch out for the posters/ flyers.
The Chairman called a sub-committee meeting to discuss the Over-60’s Party on Sun 18th Jan at 1pm in Garve Village Hall.
 By E-mail, Leanne Taylor E-On – Contact reply; RCOP – Isolation at Christmas flier; Police Report for November 2014; Robbie Bain – Severe weather warning; Jackie West – Broadband outages Achnasheen; SSE Lisa Marchi – Removal of traffic lights east of Killin over holiday period; RCOP – Invitation for carers to join mailing list; SSEPD – Awareness Campaign – What to do when power outage occurs due to severe weather; Lochcarron CC mins; Strathpeffer CC Kit Bowen re Baby Hydro scheme; RCOP – Boccia events registration. By post, Notice of appeal to Scottish Ministers re Carn Gorm Wind Farm; Highland Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference Annual Report 2013; various Thank you notes (and verbal) from Over 60’s for tokens.

Bob Moir raised the issue of flooding on the road beside Garve Hall. This has already been reported. Also there is no progress with improving access to the recycling bins at Garve which are difficult to reach because of a very large muddy puddle. Cllr Cockburn to chase up.
Sue Tarr suggested G&DCC approach SSE about the possibility of distributing some firewood to pensioners in Garve from birch trees which have been felled above the village for the pylon work. Chairman to contact SSE.
Jean Hollingdale raised the issue of potholes on the old road leading up from the Gorstan layby. Sec to phone them in (01349 886606) and get a ref no. then if no action by following meeting Cllr Cockburn can chase up.
Jennifer Haslam raised three items - a donation of a bottle of whisky has been received with thanks from “an old bodach who lived down by Lochluichart station”.
Friends of Garve War Memorial are holding a raffle to raise money for doing up the path to the War Memorial. One of the prizes is a London Poppy. They now have a bank account so G&DCC to see if the money held in the War Memorial Fund can be handed over to Friends of Garve War Memorial.
Crash barriers – the crash barrier at Gorstan junction was damaged recently also the damaged crash barrier at Grudie has yet to be repaired 15 months later. The Gorstan barrier will be repaired by Bear – they do regular checks every week. The Chairman to follow up the Grudie barrier.
Kenny Maclean raised 2 items - Ward Forums discussing Police and Fire Policy also the West Highland and Islands Local Development Plan will be held Plockton Village Hall, 3pm Thurs 22nd Jan; Poolewe Village Hall, 2pm Fri 23rd Jan; Ullapool Village Hall, 3pm Tue 27th Jan.
Some items have been left at the recycle bins in Achnasheen. Chairman to contact June Ross.

Scottish Government Land Reform – no comments.
HC review of website – G&DCC answered questions on ease of use etc of HC website.
Planning: No new planning applications.
One application has been determined, Achnasheen Post Office - Change of use from post office to holiday letting unit. Permission granted for 3 years.
Carn Gorm Windfarm – P.I. Renewables have appealed to the Scottish Government regarding HC decision to refuse planning permission for the Windfarm on the basis of visual impact. The document is available on the HC website.
Date of next meeting:
Tues 3rd Feb 2015, 7pm in Garve Village Hall.
Tues 3rd Mar 2015, 7pm in Achnasheen Village Hall
Tues 7th Apr 2015, 7pm in Garve Village Hall

The Chairman thanked everyone for coming and closed the meeting at 9.55pm.

Appendix – Proposed E-On Construction Community Liaison Group

i. Membership: The CCLG will be formed of Members of the Community Council and any members of the public who would like to volunteer for the group. The developer will advertise the opportunity for the CCLG via a newspaper advert placed in a local paper. The Group will not exceed 15 members so that productive discussions can be held, and the developer will be responsible for signing off the membership list in conjunction with the Community Council, and establishing a procedure for alternative members in light of apologies.
ii. Meeting Frequency: The CCLG will be invited to regular meetings (at least quarterly) and at least 1 month prior to the commencement of the construction, and will be issued with full contact details should they wish to request a meeting outside of the agreed times (i.e. if an issue should arise).
iii. Meeting Content: The CCLG meetings will consist of project updates so we can explain the current build programme, including hours of operation, vehicle movements, peak traffic volumes, etc. This will give Members the opportunity to raise any issues that they have with the construction programme and its impacts. An action list from the meeting shall be taken away by the developer to address any concerns raised, as far as it is practicable to do so, and an update on how each matter has or has not been addressed will be given at the next quarterly meeting.
iv. Responsibility: The arranging and organising of the quarterly meetings will lie with the developer. The developer will agree suitable dates and times, and arrange the venue, in consultation with the Members of the CCLG.


