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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 27th April 2002
Issue No 277

Information Wanted on Mystery Cairns

A search was under way recently for information about the history of 54 stone cairns which flank a lochside road north of Oban and may mark the burial place of Redcoat soldiers killed by followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Historic Scotland is considering whether the unusual stone structures, at the edge of Loch Creran on the A828 west of Druimavuic and believed to date back to the 18th century, should be included on the Statutory List of Buildings of Architectural or Historic Interest. Argyll and Bute Council, having been approached by Historic Scotland for its comments on the proposal, is now trying to establish the background to the unusual landmarks. Councillor Campbell Cameron, who represents the Loch Creran area, believes the cairns, which cover an extensive stretch of roadway, are historically important and should be listed. Stories he heard while growing up in the nearby village of Benderloch lead him to believe that the cairns mark the burial place of several Redcoats who were secretly slain around 1746. Mr Cameron said he had heard that local supporters of the prince had built many more cairns than the number of soldiers they buried there, to make their deed less obvious and to make their work look more like a boundary marker. He said: "It's a story that has been going about for a long time. Basically, in the aftermath of Culloden, the story goes that the troops of Charles Edward Stuart, Prince Charlie, were spreading out and the Redcoats basically spread out after them, because they were chasing Prince Charlie. "The story I heard was that there was a skirmish involving a number of Redcoats, not more than 10, and that the fleeing army won the victory. "But the thing whether any following Redcoats would try and take their revenge, so the cairns erected to look like a boundary, something that wouldn't look like there was anyone buried there. If it had been left as cleared earth, the following Redcoats would have known what had happened." Mr Cameron added: "Even if this turns out not to be the case, the cairns are unique and unusual for the area that I still think it is worth putting a listing on them." The council's planning department believes that there is at present insufficient information on the historical importance of the cairns to make their listing appropriate. Council officials have put forward the suggestion that the cairns might have been constructed as part of an estate employment scheme to mark the edge of the road, which is prone to flooding.

New Code for Dolphins

Highland organisations, businesses and members of the public recently pooled their resources in a new scheme to halt the decline of bottlenose dolphins in their only safe haven in Scotland. And if authorities are not seen to be taking action to stop the vulnerable mammals dying out in the Moray Firth, the UK could be prosecuted under a European Commission directive. To try and buck the downward trend, the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation Management (SAC) Group launched a raft of possible solutions to the potential environmental crisis. A Scottish Natural Heritage study in 1999 showed the dolphin population in the area, now estimated at 130, was declining at a rate of 5-6% annually. This means that, if nothing is done to stop the decline, there will be none left in 50 years. Group chairman Mike Comerford said: "We're not talking about bans or any other kind of blanket prohibitions, but about agreed and workable codes of practice and specific actions by individual organisations. "Bottlenose dolphins are a top marine predator - a flagship species. By protecting them, we are working to protect the whole firth ecosystem. Management measures that improve the environment for dolphins will improve it for many other wildlife species. This will also, for example, benefit commercial fish stocks and recreational users."

Move to Restore Assynt Buildings

An ambitious scheme to rescue and restore four historic buildings in a tiny West Sutherland community has taken another significant step forward. The Historic Assynt Project set up five years ago, seeks to restore 18th century Inchnadamph Church and its adjoining 16th century MacLeod Mausoleum, at the head of Loch Assynt, and also to consolidate the ruins of Ardvreck Castle and Invercalda House, little over a mile away. Project officer Maggie Campbell revealed that the venture had been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant towards initial development work on the two ruined buildings. This, she said, would involve preliminary archaeology, specialist survey work and interpretation. "We're on the way forward," she said. "This is a massive step forward because I had been told that so far the Lottery Fund has never given development funding and not given project funding later. Unless something horrendous turns up, we should get a project grant, but that won't be until the end of next year." Ardvreck Castle, built on a peninsula in the early 16th century as a stronghold of the MacLeod chiefs of Assynt, was the scene in 1650, after the Battle of Carbusdale, of the apprehension of the Marquis of Montrose by Neil MacLeod of Assynt. The gentlemanly soldier scholar was imprisoned in one of the castle's now crumbling dungeons, before being sent to Edinburgh where he was subsequently executed.

