South Knapdale Transmitter at Meall Mhor

South Knapdale Transmitter at Meall Mhor

As of this evening (Friday 11 November), local radio fans in North Kintyre, Mid-Argyll, West Cowal, Bute and Arran, are able again to enjoy following their favourite programmes on Campbeltown-based Argyll FM’s 107.7 MHz service, thanks to the efforts of the station’s enthusiastic staff.
In recent weeks, a technical fault at the station’s South Knapdale transmitter site left Tarbert Loch Fyne, Lochgilphead, Ardrishaig, and a number of other communities in the northern part of the broadcaster’s catchment area, without reception.
Argyll FM, which is managed and operated on an entirely voluntary basis by its dedicated staff, is well-known throughout the South Argyll region for its broad range of programming and its local information offerings, all tailored to the particular requirements of its largely rural listener base.
Station spokesman John Armour, who with John Galbraith co-hosts the weekly Farming Programme, said today: “I’m pleased to say that we were up at the transmitter at Meall Mhor this afternoon and the new amp is now in place. Hopefully we are now up and running in Mid-Argyll once again. Sorry for the break in transmission over the last couple of weeks”.
In addition to its 107.7 MHz service in Mid-Argyll, Argyll FM broadcasts on 106.5 MHz and 107.1 MHz.
The station is always on the lookout for new presenters. John Armour says: “We are always happy to welcome new presenters. All they really need to do is come in and do a wee bit of training, and as long as they can handle the equipment they can be on-air fairly quickly. They can record shows if they are unable to do them live”.
Anyone interested in taking up this fantastic opportunity to contribute to local life in South Argyll should contact the station via or call personally at the studio at 27/29 Longrow, Campbeltown PA28 6ER.

(South Knapdale Transmitter image: © Copyright David Neale and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence)

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Meall Mhor (South Knapdale) transmitter

Meall Mhor (South Knapdale) transmitter

Argyll FM listeners in North Kintyre, Mid-Argyll, West Cowal, Bute and Arran, will have noticed that the Campbeltown-based local radio station, which broadcasts on 107.7 MHz to these areas, has been absent from the airwaves in recent days.

Although the popular Argyll station’s 106.5 MHz and 107.1 MHz services continue to work as normal, an equipment failure at the Meall Mhor mast in South Knapdale has halted temporarily the 107.7 MHz output.

Last Friday (28 October), in an effort to reinstate the disrupted service, staff from the Campbeltown station visited the hilltop site at Meall Mhor, taking with them some replacement equipment. On-site checks revealed that the breakdown was more extensive than anticipated. As a result, they were forced to order a brand new amplifier, which is being custom-built and should see the station’s Meall Mhor service back on the air within the next 2-3 weeks.

Argyll FM spokesman and Farming Programme co-presenter John Armour explained: “We don’t keep a replacement unit at the station for situations like this because they cost between £2000 and £3000 and could be sitting around for years not needed; in addition, we haven’t had funds to be able to do that.”

He continued: “Thankfully, due to fundraising, donations, and, of course, advertising revenue, during the last few months, we do have funds to cover the cost of a new amp”.

John reports that the station’s Meall Mhor coverage will be reinstated as soon as the new amplifier arrives.

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Tarbert Castle

Tarbert Castle

Tarbert Conservation Initiative (TCI) has arranged for dry stone wall builder Douglas Irving to carry out cairn-building at Tarbert Castle on Wednesday 26 October and Thursday 27 October.  Interpretation panels for the information of visitors will be mounted on the finished cairns.

According to Robert McPhail of TCI, Douglas will be at the castle from 10am on both days, and will probably be working at the castle on Friday 28 October also.

Robert McPhail of Tarbert Conservation Initiative

TCI spokesman Robert McPhail

Robert added: “If you are interested in learning by just watching or helping, please come up and visit”.

Robert can be contacted at (e-mail) sonamarg at

The new cairns and interpretation panels mark the final phase of Tarbert Castle’s conservation strategy, which was prepared five years ago by TCI’s parent organisation Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust (TSCT).  Much of the work has been carried out by local volunteers, including local schoolchildren.

