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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 10th March 2001
Issue No 222

Raiders of the Lost Titles

New legislation to stop landlords demanding payments under ancient lease agreements will be fast tracked by the Scottish Parliament and hopefully become law by this summer.

The new Leasehold Casualties (Scotland) Bill aims to put an end to the likes of Brian Hamilton who was nicknamed the Raider of the Lost Titles after learning about a legal loophole which is said to have earned him more than &500,000. For more than 150 years casualty clauses have remained in leases through a combination of neglect and oversight in certain parts of Scotland - including Lanarkshire, Clackmannanshire, Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. But they are still legal and give the landlord the right to demand a substantial amount of cash when a property changes hands without the new tenants even being aware of the condition. Mr Hamilton found the loophole while studying land economy as a mature student at Aberdeen University. The law change has been backed by the Scottish Law Commission to bring to an end "the distress suffered by tenants who have suddenly and unexpectedly been faced by demands for large sums of money by landlords". The parliament's Justice Committee has said the new law is a "priority" and the Scottish Law Commission has condemned the clauses as "an archaic, anachronistic and undesirable feature of Scottish law". They have also said "The legislation to abolish leasehold casualties is a priority due to the activities of a small number of individuals - the so called 'Raiders of the Lost Titles'." The new legislation has the backing of Justice Minister and Deputy First Minister, Jim Wallace. Mr Wallace said: "I am very happy to see action to deal with this matter. There is concern about the heavy workload on the committee but we would not wish to stand in the way of this Bill." In evidence to the Justice Committee Mr Hamilton revealed that, as landlord, he had an interest in 36 leases, which ran for 999 years. Under the terms of the leases the incoming tenant has to pay the landlord one full year's rent under the penalty clause. Mr Hamilton said: "If the state abolishes the landlord's right to collect casualties, that action would absolve solicitors, insurance companies and the Keeper of the Land Register from making good their mistakes. "It is a bad law to appropriate a person's property without some form of compensation. "In view of the large sums involved, it is unthinkable that the compensation should come from state funds. This would be a subsidy from the state to the legal profession and their insurers. "I would recommend no change in the law."


Light Relief

New light has been thrown on one of the biggest engineering feats in the Highlands. It comes with the completion of a new lighting system at Neptune's Staircase on the Caledonian Canal at Banavie, near Fort William. The lights are part of a multi-million pound refurbishment by British Waterways of the 178 year old canal system. The canal links the Moray Firth with Loch Linnhe. The project will add to the tourist appeal of the much photographed landmark and, above all, improve safety on the busy waterway, said a board spokesman. The canal was built by Thomas Telford, who gave the eight locks at Banavie the name Neptune's Staircase. The locks lift the water - and the boats sitting in them - 72ft. A board spokesman said: "The locks now look very impressive at night and the new lighting system will undoubtedly add to its appeal. "However, our primary concern has been to ensure improved safety for all users." The system was switched on last month.

Nessie Sighting?

Unidentified floating objects sparked a monster alert recently on the shores of Loch Ness. What appeared to be the top ends of a periscope travelling down the loch had motorists stopping at the side of the A82 Inverness - Fort William road near the Clansman Hotel and rushing for a better view. The shapes were said to be around 200m from the shore and left a wake behind them as they moved south. Sales manager Dougie Barbour, from Glasgow, was among those who stopped, but was sceptical about what he saw. Mr Barbour said: "I was driving down the road when I saw all these people heading for one of the laybys. They were queuing back on the road to get in. I stopped as well and went for a look. I could see what they were all looking at, but I am convinced it was just two ducks." Mr Barbour took a photograph at the scene, but the distance was too great to show anything other than the wake.

Canine Carer

Jessie the canine carer has become an indispensable home help for her disabled owner. The 10 year old crossbred collie-retriever helps with the shopping, answers the phone, puts clothes in the wash, sounds an alarm and gets her 55 year old owner up in the morning. Jessie's chores start at around 8.30am when she helps Judy Westwater out of bed at their home in Inverness. Ms Westwater said: "She will help by going and getting my towel and things like that. She then pulls the bedclothes up and then gets on to the bed and puts her back against mine and helps me to get out of bed." Ms Westwater suffers from osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia syndrome - a rheumatic disease. To make her owner's life as comfortable as possible, Jessie also helps on shopping trips to local stores. Ms Westwater said: "All the supermarkets in Inverness know her. She is not allowed to take things off the shelf, but should I drop something she will pick it up and bring it to me. If I need an assistant she will go and get her. "When I am doing the washing, she can actually pick up clothing and put it into the washing machine for me." Jessie can even answer the phone and if Ms Westwater experiences any problems when the phone rings, Jessie bites a specially designed horn which alerts callers to the fact that her owner may require help. Ms Westwater discovered Jessie as a nine week old pup at Munlochy Animal Aid, on the Black Isle. She decided to investigate the possibility of having the dog trained to help her, and travelled to Cornwall where a specialist organisation trains dogs to carry out tasks for disabled people. Ms Westwater said: "Jessie was excellent. She learned everything they taught her. She was top of the class and outshone every other dog. "As she gets older, she picks things up for herself."

