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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 10th February 2001
Issue No 218

Banknotes Galore

The sinking of the SS Politician - inspiration for the film Whisky Galore - produced more than just one lucrative harvest for the Hebridean locals, according to official papers released recently.

The files confirm that the ship, which ran aground off the island of Eriskay in February 1941 with 24,000 cases of Scottish malt whisky in its hold, was also carrying hard currency worth millions today. And, like the whisky, a lot of the cash simply disappeared. The story of the missing banknotes is in files of the Crown Agents released at the Public Records Office. The department was responsible for supplying the Empire with currency, and in 1941 dispatched 290,000 blue 10-shilling notes to the colony of Jamaica. The fate of the money was to occupy the department for the next 20 years. The Politician, bound for Kingston and New Orleans out of Liverpool, broke up on rocks off Eriskay on Feb 6 at the start of the dangerous voyage across the submarine infested North Atlantic. The currency, contained in eight cases, was initially described by the salvage party as being covered in fuel oil and water, and by April 4 was thought to have been washed away by gales. But on April 24 the salvage company, British Iron and Steel Corporation (Salvage) Ltd wrote to the Salvage Association in London. It said: "We have received advice from Capt E Lauriston, Salvage Officer stationed at Politician, that it has come to his notice that notes of this description are being found at Benbecula, 25 miles north of where the wreck is lying. "He has no information that these notes are being put into circulation, only that they are in possession of people at Benbecula. "Meanwhile, he has notified the local police, customs, banks and shops to keep looking for any being tendered in payment of accounts." The Crown Agents were not too concerned. An official recorded: "The local police service is no doubt on a very small scale but the nature of the place and its surroundings should tend to reduce the chances of serious loss through the notes being presented and paid." On May 28, one of the cases was discovered opened with the contents removed. The salvage company drew its own conclusions. "It is reported that some of the children on the island have been playing with them, and the locals, most of whom are known to be incriminated in the looting, are too wily to give anything away." By June, reports were coming in from branches of Barclays and the Midland banks in Liverpool of Jamaican 10-shilling notes that "showed signs of contact with water". In November 1942, police at Port Bannatyne questioned Robert Stewart, the foreman of the salvage operation, who had been giving the notes away as souvenirs. By 1943, the notes had been tendered in London, Plymouth, Maidstone, Poole, Stoke-on-Trent and across the north of Scotland. Even in 1952, when wartime security had been relaxed, the Crown Agents decided to keep secret the existence of the missing money for fear of prompting renewed attempts to cash it. By 1958, the department reported that 211, 267 of the notes had been recovered. Another 2,329 had been presented in banks as far afield as Ireland, Switzerland, Malta, America and Jamaica. Of those only 1,509 were thought to have been presented in good faith. The number still unaccounted for was 76,404. Like the whisky, their fate remains a mystery. Except, that is, for one that hangs over the bar of The Politician, Eriskay's only pub, named in honour of the ship that brought the island so much comfort.

Peace Mission

There are high hopes that one man's Mountain Mission will be completed - albeit posthumously - this year, when a Lochaber climber will place a plaque on the top of the highest peak in South America. The late Bert Bissell, from Dudley, West Midlands, a freeman of Lochaber, was well known in the Fort William area as the man who built the Peace Cairn on the summit of Ben Nevis on VJ Day, 1945. For half a century after, Bert - who died two years ago, aged 96 - made it his life's work to ensure messages of peace were inserted into rocks and focal points at the top of the loftiest mountains in four continents. But due to political reasons, it did not prove possible to site a plaque at the top of 22,834 feet Aconcagua in Argentina - the highest point in South America. However, this month an international team will set out to tackle the North Face of Aconcagua. Among them will be Derek Walker, who hails originally from Kinlochleven. Now moves are well in hand via Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, Highland Council's Lochaber area committee and Bert Bissel's family to get the Argentinian authorities to grant permission to allow Derek to complete the crusade started by Bert Bissell.

National Park Status Sought

A blueprint for the proposed Cairngorm National Park has been unveiled recently by a voluntary organisation campaigning for the protection and appreciation of the area. The Cairngorm Campaign, a charity based in Perthshire, is calling for the creation of a National Park with an extensive area and with planning powers transferred to a well funded park authority. Launched on the day Scottish Natural Heritage opened the official consultation on the park plan, the conservation group's vision is among the first to be made public. The campaign claims a history of unsympathetic tourist developments and bulldozed tracks scarring the areas makes it vital for the park authority to be responsible for planning, rather than power remaining with the local authorities involved. That status is being offered to Scotland's other proposed National Park at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Campaign officer Bill Wright said: "The only real reasons why the Cairngorms might not be offered the same planning powers as those at Loch Lomond are those of political expediency. "The Cairngorms have suffered too long from inconsistent management and different local authorities have taken different positions on controversial schemes. "Now is the opportunity to put that right." The Cairngorms Campaign is also calling for a transparent process of consultation in which government agencies are required to make clear which views are those of consultees and which are their own. It is pressing for interested agencies to use the consultation process as an opportunity to resolve differing views on the way forward for the area.

