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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 9th February 2002
Issue No 269

Polish Veterans Pay Respects to War Dead

Three veterans of the Free Polish Army made a poignant pilgrimage from the North east to Easter Ross recently to attend a ceremony honouring comrades who fell in action or who have since died.

Emil Wojcik, from Buckie, Geranrd Balcarek, who lives in Aberlour and Czeslaw Withowski from Elgin, joined a dwindling band of former comrades who attended the annual commemoration service at the Polish Memorial at Castle Gardens, Invergordon. Mr Wojcik, 81 - who still runs a snooker club in Buckie - said the three had decided to make the journey after reading about the event in a local paper. "It was beautiful ceremony, very dignified," he said afterwards. "The memory is now all we have of most of our old friends. This is the first time I have come to the service but in future we'll return, while we have strength to do so." More than 100 people, including six local veterans, their families and friends, attended the service, conducted by retired Church of Scotland minister the Rev Bill Niven, assisted by Free Church minister the Rev Kenneth MacLeod and lay Scottish Episcopal representative Joe Wells. Mr Niven said in his address: "What were these men who left their homeland to fight for freedom like? They were ordinary men, just like us, but also great heroes. They were heroes as much as William Wallace, though their names will never be written in the history books. We gather here in a profound sense of gratitude for their sacrifices." Local veterans on parade were Bruno Palmowski, Otto Stainke, Karol Herman, Dominik Stoltman, Josef Zawinski and Mieyslw Skowronski from North Kessock. Most of the free Polish servicemen who settled in Easter Ross were members of the 25th Polish Infantry Battalion, which was posted to Invergordon in 1945, at the end of World War II. On demob, many either chose to remain in Scotland, or were unable to return to their homeland. An unusual feature of the ceremony was the laying of a wreath in memory of The Scots Royals, the bodyguard of exiled Stuart monarchs in France in the 17th and 18th centuries, and in honour of Polish born Clementina Sobieski, the mother of Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was laid by Joseph Papronty from the Black Isle, on behalf of Prince Michael of Albany, whose family claims descent from the House of Stuart and who has promised to attend the ceremony next year. Local gold medal champion piper Duncan MacGillivray, whose wife Jane is Polish-American, played a Polish hymn tune and the country's national anthem on the pipes.

Nature Reserves 50th Birthday

Britains first National Nature Reserve, in the heart of the Highlands, reached a historic milestone recently with the 50th anniversary of its foundation. The establishment of the Beinn Eighe reserve amid the stunning scenery of Torridon, in Wester Ross, was a landmark for the conservation movement when it was finally declared open 50 years ago. Managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, the geological wildlife and scenic importance of the 4,800 hectare wilderness is now recognised worldwide. The reserve takes its name - Gaelic for file or saw tooth - from a range of mountains with seven tops over 900m high and linked by a 7km ridge, which tower over the village of Kinlochewe, around 50 miles west of Inverness. The reserve is home to the largest of only five fragments of ancient Caledonian forest surviving in Wester Ross. The habitat supports many rare animals and birds, including wildcat, pine martens and the Scottish crossbill. Beinn Eighe's importance for nature conservation was first recognised in the 40s. During that decade, a group of visionary ecologists laid the foundations of nature conservation in the UK, resulting in an Act of Parliament in 1949 which created the Nature Conservancy - one of the predecessors of the SNH. Since the regeneration of the trees on the reserve has been a primary aim of the management, with 450,000 being planted between 1954 and 1980. Deer are another feature of the reserve and the first deer management group in Scotland was set up there in 1969. Beinn Eighe, which has received a number of prestigious national and international awards over the years, is visited by as many as 30,000 people a year.

Revamping the Paths

A new 1.2million path project aimed at improving community networks, is paving its way in the Highlands. Five access officers have been hired by the Highlands Access Project for three years to refurbish, waymark and promote 1.300km of existing paths and create 10km of new paths in the region. The scheme aims to create a sustainable network of low level pathways for the benefit of both local residents and visitors. Key criteria for projects include initiatives that are socially inclusive, meet the needs of local communities, attract visitors to the Highlands and achieve value for money in the long term through effective management plans. The project has also been established to implement part of the Highlands and Islands Access Strategy and to identify access issues arising from the forthcoming land reform and access legislation. Partners are Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Paths for All Partnership. The European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund has also given a grant of 409,000 towards the project.

Virtual Scottish Accent

Urgent elocution lessons are on order for Seonaid, the Scottish Executive's virtual reality presenter for children. Her curriculum vitae includes, her age, features, birthplace (Bellshill), interests, education, pets and so on. In the spirit of our modern times, she even has a long term partner. But, while she might have a Scottish name, what Seonaid does not have is a Scottish accent. Some have even described it as English. When Scottish National Party shadow education minister Mike Russell, MSP, heard, he piped up: "Just like the Scottish Executive." Fair dues, Seonaid could be described as "a wee bit robotic". It seems the problem is that computer software cannot provide regional accents. All that may change. Computer specialists are working on the problem and a solution may be in hand soon. William Paul, executive website editor, defended the green eyed creation, and said: "We are giving her elocution lessons." The big question now is when the software is ready, what sort of Scottish accent should Seonaid have - Doric for the North East, a Kirsty Wark style brogue or Orkney lilt? The answer might lie in a recent survey that found most British people found the Scots accent the most trustworthy and Sean Connery the most trustworthy of all.

