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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 3rd February 2001
Issue No 217

Kilt Wearing Marksmen Lose their Appeal

Two champion marksmen who represented Scotland at an international competition - but were kicked off the team for wearing their kilts - have lost their bid to be reinstated.

Sports officials denied requests by clay pigeon shooters Drew Christie and Derek Stewart, to lift the one year suspension handed to them in August of last year after they showed up at an awards banquet in Braveheart Warrior tartan, rather than the team's regulation blue blazer and grey trousers. The two athletes hoped the Scottish Clay Target Association would lift their appeal at its recent annual meeting in Stirling. But in a vote, more than two thirds of about 70 members turned down the appeal. Mr Stewart, from Dundee, said: "I'm absolutely gutted. I'm very disappointed. I cannot believe that I'm not allowed to shoot for Scotland." The pair, from Forfar, Angus, said they may now join an English shooting association, though they will not be able to represent them either because they have already competed for Scotland. They were suspended after an event at the Hollowtown Shooting Ground in Northern Ireland. They chose to wear full Highland dress at the event's post match banquet and prize giving and received compliments from other team members. But their choice of dress angered the sport's governing body, the Scottish Clay Target Association (SCTA). The association sent the pair a short letter informing them they were no longer part of the team. Mr Christie, who has been a member of the association for six years, was devastated. He said: "I could not believe it when I read it. I was totally shocked. It is not as if I cheated or anything." Mr Christies father, Gavin, branded the association's dress code outdated and said it should include such an important Scottish symbol. The SCTA has now asked the two competitors to write them a formal letter explaining why they should be allowed to return to the team. They told the pair the SCTA would review the suspension again early this year. The SCTA has stood by the bans since issuing their controversial decision. It argues that Mr Christie and Mr Stewart had been banned for ignoring the rules of the team, and not specifically because they wore kilts. The association also said team members were told last spring that if they do not wear the official uniform they would be banned from competing in Scotland for a year. One member of the SCTA, who voted to uphold the suspension but refused to give his name, said: "From a member's point of view, it was an easy decision. They broke the rules and they were suspended. Rules are rules. "I think the whole controversy about the kilts has been overblown."

Guest of Honour

A founder member of the Rotary Club of Lochaber returned to Fort William recently from his home in Canada to be guest of honour at the club's 50th anniversary celebrations. Charlie Steel is the only surviving Rotarian od the 16 who formed the club in 1950. Formerly the accountant at the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William, and of the Great Glen Cattle Ranch at Torlundy, just outside the town, Mr Steel was the very first secretary of the club and its fourth president. A year ago, when the present council and committee of the club were planning the golden jubilee dinner dance, they contacted relatives and friends of the original members, in order to issue "all expenses paid" invitations to the club founders. Charlie Steel, who now lives in the Ontario town of Elliot Lake, proved to be the only original members still alive, and the club was pleased to bring him 4000 miles back to his "Rotary home". Mr Steel, in company with current club president, Alan Kirk, and the newest member, Ian Michie< who has moved to Lochaber from Inverness where he was a long serving Rotarian, cut the celebratory birthday cake. And, in a neat speech, Mr Steel, took the 150 guests, several of them sons of the fellow founders down a "Fort William memory lane", in his reminiscence of the town of half a century ago. Alan Kirk, on what he described as a "real milestone in the history of the Rotary Club of Lochaber", also welcomed representatives of 18 Rotary Clubs from throughout the UK, who had all come to the West Highland town for the occasion.

Isles Road Hopes Rise

Long awaited upgrading of the Road to the Isles has took a step nearer recently with four contractors considering bidding for the 10 million tender. Tenders for the project were sent out by the Scottish Executive last September and were returned last month with a start being made slightly later than earlier proposed. The scheme, which was announced by Scottish Transport Minister Sarah Boyack in December, will see the single track stretch of the A830 between Arisaig and Kinsadel upgraded to two lanes. It comes after a 30 year campaign by politicians and villagers along the route, but will leave the final single track section, between Arisaig and Loch nam Uamh still to be tackled.

New Hall Named

An Inverness-shire community is planning to honour the memory of one of its best loved residents by naming its proposed new church extension after him. The villagers of Strathnairn have submitted plans to build a meeting room onto St Paul's Episcopal Church, and hope that if the plans get the go ahead, they can name the small building after one of its strongest supporters, the late Canon Stewart Mallin. Mr Mallin officially retired as resident priest at the church in 1990 but stayed on as a non-stipendiary priest until he died in January last year. But for many years he had been calling for a hall to be added to the church so members of the vestry could have their meetings there, coffee mornings could be held and small fundraising events like whist drives could be staged. Vestry treasurer Brian Steptoe said that Mr Mallin was well known, not only in Strathnairn, but all over the North where he had worked for 35 years. "He was a real character. He knew everybody in the area and they all knew him. "He was the prime mover in getting plans for a church hall off the ground and it is a great pity he will not be here to see the plans go any further," said Mr Steptoe. Mr Steptoe revealed the community had another reason for wanting the plans to go ahead. "A lot of our congregation travel 50 miles to come to the church, but there is no toilet when they get here," he explained. "We are very keen to have the meeting room built because we really need a loo."

