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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 15th February 2003
Issue No 319

UFO Sightings at Loch Ness

Visitors from another world are creating an out of season tourist invasion at Loch Ness.

After a local newspaper revealed unexplained lights had been seen - and filmed - on successive nights in the sky over Drumnadrochit, UFO research groups and individual enthusiasts from around Scotland announced plans to head to the area to carry out their own investigations. Former Royal Navy submariner Lee Close of the Anglo-Scottish UFO Research Agency was one of the investigators who contacted the newspaper to appeal for more information on the sightings. Mr Close, whose group is currently researching 17 UFO sightings in the Fife and Dundee area, now wants to investigate the Loch Ness sighting. "Some of the people involved with me have 20 to 30 years experience of sightings," he revealed. "All details we receive are treated confidentially and we will approach other groups to help if we need them. It is the same level of service you would get if you went to a professional investigator. "At the end of the day, people want to know what they are seeing," he added. Another UFO devotee linked the Drumnadrochit sighting with a UFO spotted in the English Midlands. "They have made contact - it's about the first human clone," he claimed. Unfortunately for alien seekers a local expert believes he has a solution to the mysterious lights which is - literally - more down to earth. John Dijkslag, who has a Phd in astronomy and lives in the Croy area, is certain the lights have nothing to do with extraterrestrial visitors and instead owe their origins to the geology of the Great Glen faultline. "It's a light show by Mother Earth," Mr Dijkslag said. "It is a geographical related phenomenon. It's the result of stress propagated by a fault line." He is convinced the explanation for the lights is Tectonic Strain Theory (TST). This involves the release of energy as a result of stress along geological faultlines, a phenomenon Mr Dijkslag has investigated in the Netherlands. "In comparison with the faultlines present in the part of Holland where we did our research, this faultline is enormous. I believe it's one of the longest faults known to this planet," Mr Dijkslag said. "There is a strain through the faultline which is compatible with an elastic band. It could be caused by volcanic activity, but water can cause it too and a lot of water has gone down there in the last few months. "The light is actually highly charged electric energy. From the work I have done, the lights originate in the faultline in the middle of the loch." Similar lights were seen above the Kessock Bridge in December 1990. Mr Dijkslag now plans to give a lecture on the phenomenon in Drumnadrochit Village Hall.


An old Highland building at the centre of a 1950s bank robbery is gearing up to celebrate its centenary. In 1903 American businessman Henry Phipps funded the building of the Phipps Institute in the village of Beauly. Nowadays the imposing sandstone structure is used for ceilidhs and concerts, as a library, conference and committee venue and a sports hall. Mr Phipps was born in Philadelphia, and a lifelong association with Scottish industrialist Andrew Carnegie saw him become one of the wealthiest men of the era. They spent much time in the North and Mr Phipps stayed in Beaufort Castle, near Beauly. He developed a strong bond with Beauly and the Phipps Institute was built to signify his fondness for the area. In 1955 however, the building hit the headlines when it was used as a temporary bank. Two men ranked among the most notorious gangsters in Scotland - Arthur Thomson and Paddy Meehan - robbed the site and fled south. But they were arrested soon after in Glasgow. The event is expected to appear in a centenary exhibition of the historic building, scheduled for this summer.

Ancient Charters Uncovered

A rare document linking Inverness to events which shaped Scotland's history have been uncovered in a collection of medieval charters held by the city's museum. Inverness based paleographer Ross Mackenzie was commissioned by Highland Council to catalogue the medieval charters. His research uncovered documents of rare national importance, including one from James III, complete with his signature. It dates from the days immediately before the Battle of Sauchieburn (near Stirling) in May 1488 and grants the revenues of Inverness for 19 years to Alexander Gordon, Master of Huntly. Historians believe the paper is a clear attempt to win northern support for King James's struggle against his son, who became James IV after the battle. Another find, but of more direct interest to Invernessians, is a charter from 1452 which has a seal. This belonged to Johannes Thome, Baillie of Inverness, but portrays perhaps the earliest example of the town's coat of arms, showing a crucified Christ within a decorative border. The document details the sale of a piece of land in Church Street, which then, as now, was one of the central streets of Inverness. These rare charter finds follow on the success of an exhibition which was held in January of this year.

People's Network

Internet users in all Highland communities will be able to get online for free at their local libraries this year, thanks to a new project launched recently in Inverness. The People's Network initiative has seen nearly all public libraries connected to the Internet. So far 29 of Highland Council's 43 libraries have had computers installed. Launching the scheme at Inverness library, Deputy Finance Minister Peter Peacock highlighted the Government's support for the project. The MSP said: "I am delighted to launch this initiative which will improve the facilities available to library users and encourage people to access a greater range of resources at the click of a button. "Libraries have been a tremendous liberating force for centuries and we should not take that for granted. I congratulate the New Opportunities Fund (NOF) for pushing the boat out and providing access to new resources for so many people in the Highlands." Highland Council's libraries and information manager Christopher Phillips said the scheme had proved to be extremely popular in Brora, where it had been installed first. "I have never seen such a queue of youngsters waiting to get into a library before," he said. "And people are now using other, more traditional resources at libraries as a result." Highland Council's education, culture and sport committee vice-chairman Neil Clark said the project would also improve learning opportunities in the Highlands. "It will provide free access to a variety of electronic information services, such as Encarta and other CD rooms," he said.

