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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 17th February 2001
Issue No 219

Glen Affric Gets Reserve Status

One of the most outstanding and environmentally important areas in the Highlands has been given National Nature Reserve status.

The picturesque Glen Affric, near Cannich, Inverness-shire, is home to many rare plants and animals and is the site of one of the most important native pinewood restoration projects in Britain. The decision to give the area reserve status was taken by Government agency Scottish Natural Heritage at a board meeting recently. It is expected the move will result in further funding for other environmental improvement projects. Glen Affric currently attracts more than 70,000 visitors a year. The total area of the proposed nature reserve covers almost 15,000 hectares, almost all of which lies within the Glen Affric National Scenic Area. Jonathan Stacey, the area officer for Glen Affric, welcomed the creation of the reserve. He said: "Glen Affric is a jewel in the crown of the Highlands and has been enjoyed by members of the public for some considerable time. "We are seeing an increase in numbers year on year and we will keep a positive perspective in terms of facilitating people's enjoyment of the area. "Affording such status to this most marvellous of glens also recognises the outstanding restoration work that Forest Enterprise has achieved to date and their future commitment. "This will ensure that Glen Affric will be managed to the fullest benefit for its natural heritage, for the people who come to enjoy it and for the local community." Glen Affric supports habitats which range from pinewood, wet and dry heaths, willow scrub and other mintane vegetation and supports national important plants and animals including red throated diver, golden eagle, crossbill, crested tit, rare plants and invertebrates. The responsibility for the creation of a reserve in an area comes under powers held by SNH. It carried out a review of sites and found that in many cases there was no need for reserve status as they were already Sites of Special Scientific Interest of covered by other environmental designations. Malcolm Weild, Forest Enterprise's Fort Augustus district manager said: "By getting the National Nature Reserve Status stamp it helps put the area on an international conservation footing. It is a showpiece of Scotland's unique natural heritage." There are about 70 reserve status sites across Scotland.

English Pence and Scottish Pound

Nobody has yet told the Scottish First Minister, Henry McLeish, but Scotland now has a currency with its own exchange rate - thanks to Thomas Cook. The group's North American money changing operation is quoting different rates for English and Scottish pounds. Depending on which they ask for, US and Canadian tourists planning a British holiday could face a cost difference of several per cent. The Scottish pound had a turbulent day on Cook's foreign exchange recently. Early afternoon it was showing the English pound a clean pair of heels, trading at 1.5949 to the US dollar, against a mere 1.5941 for the variety from south of the border. By teatime, Caledonia's currency was sagging at 1.5625 and England's was in the lead at 1.5873. The financial services HQ of Thomas Cook in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and the North American arm, based in Toronto, was sometimes asked for Scottish banknotes, those printed by Scottish clearing banks. Because these could not be ordered wholesale, they cost more to buy, said Cook. This cost was recouped by giving them their own higher exchange rate. A spokeswoman admitted this hardly explained how the Scottish pound could drop below the English version. No such doubts troubled the Bravehearts of Thomas Cook North America. A complaint from one (Scottish) tourist was met with the statement: "Actually, the English pound and the Scottish pound are different currencies with different exchange rates." In fact, they're not - but then, the exchange rates charged to tourists have always had a shaky connection with the real world. As Thomas Cook's pounds changed hands for anything up to $1.59, sterling on the open market would have cost the American buyer a mere $1.47. Compared with a gap of that size, the imaginary exchange rate given to Scotland's non existent currency seems like small change.

NessieNessie says: "Remember to demand Scottish pounds for your holiday here, it keeps me in a job."

Bruce's Sword

A replica of the sword which helped rid Scotland of the English has been forged - by an Englishman. A copy of the weapon used by Robert the Bruce in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 to shape Scotland's destiny went on show at a trade fair in Glasgow recently. The sword which sells at 435 is the handywork of Ian MacAllen of Leicester. But the Englishman and his firm have their roots firmly north of the border. Ian's parents are both Scots and the firm was established in Scotland 700 years ago. The company is still officially outlawed by the English for making weapons for use against their king. The master armourer took a month to produce the first replica. Within hours of the three day trade fair opening at the Scottish Exhibition Centre, in Glasgow, Ian took orders for the sword from two Texans. The real sword is held in the care of Lord Elgin, the head of the Bruce family, at his home in Broomhall, near Dumfermline, Fife. Ian said: "I was fortunate enough to hold the real sword and the only way I can describe that is that it is a sword with soul."

Office Spook

Workers in a Glasgow city centre office are too scared to work late - because they are convinced it's haunted. They claim kettles are switched on and off, one room is always freezing cold and there are strange noises. Now workers like Kerr Armstrong at recruitment firm Melville Craig are afraid to be alone after dark in the office they moved into recently. They think the eerie happenings are caused by the ghost of Madeleine Smith. She lived in the Blythswood Square building with her wealthy family in the 1800s. The daughter of famous architect James Smith, she was accused of poisoning her French lover Emile L' Angelier with arsenic. Many people at the time believed she committed the crime but the case against the 22 year old was not proven at the High Court in Edinburgh. Marketing consultant Melaine Harvey said: "It's a scary thought to be in here yourself knowing Madeleine could be standing right behind you."