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Local organisations in North Kintyre are set to benefit financially from funds raised as a result of this year’s Tarbert Raft Race.

Raft Race poster
Raft Race poster

This week, the event’s organisers announced that a total of £800 would be distributed to local groups.
Tarbert Parish Church will receive £400, whilst Tarbert Music Centre, which provides free tuition in traditional music to school-age children, has been awarded £200.  A further £200 will go to Tarbert Loch Fyne Yacht Club, which develops the skills of young local sailors through its Topper dinghy programme.
In addition, the Fire Brigade Benevolent Fund will receive £400, whilst Strathclyde Fire & Rescue Preservation Group  –  which supports the Raft Race by displaying its vintage fire engines at the event  –  will be given £100.
Anne Horn, Secretary of Tarbert Music Centre, said: “It’s fantastic to receive this money from the Raft Race at a time when, in order to ensure that the classes continue for the foreseeable future, the Music Centre committee is striving to explore all possible sources of funding”.

Tarbert Loch Fyne Yacht Club

Tarbert Loch Fyne Yacht Club

Andy Peden, Commodore of the village Yacht Club, said: “The donation of £200 to the Yacht Club is great news, and will be really appreciated.  The money will be used to help keep the community’s kids on the water.  It’s a credit to the Raft Race organisers that they have the foresight to fund the goodwill of the community from the proceeds of this enjoyable event.  Well done!”
Parish Church Treasurer Alex Horn commented: “Our church is a landmark building in the village, and its upkeep involves huge costs, so any donation, such as this, towards its maintenance is always a great help”.

The Parish Church, Tarbert Loch Fyne
The Parish Church, Tarbert Loch Fyne

The Raft Race, which in recent years has become an annual fixture in the Tarbert summer festival season, is organised by firefighters and friends of Strathclyde Fire & Rescue’s Tarbert station, and is supported by Tarbert (Loch Fyne) Harbour Authority amongst others.
Full financial details of the 2011 event are available here.

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On Tuesday (12 July), the Royal Air Force Red Arrows paid a visit to Clachan, West Kintyre, when its pilots performed a fly-past to honour a comrade who lost his life 23 years ago.
The elite aerobatic team’s visit coincided with the final stage of a Remembrance project carried out by local primary school pupils and led by the former local Church of Scotland minister.

Dunskeig Hill, Clachan

Dunskeig Hill, Clachan

At breakfast time on Tuesday morning, around 100 people of all ages  –  some local residents, others friends or visitors  –  made their way to the edge of the village and trekked up first a farm road and then sheep tracks to the summit of the hill at Dunskeig.

Local people make their way to the summit of Dunskeig Hill

Local people make their way to the summit of Dunskeig Hill

Encircling the hilltop are the remains of what is believed to be an Iron Age fort, and within it stands a memorial cairn, erected in memory of Flight Lieutenant Neil Duncan MacLachlan who died when his aircraft crashed during Red Arrows training at RAF Scampton in January 1988.  The cairn is believed to have been raised by friends of Neil who were fellow pilots.
At a respectful distance from the cairn, Clachan Youth Club members and helpers set a small campfire and prepared breakfast for those who were beginning to gather at the summit.
The Red Arrows had specified to the minute their anticipated arrival time, and, as many of the walkers absorbed the stunning views of the Sounds of Jura and Gigha, and of West Loch Tarbert, there was much checking of watches and scanning of the sky to the south-west.
As the minutes ticked by, the crowd gravitated to the flattish ground between the Ordnance Survey trig point and Neil MacLachlan’s cairn.

In foreground, the cairn erected in memory of Flt Lt Neil Duncan MacLachlan

In foreground, the cairn erected in memory of Flt Lt Neil Duncan MacLachlan

At precisely 9.14 am, a horizontal line of nine slender shapes, silhouetted against the bright blue of the morning sky, appeared from the direction of Rhunahaorine Point.
As the tight group approached Dunskeig, the distinctive red paintwork of each Hawk aircraft became visible.  With half a mile to go, the pilots activated the Red Arrows’ trademark smoke trails.  For this poignant occasion, no red or blue dye was used  –  just a billowing trail of white vapour behind each jet.
Holding a perfect V formation, and with white nose lights blazing, the nine planes roared overhead.  It sounds ostentatious, but in reality it wasn’t.  It was very simple, very respectful, and very moving.