Draft Minutes of Garve & District Community Council meeting held 2nd Dec 2014 in Garve Village Hall

Present: Kenny MacLean (Chairman), Jean Hollingdale (Secretary), Jean Bailey (Treasurer), Sue Tarr (Minute Sec); Cllr Ian Cockburn; Dennis Kearney; no members of public.

The Chairman opened the meeting at 7pm and welcomed everyone.

Apologies: Eliza Leslie Melville, Bob Moir, Jennifer Haslam, Alex Mackenzie.
Declarations of Interest: none.
Dennis Kearney donated a box of biscuits to G&DCC.

The Chairman moved planning items forward on the agenda so that Dennis Kearney could inform the meeting about the application to renew the license for Achnasheen Quarry on Loch Rosque Estate.
The application does not increase the area of the quarry; there is a remaining outcrop of rock within the current boundary which will not be extracted before the current license expires. Renewal of the license is to allow this outcrop of rock to be extracted. SEPA have no objections; issues with HC about access onto road expect to be resolved at a meeting next week; no other objections have been raised. There are no changes planned to the way the quarry operates. It is not in continuous use and uses mobile plant. It currently supplies rock for the new Mossford – Beauly pylon road.

Planning Applications: one application has been determined, Installation of 500kW hydro electric scheme incl erection of powerhouse and intake structures (Allt Coire nan Laogh), Land to west of Achnasheen Quarry – permission granted subject to conditions (which include G&DCC representation that trees should not be felled during nesting season).
One new application, Achnasheen Quarry – Continuation of rock extraction (renewal of planning permission) – members had no comments.

Chairman’s Comments: G&DCC members attended the Remembrance Service at Garve. Friends of Garve War Memorial hosted a very pleasant tea in the hall afterwards which was very well attended. The Chairman was unable to attend the Biosphere meeting, but Cllr Cockburn reported that it was well attended and the Biosphere has had approval to move on to next phase; a Biosphere proposal will be submitted to UNESCO within the next 6 months.
There will be no Church of Scotland service at Kinlochluichart on 14th or 28th Dec.
All G&DCC minutes and agendas are available on our website
www.community-council.org.uk/garveanddistrict  They are also available at
Garve PO, on Garve and Achnasheen Village notice boards, in the AGNV and on the AGNV website, direct from the Secretary on gdcc@fsmail.net, tel/fax 01997 414201 and at every G&DCC meeting.
All G&DCC correspondence should be directed to gdcc@fsmail.net

Approval of the minutes of meeting held 4th Nov 2014: proposed by Jean Hollingdale and seconded by Kenny MacLean.

Matters Arising:
Over 60’s Party – 34 attended. Unfortunately the school children were unable to do carol singing due to a bug going round. Sue Tarr to write a report, covering letter and copy of invoices for LCT. G&DCC to purchase 52 £10 tokens for those unable to attend the party.
Fundraising – discussions in New Year about next year’s Garden Produce Show and other fundraising ideas.
E-On update – there is a new contact, Leanne Taylor. G&DCC to request regular email updates.
Gouges on road, Achanalt – HC have categorized these and will monitor them. Sec to pass on details to the member of public who raised concerns.
Footbridge, Achanalt – Network Rail is investigating the enquiry.
Fly tipping and sunken road at Tarvie – Cllr Cockburn has passed it on.
Level Crossing Barriers, Garve – HC have lodged a complaint with network rail about the power failure causing the barriers to come down.
Strathgarve Potholes – there are some very serious potholes at Strathgarve and G&DCC is concerned about access for elderly residents. Cllr Cockburn to deal with.
HC Budget Consultation – this will report to council members later this month.
Police – Chief Inspector Iain Maclelland is the new North Area Commander and is based in Dingwall.

Treasurer’s Report: The treasurer would like to discuss with members at the next meeting about how fundraising proceeds are allocated.
G&DCC has received a donation towards the Senior Citizens fund of £50.