Silver Cup for Museum

A rare silver thistle cup made in Ross-shire about three centuries ago was bought recently at auction by a Highland museum. The cup, crafted by local silversmith Hugh Ross between 1700 and 1710, is a welcome addition to Tain and District Museum's growing collection of antique Tain made silverware, and by far the most important item of 25 pieces acquired to date. It also adds a further dimension to the history of silvermaking in Tain, a craft for which the ancient royal burgh was celebrated in bygone days. The craft is still being practised there. Estelle Quick, the curator, said: "Silver made in Tain is extremely rare and highly collectable. That applies particularly to objects like the cup, of which very few examples are known. "On several previous occasions, we have failed to acquire objects at auction due to intense competition, and a number of notable items, sadly, have gone abroad. "We are delighted to have been successful this time and to have brought this beautiful example of local craftsmanship back to the town. It will take pride of place in our display. "We are gradually discovering more about the 18th and 19th century silversmiths and how they worked. This will help to fill out the picture in other burghs as well as Tain."

Piping School

The first Highland piping school in 200 years is to be set up thanks to European funding. Achiltibuie Piping School has obtained the European Regional Development Funding aid to develop the dedicated facility for piping in the North West Highlands. The school - to be sited in a converted village hall - is being seen as an important initiative for attracting visitors to use and enhance other local businesses as well as creating direct employment. With a planned curriculum of academic courses already in place the piping school has drawn on some of the leading Highland pipers of today. The well known piper behind the scheme, Davy Garrett, said: "These courses have been designed for national and international students of piping. On a more local level and with enthusiastic support from our local schools we would hope to build on plans to increase the availability of our teaching library and archive facilities for pupils of piping, research projects and so on. "The support we have been given by our arts officers, fellow pipers, kindred spirits and other established organisations working in piping and other forms of traditional music, has been established." It is intended that the school will open for its first piping course in April this year.

World's Scariest Place

A Scots graveyard has been labelled the scariest place on earth - by the makers of the X Files. American TV network Fox have been travelling the world looking for real life tales that would terrorise Mulder and Scully. Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh comes top of their list of spooky sites. The graveyard - resting place of Greyfriars Bobby - will now be featured in a TV series made by Fox. In the past two years, more than 50 visitors have reported some kins of paranormal experience after going into the Covenanters Prison during organised tours of the kirkyard. Some claimed to have fainted or been knocked out by a ghostly presence in the crypt. Others left with unexplained scratches on their face. It is thought the crypt is packed with the spirits of men defeated in battle against Charles II at Bothwell Bridge in 1679. It is also believed the tomb is haunted by the spirit of Judge George "Bloody" MacKenzie, who was infamous for sending Covenanters to the gallows. A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles based Fox Family Channel said they chose the Kirkyard after hearing reports of the supernatural encounters. She said: "We chose the Covenanters' Prison in Greyfriars Kirkyard as the scariest place on earth because we are intrigued by the MacKenzie poltergeist. "We have heard since the tour began that many people have collapsed while inside the tomb and therefore thought we had to incorporate it into our new series." A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council confirmed that the television company had been given permission to film in the kirkyard. He added: "We get a lot of requests for filming to take place in the kirkyard. "It does have a reputation as being a particularly haunted place and it is also popular because of Greyfriars Bobby."

Charity Event

Disco dudes and divas at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness got down to deliver vital funds for MacMillan Cancer Relief. Staff at the hospital's Radiotherapy Unit raised over 1500 by holding a 60s and 70s disco night.

Political Roundup

Saltire Criminalisation

Highlands and Islands MSP, Dr Winnie Ewing, has voiced her concerns over plans to turn thousands of innocent Scottish drivers into criminals for using number plates displaying the Scottish flag. The London Department of Transport has admitted that such number plates will soon be illegal. Commenting on the development Dr Ewing said: "I am deeply concerned that Scottish motorists who are proud of their country of origin will soon be denied the right to show that fact on the number plates of their vehicles. It looks as though the Westminster government are intent on wiping Scotland off the map and denying our motorists a basic human right. I and many other Scots object very strongly to this proposal and urge Westminster to reconsider this snub to the Scottish people. "The growth of the new European style number plates, showing the European flag, the Saltire with the country of origin denoted as SCO, will soon be illegal. This will make criminals of thousands of Scots who use them. "The Scottish Transport Minister, Sarah Boyack, has made it abundantly clear that the decision will be made in London rather than in Scotland. Lord Whitty from London's Department of Transport has now said that from March 2001 these plates showing the Saltire will be illegal."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Local drizzle. Cloudy at times. Bright spells. Winds light/mod W-SW. Temperature 6c to 9c.
Saturday Night
Mainly dry. Cloudy in N. Frost/fog patches later. Winds light/mod W. Temperature -3c to 3c.
Sunday
Mostly dry with thin cloud allowing brightness at times. Turning cloudy p.m. with rain at times overnight.
Monday
Cloudy with patchy light rain, more continuous spells of rain over hills. Light W-SW winds.


Caledonia



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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