Red Arrows fly-past, Dunskeig Hill

Red Arrows fly-past, Dunskeig Hill

Each of the aircraft involved was flown by a fast jet pilot drawn from the RAF’s frontline squadrons.  As Red Arrows pilots, their current business is high-speed aerobatics.  Pilots such as these love their work, are conscious of how quickly things can go wrong, and accept the risks involved.  In paying tribute to one of their own, they were as discreet as it’s possible to be in a machine which is nearly 12 metres long and capable of 900 miles per hour.
As the aircraft passed overhead, some in the crowd waved.  All watched intently as the formation, flying onwards up West Loch Tarbert, maintained the impression of flying as one.  The team’s motto  –  Éclat (brilliance)  –  never seemed more appropriate.

The formation banks as one, as Red 10 prepares to rejoin for the onward flight to Prestwick

The formation banks as one, as Red 10 prepares to rejoin for the onward flight to Prestwick

Eventually, the entire formation banked slowly to the right.  The nine scarlet jets turned towards the peaks of Arran, as a singleton  –  the reserve aircraft, flown by Red 10, the team’s Road Manager  –  re-joined the main group for its onward passage to Prestwick and re-fuelling.  Thereafter, the Red Arrows would fly to Greenock, where they were scheduled to display at The Tall Ships Race.
Afterwards, we spoke to the Reverend Martin Grashoff, who, until March this year, was the parish minister for the West of Kintyre.  Having spent two very happy years in Kintyre, he followed his intuition and applied successfully for what is at first sight a very different post, that of chaplain to the UK oil & gas industry, based in Aberdeen.

Rev Martin Grashoff, formerly Minister of Kilcalmonell Parish Church, Clachan

Rev Martin Grashoff, formerly Minister of Kilcalmonell Parish Church, Clachan

During his time in Kintyre, Martin was the school chaplain for the primary schools at Clachan, Rhunahaorine, and Glenbarr.
He explains: “For the three schools, for the last session, I took, as a theme, Remembrance.  We had a lesson about the war memorials, which can be seen in the villages.
“We had a lesson also about a Bible story, about how remembrance works, with stones that remind you of something, and we had planned to continue all that, but then I left for Aberdeen; so it didn’t happen”.
Martin described how, despite his departure for Aberdeen, an opportunity arose subsequently to illustrate the last part of the Remembrance theme, thereby completing his project with the West Kintyre children.  He continued: “Because here, on Dunskeig, we have a monument built by friends of Neil MacLachlan, the Red Arrows pilot who crashed in 1988.  And remembering someone can be climbing a hill and standing there.
“I just applied for a fly-past, and at first it seemed it wasn’t going to happen.  But (the Red Arrows) contacted me personally and said “We really want to do this“, so I was really chuffed with seeing ten Red Arrows here.  I would have been very happy with five of them  –  sometimes they do small formations  –  but it was all nine, with (Red) 10 on the wing.  I’m really pleased.
“Neil MacLachlan was connected to the Clachan area because his family used to  –  and still does  –  come on holiday to the area just at the foot of Dunskeig.  And they are there now”.

The Clachan Youth Club breakfast campfire

The Clachan Youth Club breakfast campfire

Martin feels that, despite the tragic circumstances which brought the Red Arrows to Clachan, Tuesday’s event could be seen also as a celebration of community.  He welcomed the fact that the occasion had brought together at Dunskeig a wide range of local people.
He feels also that the event highlighted the importance of a school within a community, citing the fact that although, with the arrival of the summer holidays, the occasion was no longer a school activity, the same people turned out as would have had the fly-past taken place during term time.  They simply renamed it a community event.