A Place in History

He inspired Scotland's national bard - but poet Robert Fergusson has seen his work forgotten and his life unsung and uncommemorated by his native city if Edinburgh. However, plans are now afoot to pay tribute to one of the city's secret sons and secure his place in history. Fergusson was born in 1750 in Edinburgh's Royal Mile and it is there that a newly established society hopes to build a statue in his memory, a project which the group has begun fundraising for. Fergusson died aged just 24, and despite a series of poems which gave a vivid account of life in an unmarked grave in 1774. Burns was inspired to poetry after reading Fergusson's work, having all but given up verse in favour of recording the traditional songs of his native Ayrshire. "In 1788, after his visit to Edinburgh, Burns commissioned a headstone for Fergusson's grave, a material symbol of his gratitude to the young poet," said David Purdle, president of the Friends of Robert Fergusson. "Later, another Robert - Robert Louis Stevenson - gave instructions that the stone should be repaired and re-inscribed because of the debt he also felt he owed Fergusson." The society is now planning a series of fundraising events to boost their bid to commission a statue. Edinburgh's Lord Provost Eric Milligan said: "In his work, Fergusson provided a vivid picture of life in 18th century Edinburgh, particularly in the Royal Mile area where his statue is likely to be sited." Once cash has been raised for the statue, the society plans to hold a competition for its design.

Crofters on Line

Working croft holidays are being highlighted in a recently launched crofting website. More than 50 croft based businesses have already signed up for free promotion via the www on the site supported by the Crofters Commission and inspired by an idea from crofters at recent meetings. Crofters Commission spokesman Brian MacDonald said: "While crofters recognise the internet's potential many were uncertain of how to take the plunge. This is reflected in a recent survey which shows that more than half of all crofters have access to a computer but only one in six actually use the internet. "To take advantage of the project crofters don't even need a computer. Simply by telling us what they want to say we can arrange an appearance on the web and open their business up to potential clients throughout the world."
The site address is: http://www.cali.co.uk/freeway/crofters

Small is Beautiful

A Highland museum has been singled out as one for the future by the director of the National Portrait Gallery in London. Cromarty Courthouse Museum received special praise from Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Portrait Gallery, during a recent lecture on The Future of Museums. His Andrew Martingale Lecture at the University of East Anglia used examples of major museums across the globe, but at the end he turned to his own favourites. "If I think what museum experiences have been special to me in recent years, then I think not of the big museums but of the small scale and the individual. The Museum of Cromarty based in an old courthouse in the North of Scotland helps define the history of that part of Scotland. "There are museums which have preserved a sense of integrity in what they do and communicate effectively the meaning and experience of life in the past, just as powerfully as they do information about it," said the director. Outstanding features of the museum include animatronic figures of famous 17th century Scottish intellectual Sir Thomas Urquhart, who lived in the village. Cromarty Courthouse curator David Alston said: "I am sure the staff and trustees will be delighted by these comments. "Charles Saumarez Smith is the director of one of the world's major galleries and a leading thinker in debates about future cultural strategy." Trust chairman David Ross said: "It's pleasing that a successful museum should not just be judged by the number of visitors coming through the doors but by the quality of the work that is in the museum."

Charity Event

A newly wed couple have presented over 700 to a holiday centre for multiple sclerosis sufferers - after asking wedding guests for a donation instead of a gift. Wendy and Doug Stephen decided that after eight years living together there was nothing they needed in terms of presents. Instead, they held a collection among guests in aid of the Holmhill Holiday Centre at Grantown, where Wendy works as a nurse. The centre is run by the Multiple Sclerosis Society and provides holiday breaks for multiple sclerosis sufferers from throughout Britain.

Political Roundup

Fed up With Politics

Veteran Highland MP Charles Kennedy has made a candid admission in a recent message: "People are fed up with politicians." The Ross, Skye and Inverness West MP, who is also leader of the Liberal Democrats, warned that the nation "will be left absolutely cold by speculation over the coming General Election - and went on to suggest the idea of fixed term parliaments.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy, occasional rain then brighter/drier. Winds light/mod S-SW. Temperature 7c to 12c.
Saturday Night
Showers dying back to coasts. Clear spells. Winds light/mod SW'ly, fresh N-W. Temperature 2c to 6c.
Sunday
Some early rain/drizzle in the W clearing to sunny spells. Mist/fog patches then sunny spells in the E.
Monday
A few showers in W parts, the E staying mainly dry and bright. Some mist/fog patches in the morning.


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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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