Total balance b/f 2926.05

Senior Citizens Fund b/f 953.66
Less P.O. – stamps -25.44
Add Grant LCT 1000.00
Add Donation 50.00 1978.22

Bench Fund 50.00
Add transfer – ref Garden Show 50.00 100.00

War Memorial – no change 140.86 140.86

Treasurers Acc b/f 1781.53
Less – Achnasheen Amenities hire -30.00
Less – transfer to Bench Fund – ref Garden Show -50.00 1701.53

Carried Forward £3920.61

Strathpeffer CC mins; Bob Moir – Update on Garve Level Crossing Blog; Sue Tarr - Changeover Of North Area Commander Of Police – Now Iain MacLelland; Policy – Youth Criminal Justice – Strathclyde University Survey; Policy – Community Councils Web Site; Highland Third Sector – Newsletter; Third Sector – Employability Seminar 5th December 2014;
Lochcarron CC mins; Robbie Bain – Simon Young – Re Achanalt Road Surface; Lucy Robison – Wester Ross Biosphere  News; Policy – NHS Highland – Looking for Recruitment of Lay Members for 2 Board Committees; Policy – Planning Matters Requesting Feedback; Carolyn Wilson – Independent Cllr. Highland Council – Press Release.
By Post - Network Rail.

AOB: none.
Consultations: members completed the Youth and Criminal Justice Survey.
Dates of meetings for 2015: Kenny MacLean proposed the dates, times and venues as follows and Jean Hollingdale seconded. All in favour.
Tues 6 Jan 2015 7pm Garve Village Hall
Tues 3 Feb 2015 7pm Garve Village Hall
Tues 3 Mar 2015 7pm Achnasheen Village Hall
Tues 7 Apr 2015 7pm Garve Village Hall
Tues 5 May 2015 7pm Achnasheen Village Hall
Tues 2 Jun 2015 AGM followed by an ordinary meeting at 7pm Garve Village Hall
Tues 7 Jul 2015 7pm Achnasheen Village Hall
Tues 4 Aug 2015 7pm Garve Village Hall
Tues 1 Sep 2015 7pm Achnasheen Village Hall
Tues 6 Oct 2015 7pm Garve Village Hall
Tues 3 Nov 2015 7pm Achnasheen Village Hall
Tues 1 Dec 2015 7pm Garve Village Hall

The Chairman thanked everyone for attending and closed the meeting at 8.30pm.

Ross County’s best signing

According to a 2013 survey, if, throughout your working life you have 6 different jobs, 4 career changes, 875 arguments with colleagues and are late 154 times, you’re the typical British worker. Furthermore, the average Brit moves home 8 times. So I’m proud to present the Achnasheen resident and my very good neighbour, who defies these statistics.
In September 2014, game keeper, Ronnie Ross, known to so many of you, celebrated 50 years living and working on the Lochrosque estate and for the same employer, Pat Wilson. When I heard about this, I was keen for Ronnie to share some of his thoughts and memories with AGNV readers. At the end of a very long day working with sheep, Ronnie generously found time to talk to me.

His Achnasheen story started in October 1960 when his parents, Tommy and Sybil and their three sons, Tommy, Ronnie and David, moved from Clunie to the Ledgowan estate. Tommy Senior, originally from Achnagart in Kintail, came to work for Angus Macdonald, the estate owner at that time. Ronnie recalled his father’s first job of rounding up all the estate’s sheep for valuation.

‘From the early days I went everywhere with my father when he was working with sheep’.
Ronnie finished his primary school year in Achnasheen before attending Dingwall Academy until the age of 15. When Perthshire farmer, Pat Wilson, bought the Lochrosque estate in 1960, he increased sheep numbers and sent up cattle from Perth in the summer. This created too much work for Jimmy Gallagher who was employed on the estate at the time, so Pat Wilson asked Tommy Ross if Ronnie would take a full-time job alongside Jimmy.

‘And the rest is history,’ commented Ronnie.

Jimmy didn’t have a driving licence but he had a cart which was pulled by Donald the horse. Jimmy, Donald and the cart managed to do then what a pickup and trailer would do today: putting out bales of hay for the sheep in the snow, the horse pulling the cart through high drifts. The cart was such that Ronnie could push it around himself but thankfully he got a provisional driving licence at the age of 17. ‘When the first Landrover came on the scene, poor old Donald was put out to grass.’

I asked Ronnie how work on the estate in the 1960s differed from today. It was much harder then,
particularly the shearing which was done by hand until the late 1970s. Originally Lochrosque covered 15,000 acres and was running about 1200 lambing sheep. However, 4000 sheep were sheared as those on the Lochcarron, Ledgowan and Strathbran estates were also included. On some days, 10 people were working with hand shears, with 2 people preparing the sheep and sometimes 2 older shearers sitting and clipping away at fleeces. When a shearer finished an animal he called for the marking iron. Each estate had its own paint colour so that the sheep could be identified if different flocks mixed up together on the hill. Nor were there any argocats so the shepherds walked far out and back gathering sheep.

