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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 7th April 2001
Issue No 226

Scottish Links Discovered in West Indies

A Cromarty based historian has found evidence showing that natives living in the West Indies are direct descendants of the wealthy Highland landowners of the 18th century.

Dave Alston, of the Cromarty Courthouse Museum, found coloured natives of Highland descent, some with Scottish accents, living in Guyana and also found evidence of mixed race children coming back to live in the North. He said: "Many Highlanders moved to the Caribbean during the 18th century, and I found that according to a report made in 1807, the majority of sugar estates were being run by Scottish merchants, and four of them were from Cromarty." Caribbean markets in the late 18th century were vital to the growth of the Scottish economy as hemp and linen were regularly exported to the West Indies. Highland families began acquiring land, in what were then the colonies of Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo, and established a number of sugar, coffee and cotton plantations, with names such as George Ross from Cromarty and Macleod of Geanies becoming major plantations owners. Mr Alston added: "It was very common in those days for young Scots moving out there to either buy a black female slave, or form a relationship with a black woman and the result was many mixed race children. "The children were sometimes sent back here so they could finish a good education and there were three children found to be in the Inverness Royal Academy role of 1807 who were designated 'coloured'. "Unfortunately, because they were mixed race, by the time they had finished there wasn't much of a place for them, racist ideas were beginning in Britain." Mr Alston first came up with the theory that Highland descendants were living in the West Indies after hearing about local myth, as well as reading the autobiography of a distinguished Cromarty man. "Hugh Miller, who became one of the greatest geologists of the 19th century described in his autobiography in 1816 of sitting beside a black boy in school. "About 10 years after that, according to myth, Hugh Rose, who was a Scot that came back from the Caribbean and lived in Bayfield House in Nigg, kept a black slave locked away who one day murdered his wife and became a ghost known as the white lady of Bayfield House." Sandy Thomson, convener of the Cromarty History Society, sees the importance of studies like these, even if it reveals a less acceptable side of Highland culture. He said: "It is interesting to see the extent to which Highland land owners used the slave trade to make a lot of money. A lot of people may want to gloss over that part of our history but it happened. "Also, in the mid 19th century, racist ideas started to become acceptable, and after that a lot of half caste children wouldn't be sent to school in Cromarty."

Royal Approval

Inverness man Angus Shearer was given the royal seal of approval recently when he received a surprise letter from the Queen thanking him for his poem celebrating the granting of city status to the Highland Capital. The letter, which was dispatched by Lady-in Waiting Pauline Adams from Sandringham House, thanked Mr Shearer on behalf of the Queen for sending a copy of the poem to her. Mr Shearer, a car park attendant for Highland Council, had written the poem celebrating Inverness's city status and had presented copies of it to then Scottish Secretary John Reid and Provost Bill Smith in December. A copy was also sent to Buckingham Palace. Thanking Mr Shearer, who also works as a volunteer at the city's homeless shelter during the evening, the Queen replied that she had enjoyed the poem and had been happy to grant city status to Inverness. Mr Shearer admitted that the reply had come as a complete shock to him. "It was a real surprise, but a very nice one when I saw the the postmark on it. I am glad she enjoyed it. It was good to get a reply. I thought it was a very nice letter."

Bruce's Sword Replica

A reproduction of a sword that shaped a nation's destiny has proved to be a hit among Americans fascinated with British history.Bruces's sword, the weapon used by King Robert the Bruce in battle as he fought to end the English occupation of Scotland in the early 1300s, has been reproduced by an armourer and is now attracting interest from the US. Two Texans have ordered their copies of the steel 5ft, two handed great sword. It was the weapon with which Bruce fought during the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, when a small Scottish army overcame a huge and professional English force near Stirling, ending almost 15 years of English occupation. Ian MacAllen, master armourer of MacAllen Armourers of Leicester, took a month to produce the replica. He produced detailed drawings of the sword after studying the original, held in the care of Lord Elgin, the head of the Bruce family, at his home in Broomhall, near Dunfermline, Fife. And using the same technology as was available in the early 1300s, when Bruce fought a long war of attrition against the English under King Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, and his son Edward II, Mr MacAllen forged the sword in his smithy. "It has been a lifelong ambition to reproduce this sword but I could not find a good diagram of how the sword looks," said Mr MacAllen. "I decided to write to Lord Elgin, who looks after the original sword in the stronghold of his Broomhall residence, and he was a tremendous help, working with us all the way through this project." The sword went on show at a trade fair for Scottish goods in Glasgow recently, and already two Texans have placed firm orders for their own weapons, with the possibility of more orders in the pipeline. And so impressed with it was Lord Elgin that he produced a parchment naming Mr MacAllen - whose company can trace its roots back 700 years - the Bruce family's armourer. "What Scotsman doesn't want to get their hands on the sword of Robert the Bruce?" "I was fortunate enough to hold the real sword and the only way I can describe that is that it is a sword with a soul."

What's Under the Kilt?