Safe Sites

Moves to protect some of Scotland's most endangered birds were started recently by Environment Minister Sam Galbraith. The minister announced special protection status for five areas which provide habitat. He said it was significant that the Lewis peatlands site, the second largest area of peatland in the UK, had been classified with the full support of the local community. The other Spas include the Wester Ross lochs site, 13 lochs in the north west of the county which support 3% of the UK black throated diver breeding population. The Rannoch lochs SPA has eight loch within Argyll and Bute, Highland and Perth and Kinross authority areas and contain 4% of the UK black throated diver breeding population. The Black Cart SPA covers a 3km stretch of the Black Cart Water in Renfrewshire and supports 4% of the UK Icelandic whooper swan winter population. The fifth SPA site is on Hoy in Orkney and supports more than 14% of the world's great Skua population. It also regularly hosts a breeding seabird assemblage of more that 120,000 birds. The sites bring the total number of SPAs in Scotland to 124 covering 477,187 hectares. Mr Galbraith said: "Scotland is home to some of Europe's most spectacular and important wildlife. It is right that the sites which support them are protected as part of an overall European network."

The Black Watch in Black and White

A new photographic history of the Black Watch has told the tale of tragic US President John F. Kennedy's links with the regiment. His wish to be "serenaded" by the Black Watch came from his love of all things Celtic and led to extraordinary scenes on the White House lawn. The massed pipes and drums stopped traffic in Washington DC as they played in front of the President and his first lady. Just nine days later, the President was shot and killed in Texas. The touring Scots had made such an impression on President Kennedy and his wife, Jacqueline, that they were specifically asked to return for the funeral. The Black Watch Photographic Archive is the first time hundreds of revealing photos have been seen in public. The Perth based regiment has decided to raid its archive to produce a fascinating record of its 260 year history. Regimental secretary Lieutenant Colonel Stephan Lindsay said: "The majority of the pictures have never been seen before and for conservation reasons are held in the regimental archives. "It gives a fascinating insight into the history of the regiment, both in peacetime and in conflict." The book also reveals how the regiment had an encounter with another US President - and an overkeen sentry took him prisoner. Before he became President, General Dwight Eisenhower made a secret wartime visit to Gibraltar. However, a sentry from the 4th Battalion did not know who he was and locked him up in a guardroom for several hours until the US military proved his identity. Raised in Aberfeldy in 1740 to police the Highlands during the reiving days, the regiment has remained predominantly drawn from Perthshire, Angus and Fife. The first photographs came 113 years later, with kilted troops gathering to leave Halifax, Nova Scotia. Photos show how the regiment had to give up wearing the kilt during World War I because it left too much flesh vulnerable to mustard gas attack.

Have Pipes Will Travel

A Highland piper was forced to take his show on the road after suffering "the blow" of last year's poor tourist season. Lone piper Murdo Urquhart has become part of the scenery of Loch Ness, after 21 years playing in full Highland dress at its road-side. He decided to play to a different tune as he tried to offset the worst effects of the tourism slump. For the entrepreneurial piper has not let last year's fall in visitor numbers get to him - he took the music to them. He jetted off to Germany in December where he hit the high notes and last month he flew off to the sunnier climate of the Philippines, in South East Asia, on both trips he visits people he met while entertaining on the A82 layby overlooking Urquhart Castle. The 70 year old said: "I'm quite happy there, but last summer wasn't very good at all, what with the pound being so strong and the price of the petrol. The people are not coming round in the numbers that they were, that's what I find." The German friend he met on the loch side has already booked a full diary in Berlin for Murdo, with weddings, birthday parties and a funeral among the events at which he is to appear. During any spare time, he will also take to the streets to "have a blaw" and entertain locals.

Environmental Issues

Children at a Black Isle primary school were celebrating recently being amongst the top three entries of a nationwide environment competition contested by more than 3000 youth organisations. Pupils and teachers at Avoch Primary School have been awarded 1000 as part of the Volvo National Award programme which encourages young people to "think global, act local" on environmental issues. The national awards are made annually in recognition of schools and community groups which have shown a commitment to local projects. Pupils have played a major role in a hedge woodland trail and pond scheme at the school as part of a millennium project. It is being used as part of the school curriculum in a number of subjects. Local councillor Morris Downie (Avoch and Fortrose) said: "This is the first time an award of this nature has come to Scotland. Congratulations must be extended to the head teacher, Kirsty Peterson, all her dedicated staff and of course, the children."

Charity Event

Making a splash in the national fight against asthma were pupils from Cawdor Primary School who raised 1018 for the campaign with a sponsored swim

Political Roundup

Parliament Visitor

The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland paid a visit to the Scottish Parliament recently. The Rev Andrew McLellan looked around the Parliament chamber (owned by the Church of Scotland of course) and mused with a smile, "I feel very much at home here." Presiding Officer Sir David Steel - himself the son of a former Moderator - said the visit was the start of a new tradition at Parliament. "Mind you," he added, "everything we do here is a new tradition."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy, rain, heavy at times. Sleet on the hills. Winds fresh/strong S-SW. Temperature 4c to 8c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy, rain, then clear spells/showers later. Winds fresh/strong SW. Temperature 3c to 7c.
Mostly dry, bright/sunny spells but Southerly parts may become cloudy during the night. Winds mod/fresh SW.
E staying dry, bright/sunny spells. Elsewhere showers at first, some heavy. Showers dying out overnight.


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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