About 20 years ago the estate doubled in size when land was bought from Kinlochewe and Fannich. Despite this, sheep numbers have reduced by about half due to increases in winter feed bills.
I was interested to know the pattern of the year on the estate and Ronnie explained this to me.
In January the sheep start to be fed and hinds continue to be shot until 15th February. From then until the 20th of April, the time is used for feeding, dosing and working the sheep as well as repair and maintenance work on the estate. Prior to lambing, there is a search for foxes to prevent them killing lambs. Years ago, fox dens were discovered surrounded by dead lambs. Nowadays this is less common. Numbers have been controlled and an increase in forestry plantations offers alternative food sources such as mice and voles. After lambing the lambs are marked. Again Ronnie recalled the marking system whereby all the different estate shepherds working as a team started at Glencarron on the first Monday in June, then a few days later moved onto Ledgowan and finished up with Lochrosque. The sequence of shearing was then in reverse, i.e. Lochrosque, Ledgowan and Glencarron. This lasted for almost 30 years until Glencarron sold its sheep and Ledgowan reduced numbers. Tommy Ross Senior and his eldest son, also named Tommy, took over as joint stalkers and shepherds on the Ledgowan estate so that the two neighbouring estates were placed in the
capable hands of the Ross dynasty.

Continuing on through the year, the shearing is finished by the first Thursday in August, coinciding with the Black Isle Show. There used to be grouse shooting on Lochrosque, from the Glorious 12th of August till the end of the month. At the end of August the sheep are gathered in to collect the lambs for the sales. This is followed by deer stalking with stag shooting ceasing on 20th October. October. Two quieter weeks follow for more estate maintenance before the sheep are gathered to
put the rams out to them in November. Culling of hinds continues to the 15th February by which time an entire year has passed.

‘It’s what makes the job interesting, not doing the same thing every day. I like working with the dogs too. I’m chuffed to bits when I see the young dogs change and they’re keen to work with the sheep.’ Ronnie explained that when Lochrosque was a smaller estate they shot about 45 stags annually. Nowadays it’s almost 70 and approximately 200 hinds and calves. Over the years the deer population has remained relatively stable on the estate. This is the result of a well-managed cull which is adjusted annually according to winter mortality rates. I reminded him of the time I watched him fly off in a helicopter to help with a deer count.
‘When they landed they didn’t wait for the rotary blades to stop,’ he said. ‘They just opened the door and beckoned me over. I’d seen a few films so I knew what to do!’

With so much reported about climate change and whether or not there is such a thing, I wondered if
Ronnie had noticed a change in weather conditions over the years. In winter time there was more snow and frost at night with dry, blue-sky days to follow. He remembered playing football on a frozen Lochrosque and at Loch Fannich, they used to walk the sheep across the ice. Then about 10 years ago, the winter snow was replaced with rain and gales. Flood warnings led to him gathering sheep off riverbanks at 2.00am. More recently he’s noticed a bit more snow and drier weather but the predictions for global warming foresee wetter winters, so who knows?
Ronnie recalled a terrible spring a few years ago. It had rained all day and during the night the weather turned really cold. Visibly moved by the memory he said,‘When I got up the next morning the hill was white with dead lambs. But that’s nature and you can’t do anything about it’.

Ronnie set about the task of saving as many animals as possible. ‘As the night came on, I had a shed full of lambs and they were perishing in front of my eyes. I don’t know how many I collected and I didn’t have time to go and get the mothers. I was putting lambs in the pickup with the engine running and the heater on. Others were under a big heating lamp in the shed. Then I was marking their ears in different colours relating to the various places I remember finding them and writing it
all down in a book. When morning came we went to the mothers in these places to try and match the lambs. But there was no shortage of mothers to put the lambs on to. Everywhere, they were standing over their own dead lambs.’

Behind this successful gamekeeper there is, naturally, an extraordinary woman. Ronnie’s wife, Dena, formerly a Maclennan from Luskentyre, Isle of Harris and a fluent Gaelic speaker, came to work in the Station Hotel, Achnahseen, in the early 1960s. According to Ronnie, Dena claims that the first time she saw him was when he walked past the hotel with the horse and cart. ‘So that’s nothing to be proud of,’ he said with a smile. ‘She was working with another girl and they must
have been eyeing up the local talent.’ They were married in 1968 and while the house which they still live in today was being built,they stayed in a caravan which Ronnie towed up from Whitebridge and sited next to Achnasheen Lodge. The first winters in the new house were very cold and Ronnie remembered the early mornings. ‘It was so cold you’d have to use a comb to scrape the
ice of the insides of the windows.’ Their daughter, Christine, was born, soon followed by son, Kenny, who started working alongside Ronnie at the age of 17.

