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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 3rd March 2001
Issue No 221

Close Encounter in the Glen

A hill farmer has become the latest Highlander to have a close encounter of the big cat kind.

David McLeod was out walking in Glen Loy near Spean Bridge when he became aware that there was something distinctly spooky about footprints in the snow. "I suddenly realised they were not common tracks," said Mr McLeod of Glenloy House, Letterfinlay. "They were carefully spaced, one in front of the other, they were about four and a half inches wide, and where the hill became slippery, I could clearly see where the claws had dug into the ice." He said he deliberately walked alongside the spoor so he could compare his size seven boots with the cat's print. "You could see by comparing the two how large the footprints were. I would say it would have been about the size of an Alsatian dog. "I have never come across anything like it before and I have been farming the area for the past 12 years. However, about two years ago, there were reports of big cats about the size of a deer and a large cat was spotted crossing the road. This was reported to the police at the time." Mr McLeod said that farmers in the area had from time to time reported "black holes" - cases where sheep or cattle had disappeared without trace. And he said a former gamekeeper of his had reported finding deep scratches on a tree some feet above head height. "I used to scoff before this, but it has made me think again," he said. "I was not the only one to see the tracks - there was at least one other chap. I cannot say what it is for sure, but it was a big animal, far bigger than any of the natural wildlife around here." John Cathcart, the former Northern Constabulary wildlife officer who has become an expert on big cats, said the Fort William/Spean Bridge area had not produced many sightings. But he said there had been very positive reports last year from nearby areas such as Fort Augustus, Drumnadrochit and Kiltarlity. "There is absolutely no doubt that these animals can cover some ground," he said. "A puma will range over about 60 miles looking for food. When they run out in one area, they will move on to another. "This is a very interesting sighting." Reports of mysterious big cats in the Highlands have become increasingly common - to the extent that they even have their own site on the internet. The Scottish Big Cats website was established by amateur researcher Mark Fraser of Kilmarnock to provide a log of reports of unusual animals on the loose in Scotland from the far north to the borders. Last year's sightings included an Inverness man who claimed to have seen a panther at Rogie Falls near Strathpeffer in January. In May, mutilated sheep and the sighting of a puma like animal near Ardersier, and attacks on livestock in Kiltarlity were blamed on a "catlike" predator. In July, more animals in the same area were claimed to have fallen prey to "The Beast of Boblainy" and September brought a further report of a lynx-like creature being spotted on the Nairn Dunbar golf course. Experts believe the big increase in sightings followed the introduction of the 1976 Dangerous Animals Act which placed new and tougher restrictions on the private ownership of exotic creatures. This is believed to have led to the "dumping" of some big cats in the wild. Reported sightings began coming in from the extreme south west of England to the far north of Scotland, sparking the legends of "The Bodmin Beast" and "The Surrey Puma".

Standing Charges

An ancient Scottish standing stone has been sent an electric bill for 175. But miraculously the 23ft Sueno's Stone has already paid 230 into it's account. In what must be the ultimate attempt to get blood out of a stone, electricity board Hydro tried to get the monument to stump up for floodlighting. They sent a bill addressed to Suenos Stone, Findhorn Road, Forres, complete with postcode. A local postman dutifully tried to deliver the letter to the stone, inside an elaborate glass-encased building on the outskirts of the town. Getting nothing but a stony silence in return, he re-directed it to local council offices, who promised to send it on to the stone's custodians, Historic Scotland. The bill claims the 1100 year old monument is 55 in credit. Hydro spokesman Dennis Kirby said: "We have been happily sending out bills to Historic Scotland, but for some reason the billing address has been changed. "It looks like human error. Had the bills not been paid, I doubt we would have started legal proceedings, mainly because it is in credit. "It must have managed to get to the bank and pay something in." The monument is the largest surviving Pictish stone. Experts believe it dates from the 9th century. At might, drivers on the A96 road can see the stone lit up in all its glory.

Treasure Quest

The search to find treasure off the coast of Fraserburgh is to continue this year. Divers hoping to find the wreck of the Edward Bonaventure, which sank somewhere in Pitsligo Bay in 1556, will continue their quest this month with the help of new equipment. Manager of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh, Jim Oliver, said: "The winter months do not provide good conditions for diving so the search has not been very active. The divers will now concentrate on a chart called a magnetometer. It sends out electronic impulses which chart where there is metal hidden in the silt. "The divers have found two areas on this chart which interest them. And when they get back to the search, they will also use the equipment which will pinpoint where metal is hidden." The search began when a cannon was dragged from the North Sea by the Ocean Reaper fishing boat in 1994. Mr Oliver and Malcolm McKillop from the Fraserburgh Heritage Centre contacted the diving unit at St Andrews University to try to find out the cannon's vintage and worth. The cannon is housed at the heritage centre.