The gathering around Neil MacLachlan's memorial cairn

The gathering around Neil MacLachlan's memorial cairn

He added: “The school and the local community are so interwoven and connected that what happens in the school is for the village, and what happens in the village will include the school.  And that’s how local communities work.  It’s very important”.
He regrets that, owing to the holidays, it proved impossible to involve the pupils at Rhunahaorine and Glenbarr, but he pointed out: “There are some people, from all the way down south on the west side, who have come today  –  some older people  –  and who have climbed this hill”.
We understand that Neil’s mother was present during the fly-past, and that she was able to watch from the shore at Dunskeig.
We understand also that, over and above the MacLachlan family’s holiday connection with Clachan, Neil’s forebears actually farmed at Dunskeig.

Flight Lieutenant Neil Duncan MacLachlan 1955-1988  -  Fighter pilot

Flight Lieutenant Neil Duncan MacLachlan 1955-1988 - Fighter pilot

Neil Duncan MacLachlan is buried in Binbrook (St Mary) Churchyard, Lincolnshire, where his grave is marked by a military headstone.  Prior to transferring to the Red Arrows in October 1987, he flew Lightning jet fighters. 

At the time of his death, Neil was married, with a two week-old child.

The story of one fitting tribute to Neil, by a former comrade, is told here.

Set into Neil’s memorial cairn at Dunskeig is a simple bronze plaque, inscribed as follows:-


2 JULY 1955 – 22 JANUARY 1988
A Fighter Pilot
Always in the hearts of his Family
And in this place he loved
A beloved friend

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On Wednesday (6 July), the paddle steamer Waverley paid its first visit of the season to Tarbert’s newly-refurbished East Pier.

PS Waverley arriving East Pier, Tarbert, on Wednesday

PS Waverley arriving East Pier, Tarbert, on Wednesday

In recent years, the Waverley’s timetable of Tarbert visits has been restricted by the state of the tide, and at times, when berthing at the East Pier, the vessel has required the assistance of fishing boats, acting as tugs.
However, recent strengthening and improvement works to the harbourside facility mean that the iconic ship is once again able to berth unaided, and to do so at any stage of the tide.

Sightseers and intending passengers watch the Waverley's approach

Sightseers and intending passengers watch the Waverley's approach

The recent work, which is expected to ensure that the East Pier remains useable for at least the next 15 years, has allowed the Waverley to resume a full complement of Tarbert visits this summer.

Harbour Master Peter Bates (foreground) monitors the safe berthing of the Waverley

Harbour Master Peter Bates (foreground) monitors the safe berthing of the Waverley

On Wednesday, the vessel’s arrival was crisp and clean.  For the final few yards to the pier, her massive paddle-wheels churned in reverse, bringing her gently to a halt.

The lone piper plays as Waverley prepares to sail
The lone piper plays as Waverley prepares to sail

As disembarking passengers prepared to explore the village, local people and tourists embarked for a two-hour cruise to the Arran Coast.
Alan Macdonald, chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tarbert (Loch Fyne) Harbour Authority (TLFHA), said: “The Waverley has had a long association with Tarbert and its visits have given a lot of enjoyment to many people over the years”.

Harbour Authority chairman Alan MacDonald

Harbour Authority chairman Alan MacDonald

He added: “(The recent work) confirms the Harbour Board’s commitment to the future of the East Pier.  It is hoped that additional passenger boats will be encouraged to use Tarbert as a calling-in point, and as a temporary base for cruising”.
In advance of Wednesday’s visit, the Waverley’s Captain Andy O’Brian, said: “Tarbert is one of our most popular trips, and we are delighted that (the Harbour Authority) has invested in the future of the pier.  Each week in summer, Waverley visits Tarbert, following the route that Queen Victoria made famous on her first visit to Scotland in 1847”.
He added: “The works on the pier secure over 160 years of history!  We hope that the local community will turn out to help celebrate this great achievement …”
Amongst those taking Wednesday’s Arran Coast cruise from Tarbert were friends Joan Smart and Phyllis Marsh, both from Norfolk, who are holidaying in Tarbert.  Prior to boarding, they looked forward to enjoying views of the Kintyre Peninsula and Arran, and to taking home with them memories to savour long after their holiday has ended.  Clearly enjoying their expedition, they embarked to the sound of the pipes.