Busy Year for Dolphin Watchers

The Friends of the Moray Firth Dolphin group celebrated recently a decade of monitoring the world's most northerly school of dolphins with its annual review in Elgin Town Hall. Members gathered to hear about the aquatic wildlife which visited the firth, ending last year. In addition to more than 2,600 recorded sightings of bottlenose dolphins, members watched minke whales on more than 30 occasions, spotted harbour porpoise hundreds of times and even filmed a hump back whale off the coast at Portknockie. In keeping with their aim to increase awareness of the Firth's resident population of dolphins and visiting sea mammals, members delivered dozens of presentations at schools and community meetings and attended several national environmental events to spread news of their activities still farther. Data gathered on dolphin movements is passed on to Aberdeen University's Sea Watch and Cetacean Research Unit based at the Moray Firth Wildlife Centre at Spey Bay. Since its formation in 1991, the group has grown to a membership of almost 250 and now has its own research boat, Delphis.

Friendship Stone

A "FRIENDSHIP stone", intended by Dingwall Academy pupils as a gift for Armenia, finally reached its destination, a decade later than planned. It was recently handed over to an English speaking school twinned with the Dingwall school at a ceremony in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, by the retired Dingwall Academy rector Sandy Glass and the current deputy rector, William Irwin. The stone, crafted by former academy art teacher Allan Haldane, lay almost forgotten in his garage for 10 years, because conditions in the former Soviet Union republic became too dangerous shortly after its completion to consider a visit. Dingwall Academy's links with Armenia began after the earthquake disaster which devastated the country in 1988. Academy teachers and pupils launched a United Scottish Schools Response to help child victims of the crisis and raised a substantial sum. The money was presented in 1989, at a ceremony in Dingwall Academy to Mikhail Polyakov, first secretary at the then Soviet Embassy in the UK. Mr Glass, who retired 5 years ago, maintained intermittent contact with Armenia. Conditions prevalent in the now independent republic have improved considerably. In addition to handing over the stone and delivering numerous letters of greetings and good wishes, Mr Glass and Mr Irwin also revisited the earthquake disaster zone, including the devastated village of Spitak.

Squirrel Attack

A part time inventor suffered whiplash when a squirrel landed on his head when he was out road testing a bird feeder hat. Mike Madden was walking through woodland when a large grey squirrel spied the nuts on the feeding tray mounted on top of his headgear. The squirrel leapt from the top of a tree and landed with such force that Mr Madden was knocked to the ground and injured his neck. Mr Madden has been taking pain killers and wearing a neck brace since the accident happened near his home. He said: "I was out walking through the woods with my friend Craig Bailey. "We had only just started the walk when kaboom - I was on the ground. "I didn't see much of what happened but Craig told me he saw the squirrel fly through the air and land right on my head. "The next morning I was in so much agony." Mr Madden designed the hat so that birds could feed from it while he was out walking, because he was concerned about their winter food supplies. But he did not think other inhabitants of the woodlands would take any interest in it. He said: "I've always liked squirrels - but once you've had one land on your head travelling about 30mph you can easily go off them." Mr Madden said his bird feeder was destroyed in the assault - and vowed that he would not build another.

Charity Event

Caley Thistle football fans joined the Royal Highland Fusiliers recently to raise money for a local hospice service. During a match at Caledonian Stadium, fans gave generously to a collection organised by the Fusiliers, raising 450 for Erskine hospital, the care facility for ex-service men and women, which established a bursary scheme in Inverness last year.

Political Roundup

Salute for the Unseen Volunteers

A Highland MSP spoke recently of the work carried out by the unseen face of the voluntary sector. Labour MSP Maureen Macmillan's comments followed a Scottish Executive announcement that 300 million of funding - 35 million more than last year - would be made available to voluntary organisations this year. Mrs Macmillan said: "The work of voluntary organisations is becoming increasingly important to certain groups of people in the Highlands and Islands. Volunteers often work in support and as carers of those who suffer debilitating illnesses or are otherwise disadvantaged. "Working in the voluntary sector can be difficult and requires considerable dedication and the financial support from the Executive is vital."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Variable cloud, sunny spells, occasional showers with a risk of thunder. Winds mod/strong W'ly. Temperature 5c to 10c.
Saturday Night
Variable cloud. Showers, frequent in the W, becoming isolated in the E. Winds strong SW'ly. Temperature 2c to 6c.
A mix of sunny spells and showers in the W. Starting cloudy in the E, brighter p.m, rain overnight.
Mainly cloudy with a few showers or longer periods of rain. Winds light SW'ly.

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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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