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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 13th April 2002
Issue No 275

Island memorial of Iolaire Disaster

Early in 1919 an Admiralty yacht taking hundreds of servicemen back from war was wrecked just outside Stornoway Harbour.

More than 200 of the returning veterans and crew, some still in their teens, lost their lives. Just over 83 years later, a plaque telling of the disaster believed to have befallen the 862 ton Iolaire was unveiled close to the scene at Holm by the North of Scotland Water Authority. It now tells the grim story and points the way to the official memorial unveiled in 1958. Strangely, it has only recently become public knowledge that the ill fated ship was not the Iolaire. She was, in fact, the smaller 204 ton Amalthaea, another motor yacht requisitioned for the war from shipping magnate Sir Donald Currie. The Iolaire (Gaelic for Eagle) was based in Stornoway in an administrative role and was due to assist the regular Kyle to Stornoway ferry, Sheila, to take the servicemen home. She was sent south for a refit and the Amalthaea stood in as the Iolaire, as HMS Iolaire was the Admiralty's name for the Stornoway base. The 21 strong crew took on 262 Navy ratings at Kyle of Lochalsh as they returned home after the conflict. As the Amalthaea/Iolaire approached Stornoway in the dark, she hit the dreaded rocks outside the harbour, The Beasts of Holm. The final death toll was officially put at 205 of whom 181 were islanders. Some of the descendants of some of those lost that fateful night braved the cold wind to see the plaque unveiled. Sandy Matheson, Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles, performed the solemn duty with Colin Rennie, the chairman of the water authority. Mr Matheson said: "This was a terrible tragedy, coming after the loss of about 1,000 servicemen from Lewis and Harris in the war itself." As provost of the town council, Mr Matheson also received the bell of the sunken ship in 1971 after it was recovered by divers. Mr Rennie said the water authority was honoured to help in a small way to commemorate the tragic events that devastated the islands. Quietly watching the ceremony was Sandy Macleod, 86, from Garrabost. His father, John, died that night at the age of 37. Sandy was only four at the time. His distraught mother had never discussed the tragedy and it was only much later that Sandy learned what had happened from relatives. Mr Macleod said that, by the most ironic coincidence, during the World War II, he found to his horror that he himself was to be posted to the Iolaire, by then a depot ship based at Loch Ewe in Wester Ross. He said: "After what happened to my father, I was afraid that history might repeat itself. I was subject to disciplinary regulations and could not refuse but I asked for another ship. "When I explained the reasons, it was granted and I was sent elsewhere." The retired crofter and weaver was at the unveiling of the main memorial in 1958 and returned to Holm Point for the first time in 43 years. Between 50 and 60 men jumped overboard and were battered on the jagged rocks and drowned as the yacht crunched on the notorious reef. Only 75 of those aboard survived the disaster.

Celtic Textile Work in Demand

The needlework skills of an Inverness woman have landed her with an order to supply craft products to a new Highland visitor attraction. Historic Scotland learned of the Celtic knotwork embroidery created by Ruth Black, and asked her to provide them for the new Urquhart Castle visitor centre, on the banks of Loch Ness. Mrs Black, a science technician at Inverness Royal Academy, was delighted by what was the biggest order she has secured. "I have only really sold my work when it has been commissioned, or at craft fair stalls, before," she said. Mrs Black designs and makes items such as cushions and bags, using an applique technique to decorate Harris Tweed with intricate Celtic designs. Historic Scotland heard of Mrs Black's work through her mother, who also produces craftwork on the island of Lewis. The organisation approached her about supplying the visitor centre, which opened at the end of last year. The body, which maintains castles and historic buildings throughout Scotland, is bringing a local touch to shops at its visitor centres by featuring the products of craftworkers in each area. The wares of several other locals are to be for sale at Urquhart Castle. Mrs Black said: "My style of work has proved very popular with foreign visitors who are looking for something that is typically Scottish but not necessarily tartan. "I do it as something a little more than a hobby, and selling it helps fund the materials and equipments for the other arts activities I want to do."

Ancient Skills on Video

A video on the ancient skill of dry stone walling is proving to be a monumental success. Master craftsman Dave Goulder is delighted at the number of requests for his training video - relaunched with a new cover and updated information. Mr Goulder. of Rosehall, near Lairg, a dry stone builder since 1975, has worked all over the Highlands and Islands. He has exported his skills to the US and Canada and is an instructor and Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) examiner for certification. The craftsman made the video to encourage others to take up dry stone walling, but is surprised at its popularity. Mr Goulder said: "I suppose that, as a dyker, you live in a sort of isolation and don't realise that, outside the profession, a lot of people are interested in the craft. "Already there has been a lot of interest. "It has come as a real surprise that people are so interested in dry stone walling." The video looks at the different building styles around Scotland, describing the walls and those who built them. It also gives a brief history of the craft and looks at the basic tools and safety information.