Joan Smart (left) and Phyllis Marsh
Joan Smart (left) and Phyllis Marsh

The East Pier regeneration project was funded by the European Rural Development Fund (ERDF) via Argyll & Bute Council, by a donation made by a benefactor of the Waverley, and from Tarbert (Loch Fyne) Harbour Authority reserves.

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We’re pleased to report the latest addition to our Mid-Argyll & Kintyre News website  –  our new Sport section.
Click here to read a report, by guest contributor Steve Bleasby, about the Loch Fyne Gallery Ladies Golf Open which was held last Sunday (26 June) at Tarbert Golf Club.

26 June 2011: (l to r) Lady Captain Rona Young, sponsor and runner-up Rae Bleasby, winner Fiona McGlynn, 3rd prizewinner Janeann Reppke, sponsor Steve Bleasby

26 June 2011: (l to r) Lady Captain Rona Young, sponsor and runner-up Rae Bleasby, winner Fiona McGlynn, 3rd prizewinner Janeann Reppke, sponsor Steve Bleasby

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The June issue of our new magazine  –  The Mag  –  has two articles re the Karen Matheson & Special Guests concert at Crear on 18 May.  The first is a review of the event, and the other is an interview of Karen and the members of the band  –  James Grant, Ewen Vernal, Brendan Power, Ed Boyd, and Donald Shaw.  Click here for The Mag’s contents page.

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On Friday 10 June, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will announce formally that it supports a Tarbert & Skipness Community Trust (TSCT) project designed to interpret and improve access to Tarbert Castle.

Works, Tarbert Castle, 18.4.11
Tarbert Castle, 2011, showing stone consolidation work

HLF is awarding £16,000, towards a £20,000 project which will allow the history of the medieval Castle to be accessed more easily and fully interpreted for its visitors.  The funding organisation uses money raised through the National Lottery to sustain and transform a wide range of heritage sites and habitats in order that present and future generations can use, learn from, and enjoy them.

As a result of the efforts of residents, local businesses, and pupils and staff of Tarbert Academy, the necessary £4000 match funding has been raised in the community.

The Community Trust is in the process of formalising a Junior Section, the members of which will contribute content to interpretation panels at the Castle.  Tarbert Conservation Initiative (TCI), TSCT’s in-house volunteer conservation workforce, will carry out some of the project by means of workshops focussing on the subject of Rubble Stone Building.

The timescale of the newly-funded interpretation project will dovetail with the completion, by Autumn 2012, of the Castle’s existing major Stone Consolidation Contract, and will be the final stage of TSCT’s 5-year strategy, which is  designed to save, protect, and open up Tarbert’s local heritage by providing good access and an irreplaceable learning resource for future generations.

TSCT director Robert McPhail, June 2011
TSCT director Robert McPhail

Community Trust director Robert McPhail, who has managed the Castle project from the outset, said: “I’m delighted that this vital element in the project has now been funded  –  thanks to HLF and the community.  This funding package is another endorsement of our Tarbert Community Plan objectives and ideals”.

Colin McLean, Head of HLF in Scotland, said: ”We are pleased to support the Trust’s remarkable efforts in securing the future of Tarbert Castle.  Its involvement of the broader community, and of young people in particular, is an excellent way of ensuring that, for generations to come, the castle will be used and well cared for”.

Tarbert Castle is linked inextricably to King Robert the Bruce, who, in the early part of the 14th Century, according to leading architectural historian Professor Frank Arneil Walker of Strathclyde University, ordered the castle’s second phase of construction.

The Heritage Lottery Fund invests in every part of the UK’s diverse heritage, from museums, parks, and historic places, to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions.  Across the UK, it has supported 33,900 projects, and has allocated £4.4 billion.

Images © Mid-Argyll & Kintyre News 2011
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In a move which will appeal to outdoors and sea life enthusiasts, and which is certain to boost visitor interest in the area, Mid-Argyll boat operator Venture West recently introduced a new programme of wildlife cruises based at Crinan.