Black Watch stalwart Dougie Graham faced a dressing down when Major Richard Cole-Macintosh checked if he was sticking to the traditions of the regiment. He passed the test this time at Queens Barracks in Perth. But the warrant officer defied dress protocol later by wearing pants under his kilt when he took part in the London Marathon. Dougie, who has been in the regiment for 21 years said: "The Black Watch have traditionally worn nothing under their kilt since 1738 and, normally I wouldn't be seen dead with knickers on. But jogging for 26.2 miles without underwear could be asking for trouble." Traditionally, before military parades, senior officers would check soldiers were pants free often with the aid of a mirror on a long stick. Dougie, senior permanent staff instructor with the Territorial Army's Perth based 51 Highland Regiment, hopes to raise loads of cash for charity. He added: "The public expect bare bottoms but what they don't know won't harm them."

Song for Isle School

A group of pupils from Lewis have written a song to celebrate the 're-opening' of their primary school. The refurbishment of Tong primary school started in September 1999, and pupils and teachers recently held a ceremony to mark completion of the work. The extensive renovation programme included the addition of a classroom and learning support room, wheelchair access toilets and a large amount of structural work. Headmistress Dorothy Kennedy said: "I just joined the staff in August last year so it's been wonderful to come into a new building. "The children are absolutely delighted with their new surroundings, and they wanted to write a song to thank everyone for their new school. "The song has three verses with one in English, one in Gaelic and one in French. Everybody in the school contributed something."

Holding the World In Suspense

Orkney is not noted for its lingerie but the discovery of a 105 year old patent suggests that the islands are home to the suspender. Two entrepreneurial young men from crafting families believed that the method used to hold up baggy farming overalls could have far reaching sartorial consequences and quietly registered the patent more than 5,000 miles away in 1896. Because of the horror their plans would have provoked in their close knit Victorian community, Andrew Thomson and James Drever took their idea for a 'clasp serving to secure the stocking' to California. In 1891 both had been recorded as 17 year old apprentice tailors on the Orkney parish census. But by the time the suspender became an accepted part of a woman's attire, they had disappeared into obscurity. Their association with the suspender, more linked to the fashion houses of Paris and Milan, came after Peter Leith, of Orkney, unearthed an old newspaper article mentioning a letter that claimed two Orkney men had invented the suspender. Mr Leith said: "I kept this article written years ago by a local historian, Ernest Marwick, and it said how he had got a letter from somebody in America with the names of two Orkney men who had patented the suspender in 1896. "He did not say who the letter was from and when he died there was no way of finding out, so I forgot about it." Subsequent research, however, using America's patent database, found that a 'clasp for garment supports' had been registered and that Mr Drever, who had taken up residency, was described as a citizen of the United States. Mr Thomson died 60 years ago, returned to his native Orkney island of Hoy a few years later. Jack Rendall, his great nephew said: "He never mentioned a word about it in my presence. He was such an austere old man, I just can't imagine it - or him being young and even thinking about women's stockings."

Railway Station to Re-open

The Highland Council has welcomed news that Beauly station is to re-open in October after 41 years of closure. The council has contributed 30,000 towards the 200,000 project, which will involve a new access to the station, a new platform and parking space for 10 cars. Councillor Garry Coutts, who represents Beauly and Strathglass, said: "This is good news for Beauly and the surrounding area. It is about 40 years since Beauly station closed to passengers but many older people still talk fondly of the convenience and speed of the service and I am sure it will be well used. The commuter services from Muir of Ord and Dingwall have been a great success and I see no reason why it will not be equally successful from Beauly. Local people have been campaigning for this for a long time and I hope they will find it a convenient, fast and cheap alternative to using their cars." Around 7 trains a day in each direction will stop at Beauly and Councillor Coutts urged local businesses to grasp this opportunity for increasing tourist numbers to the area. "There is now an opportunity to market Beauly to visitors who come to Inverness without their own transport Trips to Beauly could prove very popular if they are marketed properly. The station lies about half a mile from the centre of the village so perhaps there could be a courtesy car to meet trains and take visitors to the shops and hotels in the square."

Charity Event

Enjoying a pint with a difference at the Caley Inn in Inverness was Highland Hospice fundraising officer Alison Ferguson who received 215 from owner Gail Talbot after the bar held a raffle in aid of the charity. Ms Talbot said they had received a lot of support from regular customers and suppliers who contributed to the fundraising efforts.

Political Roundup

SNP Call for Return of Student Grants

The SNP have called for the abolition of tuition fees and the restoration of grants after the latest cost estimate emerged for funding of the Executive's student support package. The Nationalists' shadow finance minister, Andrew Wilson, claimed the money needed to exempt all students from paying towards bursaries for poorer students is small compared to other Executives commitments.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Bright/sunny spells, blustery showers. Winds mod/fresh N'ly. Temperature 3c to 7c.
Saturday Night
Isolated showers, dying out in S and W. Winds mod/fresh NW'ly. Temperature 0c to 3c.
Dry/sunny a.m in W then cloud/rain p.m. Misty to start in E then long sunny periods.
Winds freshening. Showers at times, turning to rain over the hills. Brighter spells but mainly cloudy.

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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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