Beauty Spot Bypassed

A group spearheading efforts to lure more visitors to the Dunnet Bay area are deploying hi-tec means to get across their message. A CD-ROM is being made to promote the attractions of the beauty spot regularly bypassed by tourist travelling to or returning from John O'Groats. The production is to feature the expansive sands, the nature haven of Dunnet Head, the local forest, together with information about the rich history of the area. The Dunnet Bay Initiative, which came up with the idea, had hoped the CD-ROM would be available last Autumn. But the launch date has been put back to Easter after it was decided to expand the subject matter to include the John O'Groats area and other attractions in Caithness. DBI chairman Will Menzies said: "The thing just grew and grew. It was decided to include other parts of the county, as you can't come to Caithness without, for example, visiting the Camster Cairns." The CD-ROM now features an area from Murkle right round the coast to Keiss. The project is being funded by Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise, with the work being carried out by Thurso based Caithness Multi Media.

Scots to Get Slagged Off in London

A TV programme slagging off Scotland will not be screened north of the Border. The show claims the Scots are a nation of spongers and subsidy junkies. Producers for London's Granite Productions rolled out right wing journalist and broadcaster Richard Littlejohn, of the Sun, and Tory columnist Simon Heffer, of the Daily Mail, to get stuck into the Scots. Littlejohn, a self styled "man of the people" who earns an estimated 1 million a year, said Scotland should apologise to England for getting more than its share of the public purse. Littlejohn also asked why English taxpayers should pay for Scotland's appalling health record. And he cited the deep fried Mars Bar as damning evidence of the poor diet. Scotland's leading newspaper, the Daily Record, learned of the programme when its columnist Joan Burnie was invited to appear on the show to fight Scotland's corner. But Joan's defence of Scotland will not be seen outside of London when the show goes out next month. Producer Fiona Gregg, herself a Scot, said: "It's not having a go at Scotland, it's having a look at the Barnett Formula on regional budgeting by Westminster and where it stands now because of devolution. "London Chamber of Commerce is agitating because it thinks greater tax revenues come out of London and the south east, and more of that goes to Scotland than they think is fair."

NessieNessie says: "If they're that worried we're taking a' their money why not just gie us our oil back and a' the 6,000 square miles of North Sea they took off us and then we'll go independent. More power to your elbow Joan, need any back-up, just gie's a shout."

Plenty to Offer

The National Trust for Scotland is keen to point out that many of its biggest attractions stay open all year round. More than 70 gardens, grounds and buildings stay open throughout the winter months, including the Culloden battlefield visitor centre. Other attractions include, The Hermitage, near Dunkeld, which over winter is a stark contrast to its summer self. Ben Notley, senior ranger at the Hermitage said: "Winter is an excellent time to take advantage of the trust's woodland, countryside and garden properties. "The trust has a great reputation for the cultural heritage within its care. We are the fourth largest landowner in Scotland and all of it is open to the public." Arduaine and Inverewe Gardens on the West Coast remain open all year, as do the gardens and grounds of all the trust's popular castles and houses. They include Crathes Castle, Brodie Castle, Castle Fraser, Craigievar Castle, Fyvie Castle, Haddo House and Mar Lodge.

Spring Festival Date Announced

Music lovers will be pleased to note that dates for the Loch Sheil Spring Festival have been announced. Set to become a fixture in the Scottish cultural landscape, this year's concert will run from May 21 to 29. This year the festival, now in its fifth year, plans to acquire a new piano to enhance the range of music on offer. The opening of the festival will, as usual, be kicked off with a cruise on Loch Shiel followed by a concert in Glenfinnan, the village at the end of the loch. Festival organiser Richard Stead hinted on what this year's festival might hold. He said: "During the week of the festival in 2000 there were 10 concerts so perhaps we might even manage one or two more in 2001 when plans are finalised. "So it is an exciting week for music lovers to note in their diaries."

Charity Event

The Macmillan Cancer Relief appeal to raise money to build a new chemotherapy department at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness received a massive boost recently when the Highland Acute Hospitals Endowments Fund donated 100,000 towards the 1.6 million target.

Political Roundup

SNP Rebuffs Executive Figures

The UK Government spent almost 5 billion more on Scotland than it received in taxes during the last year, according to Scottish Executive figures published recently. But the SNP rebuffed the statistics, claiming that rather than having a deficit, Scotland was enjoying a substantial surplus. The Nationalists asserted that North Sea oil was pouring out billions of pounds of revenue for Scotland, money which should be invested wisely rather than flung at short term measures.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Dry/bright then cloudy with patchy sleet/snow. Winds moderate SW'ly. Temperature 0c to 5c.
Saturday Night
Some sleet, snow on hills dying out. Clear spells. Winds moderate SW'ly. Temperature -2c to 2c.
Mainly dry, bright/sunny spells then cloudy pm with sleet/snow followed by rain. Fresh/strong winds.
W and N cloudy/frequent showers, E parts scattered showers with clear/sunny spells. Strong winds easing.

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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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