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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 18th January 2003
Issue No 315

1 million Price Tag on MacDonald Title

A Scottish feudal baron wants to see an ancient barony court reactivated to honour locals overlooked by the Queens honours list.

Gaelic speaking landowner Sir Iain Noble is selling the Barony of MacDonald of the Isle of Skye for a record price of 1 million. He said the new baron could honour people for keeping alive local cultural traditions for which they seldom receive recognition. Sir Iain is selling the 800 year old title to fund local projects, including a traditional distillery. Whoever buys the title will be able to call themselves Baron of MacDonald and apply to Scotland's heraldic Lord Lyon King of Arms for a personal coat of arms. A baron's wife can use the courtesy title Lady MacDonald. The price - the highest ever sought for a baronetcy - reflects renewed international interest in Scottish feudal titles and the mystique of the MacDonald name. There have already been inquiries from Canada, America and Australia. But Sir Iain, a merchant banker who has never used the title Baron of MacDonald, believes the old barony court which once dispensed local justice on Skye could be reactivated even though it would have no official status. He said: "The court could be used in an enterprising way to discuss issues meaningful to the area. It could award honours to the kind of people not noticed by the official Queen's Honours list - people strong on local history and oral tradition who have contributed to the cultural life of the community." The MacDonald barony is expected to attract interest from all over the world. There are an estimated 15 million people who can claim the name MacDonald or kinship with Clan Donald. The title, with its roots in the 800 year old Lordship of the Isles, currently held by the Price of Wales, is being sold with the ruins of 15th century MacDonald stronghold Knock Castle and four acres of land. Sir Iain added: "We have never made use of the barony title and we have several projects we could use the capital for in Skye. "The two we have in mind are a distillery, for which we have the perfect buildings, and an educational project to teach wooden boat building skills." He bought the title with 23,000 acres of land 30 years ago from the late Lord Macdonald, chief of Clan Donald. The man handling the sale, researcher and title dealer Brian Hamilton of Baronytitles from Dumfries, said the MacDonald title was the best to come on the market. "Is it worth it? The title is unique. The historical provenance and name are impeccable. Ask anyone, anywhere in the world, to think of a Scottish name and the chances are they will come up with MacDonald," he said. "But I think the truth is we simply do not know what it is worth. No one does. It just happens to be the only one in the world. "We have already received calls from potential buyers in Canada, America and Australia and we are expecting many more - it's the most important barony in Scotland." The present Lord Macdonald and chief of Clan Donald - now running the Kinloch Lodge Hotel on Skye with his wife, Lady Claire Macdonald, has no plans to bid for the titles. He said: "It would be nice if the title went to a member of Clan Donald. But at the very least, I hope the buyer will use the name and title in the best interests of the name of our great clan and of Skye."

Top Awards for the Highlands

Three Chimneys, clootie dumplings and heather all figured in a ceremony recently to honour leading lights of the Scottish tourist industry. Seven Highland and Argyll businesses received plaudits at the 11th annual VisitScotland Thistle Awards in Edinburgh, known as the Scottish tourism Oscars. Shirley Spear, owner of the renowned Three Chimneys restaurant on Skye, picked up the Individual Excellence award at the event. Mrs Spear said: "I'm absolutely thrilled - it's a lovely award to have. "I need to thank my staff and suppliers - local fishermen and growers all from the Highlands. I couldn't exist without them." The Three Chimneys on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, with a seafood based menu already recognised as one of the best in the world, is run by Mrs Spear and husband Eddie. Dulnain based Speyside Heather Centre garnered the Skills for Success: Small Company award - a fitting 30th anniversary present for the attraction. The family business, owned by David and Elizabeth Lambie and their sons, has hosted shows of over 300 varieties of heather, and offers a record selection of clootie dumplings in its restaurant. Bill and Sukie Barber, of Spean Bridge's Old Pines Restaurant with Rooms, received the Flavour of Scotland award, while Isle of Bute Discovery Centre picked up the Area Tourism Initiative award.

Woody Woodpeckers Bill

Staff at a power comp nay's HQ blew a fuse recently because of a new problem - supercharged woodpeckers. Now bosses at Scottish Hydro Electric are facing a 60,000 bill. That's the cost of replacing an entire six mile long power line after the Highland power peckers did what they do best - drill holes in wooden poles. Last summer the birds targeted the 30ft high poles on the remote cross country line between Barcaldine and Benderloch in Argyll, causing excessive woodpecker damage. The birds destroyed 34 of the 65 poles carrying high voltage power lines. Now the 12 inch diameter poles resemble Swiss cheese and are in danger of collapsing. A spokesman for Scottish Hydro Electric said: "Local ornithologists are baffled by the antics of the birds but have identified them as Greater Spotted woodpeckers which have an inch long, iron hard bills. "We are not sure why they preferred our poles to local trees. But for some reason it appeared to be a local problem. There are no reports of them attacking any of the other lines in the network. "At first we had no idea what was causing the holes because the damage was too high up to have been done by people or animals. "There were far too many of them to have been the result of target practice but as more and more began to appear the woodpeckers were identified. "They did not seem to be eating the poles, just pecking away like mad looking for their usual insect food. "But they were very busy. There are so many holes in the poles they will be replaced and the cost for each is 150."