Clan Centre for Sinclairs

A new study centre being created in north east Caithness is set to become a magnet for Sinclairs from all over the world. The clan archive established at Noss Head has already attracted interest from academics and people seeking information about their forebears. Among the 2000 plus books are four volumes detailing Sinclairs who died in wars during the 20th century. A copy of the original Domesday Book is due shortly to add to the collection compiled by Ian Sinclair at Noss Head, just north of Wick. Mr Sinclair moved up four years ago with his partner Joan Burton Sinclair to the two adjoining cottages built for the keepers who used to man the lighthouse on the headland. The former teacher, whose family came from Caithness, has had an abiding interest in the rich history of his clan. He believed Noss was an appropriate setting for the study centre given its proximity to the ruins of Sinclair and Girnigoe Castles, the ancestral clan seat. In addition to books he has acquired, many have been donated, including the copy of the Domesday Book which was bought recently by Niven Sinclair for 7,000. Mr Sinclair said: "The books are not just about the clan and its links with Freemasonry and Knights Templar but include the history of the Vikings and the whole of Scotland."

Highland Blessing

A Belgian couple made the clan connection recently when they arrived in the Highlands for a wedding blessing. Philip Deheyder and Isabelle van der Linden, who discovered they were affiliated to the MacLennan clan, managed to get the clan chief to be official piper at their ceremony. The couple, who got married in their home country were so in love with the Highlands that they decided to bring family and friends over for a blessing in Dores, near Inverness. They opted for a traditional ceremony, and went to a tartan centre to arrange kilts and a scarf for the bride. They discovered that Isabelle's family name has a connection with the MacLennans - and then a bit of luck put them in touch with the figurehead of the clan. Isabelle said: "We asked the people at our bed and breakfast if anyone was available to pipe at the service, and they thought of Ruairidh MacLennan - the clan chief." Ruairidh, who has been the clan chief since he was 12, was pleased to came home and do the honours. He said: "It's nice to make contact with other clan members, however distant the connection. I'm just glad that I could help make their day that little bit more special." Philip added: "It's quite a coincidence that we managed to find the clan chief to pipe for us. We just came here to stay for one night, and then we found out the whole story." Isabelle and Philip, who met about 18 months ago through their work in aviation, brought their parents and friends over for the ceremony at Dores Church and had a meal afterwards in Dores Inn. Philip said: "We really enjoyed our day - it's exactly what we wanted, just a small ceremony and nothing fancy."

There is Room at the Inn

A remote Highland inn is setting its sights on becoming the regions most unusual tourist attraction. The Crask, is three miles from its nearest neighbour and 12 miles from the nearest settlement of any size, at Lairg. Electricity is supplied by a generator and there is no television set on the premises. The water supply comes from nearby Lochan Iain Bhuidhe and peat needed to heat the premises is cut from a bog near its croft. Mike and Kai Gelard took over the Crask in June 1997. Before that, neither had any experience of running a hostelry. "We never really dreamed of running an inn, but it was a chance for us to have land and animals of our own," said Kai. "We've learned about running an inn as we've gone along." She added: "Now, most of our trade is repeat trade or people who've heard about us by word of mouth and we pick up some business from the Internet." Mike said that most of their guests were walkers, fishermen, birdwatchers or cyclists, stopping off for a well earned break on the gruelling Land's End to John O'Groats ride. "We seem to attract a lot of single men who are looking for peace and quiet," he said. And for those looking for an escape from the usual Christmas in front of the telly, the Crask is preparing to take bookings for this Christmas. "There are no frills. What you see is what you get," said Kai.

Glencoe Buy Out Bid Backed

The latest group involved in a prospective community buy out in the Highlands - announced recently they have overwhelming support of local villagers. Chairman Alister Sutherland said their bid to buy the remaining portions of Lord Strathcona's Glencoe Estate on behalf of the community, has been backed by a village vote of 139 to 36. These 175 adult residents, out of an electorate of 286, responded to a ballot paper circulated by post by The Friends of Glencoe. They were asked to give the group a mandate to proceed with the buy out via the establishment of a Community Development Trust for the area covering Glencoe and Glen Etive. The Friends of Glencoe say that if their bid is successful this will take the properties involved from private ownership into community ownership.

Charity Event

About 1,000 Highland people who chose to remember their dead loved ones by lighting a candle at Christmas, boosted a hospital charity by almost 10,000. Every year, the Highland Hospice holds a "Light for Hope" appeal, in which people who have lost a close friend or family member are offered the precious chance to dedicate a light to them. It costs 5 to sponsor the living flame and this year, the charity made an amazing 9,800.

Political Roundup

MP Demands Council Fly the Saltire

Moray's MP has called for the Scots flag to be flown from all council buildings for important events, including St Andrew's Day and New Year's Day. Angus Robertson is demanding action after receiving several complaints from constituents upset that the Saltire was not flying from many prominent council buildings last St Andrew's Day. He said: "It seems ridiculous to me that we do not mark our national day in such a way. "After all the Scottish Parliament flies the flag and marks the day with a holiday. "Even at Westminster the union flag is replaced with the Saltire for the day, so we should surely fly the Scottish flag as well."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Sunny spells continuing in the E. W turning cloudier with light rain in far W. Winds light/mod S'ly. Temperature 6c to 9c.
Saturday Night
Rain spreading from the W to most places by morning. Winds light/mod SW'ly. Temperature 0c to 4c.
Generally cloudy and showery in the W. Mainly sunny in the E.
Scattered outbreaks of rain, easing pm with drier brighter conditions developing. Fresh S'ly wind.

Glenmoriston Arms Hotel and Restaurant

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Where each guest is welcomed as an individual and owners Neil and Carol Scott make sure that guests enjoy a unique blend of warmth, elegance and informality.

Glenmoriston Arms Hotel

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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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