Macbeths Cattle

Marauding cattle in the home village of TV's Hamish Macbeth could soon have their freedom to roam curtailed. A stock proof fence is to be built to prevent cows from wandering off their grazing grounds and on to the palm tree lined only street in Plockton. For generations, cattle have had a virtual right of way through Plockton, made famous by the BBC1 show. But, off camera, residents had to put up with cows trampling their gardens, chewing plants and flowers, and getting their teeth into washing hanging out on the lines. And, of course, the cattle leave their very large calling cards on the street, pavements - and doorsteps. But, with the villagers themselves putting up some of the money for the fence, they should soon be cattle free. Five years ago, another west coast village, Mallaig, was plagued by free ranging sheep, which caused havoc in the main street, day and night. Fencing eventually solved much of the problem there. An agreement between local crofters and the National Trust for Scotland over the Plockton cattle has been approved in the Scottish Land Court.

Lochaber Tourism

More than 20 tourism businesses in Lochaber are pioneering a new scheme to find out how visitors rate their hospitality and service. The scheme, Scotland's Warmest Welcomes, is sop ported by the Lochaber Centre for Tourism Excellence, and is believed to be the first of its kind in Scotland. The questionnaire asks guests to rate an accommodation provider's performance in areas from quality of accommodation to food and value for money. It also asks them to comment on efficiency and attitude of staff, facilities and overall satisfaction. With funding from the European Social Fund and Lochaber Enterprise, the scheme costs 25 a year to join and includes a dedicated website and e-booking facilities. Laurence Young, principal at Lochaber Centre for Tourism Excellence, said: "Scotland's tourism industry is too often slated for failing to deliver consistency in customer care. "We wanted to know exactly how we measure up in Lochaber, and by asking direct questions of our customers we are now finding out. "Early results indicate that guests rate us highly, with welcome and service scoring 93%, value for money scoring 89% and over 96% saying they would return." Stephen Fenwick, of Birchbrae Chalets, Onich, said the scheme had been extremely useful as a benchmark exercise. He said: "Customer expectations are very high nowadays and guest satisfaction has to be the top priority."

Ancient Buildings

Ambitious plans are being considered for the conversion of an ancient mansion and mill in north west Sutherland into a tourist attraction. In October, the Sutherland County Committee of the Highland Council served an Urgent Works Notice on the owner of Balnakeil House and the Old Corn Mill at Durness. This means that emergency repairs can be carried out by the local authority with the owners being billed for the cost of the works. At that time, planning and building control manager David Polson told councillors that "very little, if anything" appeared to have been done in the way of maintenance at these properties, resulting in slates being missing from the roof of the mansion and the mill being left open to the elements. Local historian Graham Bruce has now been asked to draw up a list of possible uses for the mansion, which dates back to medieval times, and the early 19th century mill. "There are a number of possibilities being looked at, including turning both buildings into a museum or using the mansion for holiday accommodation for activity-related holidays or naturalist weekends, with the mill as a smaller museum. All the ideas are tourist orientated," said Mr Bruce, who is also chairman of Durness Development Group and head teacher of the local primary school. But he stressed that discussions with the owner and local councillors were in the very earliest stages. "I have drawn up a list of all the ideas that have been mentioned over the years, but there is no question of any formal move being made at this stage." said Mr Bruce.

Charity Event

The Inverness Button Box Gathering raised 1126 for the Childrens Hospice Association Scotland. The event, which was held late last year, was a celebration of the button box accordion designed by the late Jimmy Shand. The cheque was handed over to association fund raiser Barbara Osborne and Andy Ross compered the show.

Political Roundup

Independence Poll Attacked

Rival parties attacked an opinion poll conducted for the SNP recently which suggests Scots are evenly split on the question of independence with 44% against. The Nationalists trumpeted the findings as evidence that devolution has fuelled, rather than killed, pro-independence sentiment, and claimed the idea was gaining ground in almost every age group. But Labour called the poll flawed, while the Tories called it "rigged and dishonest." Voters were asked how they would vote in a referendum of the type promised by the SNP if it wins power in the Scottish Parliament elections. Labour campaign co-ordinator Patricia Ferguson said: "It's disappointing but not surprising that the Nationalists have chosen to place a risky and expensive divorce for the UK far above any plan to deliver economic growth or improve schools and hospitals."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Frosty start away from W coast. Cloud free but misty at first. Winds light/mod S-SW'ly. Temperature 4c to 7c.
Saturday Night
Cloud in far NW. Cold in W. Generally clear and frosty in E. Winds light/ mod S-SW'ly. Temperature -4c to 0c.
Cloudy to overcast skies with a risk of patchy light rain.
Partly cloudy skies, some sunny spells but a risk of showers.

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