The Lochy Monster

The father of Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy believes he may have unearthed the remains of "Lizzie" the legendary monster of Loch Lochy, near the family graveyard in Lochaber. Ian Kennedy revealed recently he had made his unusual discovery while rebuilding a footbridge to the site at Clunes, near Achnacarry, in preparation for the funeral of his brother Donald. "When I went to check the graveyard, I found that floods had carried the bridge away," he explained. "So I set about building a new footbridge. While I was working on the bridge, I found the remains of the skeleton. "There was no head and no tail, but the rest of it was 4ft 8 and a half inches long. It has a thick neck, 12 ribs, six horizontal bones from the vertebrae to the pelvis and two hind legs." Mr Kennedy, who has a croft at Lochyside near Fort William, continued: "It has massive two toed feet, with a long talon on the end of each toe, making it look rather like a brid's leg. "But the strange thing about it is that it has a dorsal fin about three inches high and spiky bones jutting out about three inches all the way along its back. "I wish I had found the head and tail as it would make it easier to identify, but I think it's a lizard like creature, called a Thecodont. "It could well be the monster that was seen in Loch Lochy. I think it probably swam up from the loch and came to a sticky end where I found it," he said.

Beauly Trees Axed

Conservation programmes at two Historic Scotland properties in the Highlands had a number of trees and undergrowth removed recently. Both Clava Cairns, east of Inverness and Beauly Priory had some trees removed to protect the built structures and architecture on the site and to protect visitors from potential danger. Historic Scotland district architect Stephen Watt said: "The well established beech trees at Clava Cairns remained but a number of smaller trees, predominantly sycamore, were removed. "Many of these trees suffered stunted growth, due to their proximity to older trees, and obscured the impact of the ancient cairns at the site. "More than 120 trees remain on this relatively small site, however those trees will be pruned, where necessary to remove dead wood, and lift the crowns where branches interfere with the monument or have branches so low that they might be dangerous to traffic on the nearby road." At Beauly, two of the 11 trees on the site were removed. One cherry tree was growing too close to an Irish yew to allow the yew to flourish while the second tree removed was an ancient elm tree that was no longer safe nor healthy. Mr Watt said: "The elm was believed to be one of the oldest in northern Scotland so we have taken cuttings from the tree for propagation and replanting when the resulting saplings reach a suitable size."

Transatlantic Ambitions

The Highland Council and the Provincial Government of Nova Scotia have signed an agreement which will provide the basis for a range of joint initiatives between the two areas. A Memorandum of Understanding will encourage organisations in both areas to share experience, knowledge and information and also work together on a number of common themes related to heritage, tourism and culture. In signing the agreement recently in Mabou, Nova Scotia, Councillor Andy Anderson, chairman of Highland Council's education culture and sport committee said: "We are committed to pursuing the objectives contained in the memorandum and I hope this will see the start of a very fruitful series of partnerships and learning opportunities." Rodney MacDonald, Minister for Tourism and Culture in the Nova Scotian government, proposed the Memorandum of Understanding on a visit to the Highlands in 2001. He said: "I believe it will also strengthen and encourage Gaelic communities on both sides of the Atlantic to design and implement new, creative co-operative projects to preserve and develop the Gaelic language and culture. It will help them develop mutually beneficial activities and products that will lead Gaelic speaking communities to a stable and vibrant future."

20 Years in the Making

A retired Moray teacher has compiled what academics have hailed as probably the most comprehensive Gaelic dictionary to appear in print. It took Colin Mark two decades to complete. The dictionary, which has just been published, runs to nearly 400 pages and contains about 90,000 entries. His feat is all the more remarkable because he is not a native Gaelic speaker. Mr Mark was born in Peterhead, where all he heard as he grew up was the Doric. His interest in Gaelic stemmed from his passion for hill climbing as a young man. "I would come across Gaelic place names and I used to look them up in Gaelic dictionaries to see what they meant," he said. "I tried to learn Gaelic several times but there weren't any classes at that time." Mr Mark was in his 40s before he finally went to Gaelic classes, although he has concentrated on the written rather than spoken language because of a shortage of native Gaelic speakers. The idea of compiling a dictionary arose by accident. "The dictionaries I had been using were quite old and a bit out of date and there were quite a few words I could not find," he said. "I started writing down Gaelic words in an index system until I found out what they meant." Like most languages, Gaelic has evolved over the years and, while some words have gone out of circulation, other have been added. As well as words that are seldom used nowadays, Mr Mark's dictionary includes those in everyday use.

Charity Event

Students and their families and friends at the University of Stirling Highland Campus in Inverness have raised more than 1300 for MacMillan's Largest Coffee Morning. One of the organisers, Isobel Chisholm, paid tribute to everyone who helped and in particular those who had donated prizes for an auction and raffle. "We are very grateful that we received numerous gifts for both raffle and auction prizes," she stated. "As part of an establishment which trains nurses in Highlands for a caring profession, this campus effort will contribute to helping the patients and families with cancer in the Highland area."

Political Roundup

Better Service Called For

Health chiefs have called for a quick improvement to the general practitioner's service in Tighnabruaich, after the issue was raised by Highlands and Islands MSP Mary Scanlon. Ms Scanlon pressed NHS Argyll and Clyde to address the problem after several patients said they felt some of the changes made by the practice's new doctor were not beneficial. The health trust's chief executive Michael Bews said that the trust was aware of the problems raised by the MSP and these would continue to be investigated.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Mainly dry and bright for a time but patchy rain later becoming heavier. Winds light SW'ly. Temperature 3c to 8c.
Saturday Night
Mainly cloudy with scattered showers. Winds light/mod SW'ly. Temperature 0c to 2c.
Generally sunny but some patchy cloud. Remaining mostly dry.
Cloudy skies with outbreaks of light to moderate rain.

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