‘At that time, Kenny had no interest in the slightest of working with sheep,’ Ronnie said. ‘I had to pull him by the ear to get him to come over and chase a sheep through a shed.’ All that obviously changed as Kenny has been working with his father for 27 years. Dena was busy as mother and housewife as well as making meals for shepherds and estate workers among many other chores. Later on she had a full time job in Tony Holland’s jewellery shop in the village. Today, she fulfills a vital role in social services escorting young, vulnerable children on family visits throughout the
region, while still supporting Ronnie in his work. AND she bakes some of the most mouth-watering scones I have ever tasted – she makes Superwoman look like an amateur!

I asked Ronnie what Achnasheen was like when he first arrived. He described the old single track road snaking through the village. Neither Bignold Place nor Arthur’s Terrace and their houses had been built. On the now disused petrol station site there was a garage with a single fuel pump. Sheds and garages in the village also housed vehicles used by the hotel. A bus met the train and went to Aultbea every day and a parcel lorry collected mail from the train which was sorted in Achnasheen and then distributed. Ronnie remembers Donald Hogg coming from Strathbran with a tractor and trailer to shovel coal from the train’s coal wagon to be delivered to the estate houses. 100 Lochrosque cattle also arrived from Perth on a special train for the summer grazing and were returned in September. And before the days of supermarkets delivering to the door, there were other vans doing the rounds: two butchers, a greengrocer, the occasional clothes van and two grocers, Colin Urquhart from Beauly and George Spark from Strathpeffer.

People who generally lack imagination and initiative often ask me what on earth I find to do in and around Achnasheen. I have no trouble replying and Ronnie likewise was and still is very busy in his spare time. ‘Every night there was something to do.’ Monday was the curling club, organized by Graham Millard, then the owner of the Ledgowan Hotel. A group, including Ronnie’s brother, Tommy, would go to Inverness ice rink twice a week. Tuesday was Rifle Club in Kinlochewe, where Ronnie and his other brother, David, were keen attendees. Wednesday was shinty training and on Thursday there was a whist drive at one of the halls in Achnasheen, Kinlochewe, Garve
or Achanalt. These halls also held ceilidhs on Friday nights and then Saturday was playing shinty. This has been a lifelong passion for Ronnie. ‘I hardly missed a game in my life except the occasional one for stalking. Dedication is the name of the game.’

Sunday was a day of rest, the only day he’d be at home in his 20s. And I’m not surprised.With the mention of ceilidhs, I am also reminded that Dena and Ronnie are excellent and enthusiastic dancers. ‘I used to go to the village hall as a young boy and not be shy to dance. Nowadays, they’ll all sit, boys on one side, girls on another. Then the last dance comes along and there’s a panic and they’re diving about looking for a girl to ask for the last dance!’

And Dena, coming from Harris where dancing was popular, knew all the steps and gladly joined in, added Ronnie. However, things were a little different in Dingwall. ‘It’s where you’d find the twist and shout.’

Nowadays, Ronnie may no longer be playing shinty but he’s a keen golfer and a top marksman in the Achnasheen Gun Club. Kenny has followed in his father’s shinty and shooting footsteps and no doubt this leads to some healthy rivalry. Ronnie was 65 in March and has no plans to retire yet. And why should he, when he has such a good working partnership and he loves his job?

Revisiting the 2013 survey, I learned that the things people want from their working lives are a job that offers challenges, personal satisfaction and suits their abilities and the opportunity to pursue an area of personal interest. In the last 50 years, I think Ronnie’s life has ticked all these boxes and more.
‘People ask me, what are you keeping going for, are you not going to retire? But I still enjoy what I do and it’s a way of life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d still be here after 50 years.’

On behalf of the community, may I offer many, many congratulations to our dear friend and neighbour on such a magnificent achievement. We hope you’ve marked the occasion with a celebration or two.

However, this is no excuse to be turning up late for work!

Moira Harris


Tuesday 6 January 2015, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall

Tuesday 3 February 2015, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall

Tuesday 3 March 2015, 7.00pm, Achnasheen Village Hall

Tuesday 7 April 2015, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall

Tuesday 5 May 2015, 7.00pm, Achnasheen Village Hall

Tuesday 2 June 2015, AGM followed by an ordinary meeting, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall

Tuesday 7 July 2015, 7.00pm, Achnasheen Village Hall

Tuesday 4 August 2015, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall

Tuesday 1 September 2015, 7.00pm, Achnasheen Village Hall

Tuesday 6 October 2015, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall

Tuesday 3 November 2015, 7.00pm, Achnasheen Village Hall

Tuesday 1 December 2015, 7.00pm, Garve Village Hall