In late April, the family-run firm, which for the past 5 years has run boat trips from Tayvallich on Loch Sween, expanded its operation to include a series of daily cruises offering passengers the chance to explore the natural heritage of the Sound of Jura and the waters around the Corryvreckan Whirlpool.

"Venture West"
“Venture West” (Image © Venture West 2011)

Venture West proprietor and life-long boating enthusiast Sandy Campbell has a wealth of experience of the sea around Mid-Argyll, Kintyre, and Jura.  Now he and his brother Neil have teamed up for the firm’s expansion, and each will skipper one of the company’s boats.

Over time, the brothers have formalised their existing boat handling skills, adding qualifications in relevant, and often highly technical, aspects of seamanship.  Sandy holds Yachtsman Offshore and Advanced Powerboat qualifications from the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), authorised for commercial operations, and Neil is due to reach the same level by the end of May.

Venture West operates two boats, of which “North Star” is the latest addition to the company’s fleet.  A sturdy Offshore 105 built in the early ’90s, it is powered by a 350hp Caterpillar diesel built in 2009.  Operating out of the canal basin at Crinan, it offers wildlife-spotting trips lasting typically between 2 and 3 hours, and Sandy points out that the boat’s high sides and weather protection make it particularly family-friendly.

"North Star"
“North Star” (Image © Venture West 2011)

Sandy reports that North Star passengers have a good chance of seeing porpoises, seals, sea eagles, and wild goats, but he emphasises that neither he nor Neil can guarantee sightings of specific species.

North Star’s cruising area contains dolphins, basking sharks, and minke whales, and bird sightings often include ospreys, cormorants, puffins, and golden eagles.  When the vessel skirts the shoreline, it’s not uncommon for passengers to see red deer in their wild habitat.

Unrestricted by a fixed timetable, North Star’s sailing times are determined largely by customer demand.  The boat carries 12 passengers, and fares for a wildlife trip work out typically at £30 per person.

In addition to wildlife-watching, North Star caters for skate fishing and club diving, and can be booked also by film crews and naturalists.

"Venture West"
“Venture West” (Image © Venture West 2011)

Complementing North Star is “Venture West”, bearing the company’s own name.  It is an 11m rigid-hulled inflatable boat, built in August 2009 by respected Northern Ireland firm Redbay Boats.  With twin Yamaha 250hp inboard diesel engines and sterndrive power delivery, it’s the faster of the two vessels, and can cruise at up to 30 knots.

For the past few seasons, this boat has supported the Jura Passenger Ferry, both as a stand-in vessel and as back-up during busy periods, and it has been used also for wildlife trips to locations throughout the Sound of Jura.  In 2010, the vessel appeared in the BBC TV programme “Three Men Go to Scotland”; just one of several occasions on which it has been employed for media work. 

Three Men Go To Scotland
Three Men Go To Scotland (BBC TV) (Image © Venture West 2011)

Like the North Star, “Venture West” is certified by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and by the RYA.

The Campbell brothers intend that this boat, which is on standby for charter out-of-hours, will continue to operate out of Tayvallich, but that, when required, it will be available also for Crinan-based operations.

Advance bookings of “Venture West” can be made for sightseeing and private ferry duties, for distillery visits, and for transporting walkers and cyclists to and from island locations. 

Skervuile Lighthouse, Sound of Jura
Skervuile Lighthouse, Sound of Jura (Image © Venture West 2011)

Both boats can carry bicycles, and well-behaved dogs are welcome on board.

Passengers travelling on either of the company’s vessels are provided with appropriate safety equipment, including lifejackets.

In addition, Sandy advises passengers to bring warm clothing, particularly a warm jacket, as temperatures on the water are generally lower than on dry land.  He emphasises that, as skippers, he and Neil are keen to ensure that their passengers, of whatever age, feel safe and secure throughout their trip, and he recognises that an important element in achieving this is an appreciation by the skipper of what his passengers are looking for from their journey.

Bookings may be made by telephone to 07789 071188, or by e-mail to

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