Revised Plans

The Cairngorm Chairlift Co, the operator of the Cairngorm ski resort, has submitted an amended plan for managing visitors to the resort after the mountain railway is built. This is an attempt to meet reservations about visitor management from Scottish Natural Heritage and Highland Council. The project, which has been under construction for mare than a year, is expected to be completed by October. It will be owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and leased to the Cairngorm Chairlift Co. The council refused to approve the visitor management plan (VMP) last September, as did SNH, because they felt a number of important issues had not been clarified. The railway is within the Cairngorm Mountain National Scenic Area and adjacent to the proposed Cairngorms Special Area of Conservation and the Special Protection Area. The VMP was submitted in May of last year, but there were doubts it would safeguard the closed system that was a fundamental condition of the project going ahead. Under the system, non-skiing visitors are not allowed to exit at the Ptarmigan top station, or the Shieling middle station, except in clearly defined circumstances. This meant SNH could support the whole project, because visitors could nit get access to those sites. It was also a condition of funding from the European Regional Development Fund being made available for the project.

Isles in 'Terminal Decline' Claim

Claims the Western Isles are in terminal decline and the economy was being strangled to make the islands into a nature reserve were made recently at a meeting of the policy and resources of Western Isles Council. Committee members were discussing a report on poverty in the Isles, which suggested some remedial actions. Convener Alex Macdonald said there was widespread poverty in the islands and that there should be a development officer in every area to improve prospects. A call for weighting for those areas where there was a greater need was made by former convener Donald M Mackay. Councillor Katie Mackenzie felt there was a need for decentralisation of care for the elderly which would provide jobs in areas out of Stornoway. Councillor Angus Graham said: "I often wonder if we are in terminal decline. We have a problem and should be shouting from the roof tops about it." Barra Councillor Donald Manford declared: "The isles economy is being strangled to make us into a nature reserve."

Wick Treasure Trove Returned

Part of a buried treasure trove discovered in Wick more than 30 years ago was recently returned to where it was found - but this time exhibited in a showcase display. The cache of 73 coins - some of which date back to the late 16th century - was unearthed by two workmen as they dug a drain during the construction of the town's Hillhead School. The bulk of what has become known as the Hillhead Hoard were of continental origin. Some ended up in a museum in Amsterdam and others went to the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh. It is the 11 coins which have been stored anonymously in Highland Council's museum in Wick which were the focus of attention as staff and pupils turned out to celebrate their arrival. School head Ally Budge successfully applied for permission from the local authority to display the coins in the school. Culture and leisure services area manager Graham Nichols took some time to track down the collection which was stashed away in a drawer of the Bruce Buildings museum adjoining Wick's Carnegie Library. The hoard, which spans from 1592 to 1683, include coins from Holland, Belgium, Austria and Italy with a silver merk from the reign of James VI, one of two from Scotland. Mr Budge is unconvinced by a theory that the continental bias of the collection lends weight to the coins having come from a local seafaring merchant who had a house at Hillhead. He said: "The use of silver coins from the continent was apparently common practice. Other hoards which date from the same period have a high proportion of continental silver. "They don't seem to have been so badly clipped as Scottish ones were." The returned coins are displayed in a locked glass case outside the school office.

Charity Event

Community projects and volunteer groups in Inverness are to benefit from a share of a 5800 pay out Co-op customers. Customers in the city's Co-op stores are sharing a bumper 185,000 paid out to them through the Co-op Dividend cardholder scheme. The shoppers have also contributed almost 5800 to Inverness charities and groups through the Community Dividend scheme.

Political Roundup

More Funding

The University of the Highlands and Islands is to receive 2 million more funding from the Scottish Parliament. First Minister Henry McLeish unwrapped this latest package at a conference in Inverness recently, when details of the Scottish Executive's plans to upgrade the university to a designated institution of higher education were announced. That is crucial for the project. It means the 15 constituent UHI colleges and research centres will be eligible for funding by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Rain/showers, snow on hills in N isles and NE. Winds fresh/strong E-SE. Temperature 3c to 8c.
Saturday Night
Snow showers with local blizzards. Winds fresh/strong E. Temperature -3c to 2c.
Colder, a few snow showers, some heavy causing accumulation. In the S temperatures low enough to give rain.
Bright spells with showers, frequent and wintry in places. Some snow over hills. Fresh winds.


This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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