Gaelic Group Moves up a Gear

A community based project to introduce young people to the music, songs and dance of their Gaelic heritage has moved up a gear. Feisean nan Gaidheal, the National Association of 32 community based Feisean, or festivals, is set to employ a training officer. The new post holder will implement the organisation's training plan and will work towards drawing up and implementing plans on behalf of a National Traditional Music Training Network. Last year 3,666 young people across Scotland benefitted in events organised by the association. The post will be offered on a full time basis, initially for two years, and the post holder will be based within Feisean nan Gaidheal's offices in Portree, Skye. Feisean nan Gaidheal Director, Arthur Cormack, explained: "Feisean nan Gaidheal has always been involved in tutor and volunteer training. "And it has for some time now been interested in expanding this role within the organisation. "We were initially going to employ a part time officer with funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise. "However, as a result of an in depth consultation carried out for the Scottish Arts Council around three years ago, a national traditional music tutor training network had been established."

Flour Power

A New Zealand sheep shearer who fell in love with a Scots lass is now milling traditional Scottish flour products in a restored water mill in Golspie, Sutherland. Michael 'Bob' Shaw explained that he used to spend a couple of months in Caithness every year during the shearing season and on his first visit to Scotland he met Becky, the woman who was to become his wife. The couple have now settled in Golspie Mill, which is owned by Sutherland Estates and has been restored by the previous miller, Fergus Morrison. Mr Shaw and his wife, who comes from the Isle of Bute, had been at university with Mr Morrison's daughter and they learnt that he was looking for someone to take over. "Being a shearer, I've been pretty much self employed and I wanted to work for myself here - it's much better than working for somebody else. The mill needed someone to run it and everything just fell into place," he said. Mr Shaw now runs operations single handed with a little bit of help from his wife, who works from home for the Scottish Crofting Foundation. "I started by helping Fergus Morrison at the mill and took over the lease in August of last year. He just gradually did less and less and I did more and more. You could say it was a seamless takeover," said Mr Shaw. And he is now producing a range of peasemeal, beremeal, oatmeal, bread flour, rye flour and plain flour, most of which are totally organic. Mr Shaw explained that peasemeal is a traditional Scottish product made from yellow field beans that are roasted before being ground. Mr Shaw has no regrets about giving up the warmer climes of New Zealand for the chilly winters of Sutherland. "It is a lot colder than I am used to but I am becoming acclimatised to it now and I am enjoying what I am doing. I've only seen snow three times in my life and two of those were here, last year and this winter," he said.

Lairg Earmarks Site

Lairg Community Council is hoping to buy land near the Ferrycroft Visitor Centre to create a good sized show site. Its chairman Councillor Lewis Hudson, said it was negotiating with the Forestry Commission to extend the recreation area. It would take the council three years to drain the land, at a cost of 40,000, before it could be used. The site could be used for the annual Crofters' Show in August, the Gala Week in July and other outdoor events. The recreation are started life as the village football pitch. "We managed to upgrade and extend the pitch three years ago, and the Crofters' Show did use it one year, but it was a bit of a tight fit, so we are planning to further extend the site. "We have some funds in the account at the moment, but we will need to raise more money to provide match funding for any grants that may be available," said Mr Hudson. The council is also planning a millennium garden, to be planted with trees and shrubs indigenous to Scotland, on Highland Council owned land behind the visitor centre.

Who's Who in Bid to Boost Culture Bid

As Inverness and the Highlands sets sights on becoming European Capital of Culture, a document has been commissioned to add weight to the bid. A Who's Who directory, detailing the region's main players in the realm of culture, is to be collated by Ardross woman Lucy Conway. Ms Conway, who has worked for Balnain House and Scottish Natural Heritage, says the list will provide a definitive directory of art, science, sport, language, environment and heritage. She said: "The idea is to showcase, not just the people of the Highlands who have something to offer to the bid, but also the places and history. "The Capital of Culture is to do with what the breadth of the Highlands is all about so it's as much about arts as it is sports and environment and history and heritage." She added: "This will have a lot of people, a lot of organisations and galleries - it's going to be a fairly big publication." Bid co-ordinator Bryan Beattie said: "We have some 14 rivals, varying from Belfast to Manchester, Canterbury, Milton Keynes and Newcastle-Gateshead. "We think we're as well advanced as any and that the unique cultural diversity of Inverness and the Highlands can give us a highly competitive edge."

Charity Event

Organisers of a sponsored walk of the West Highland Way this summer hope to raise 1 million for charities and communities throughout the country. Around 1,500 people are expected to take part in the State Street Caledonian Challenge on June 22-23, pledging a minimum of 500 each which will go to the Scottish Community Foundation, one of the fastest growing community foundations in the UK. One of the beneficiaries of last years foundations work was Volunteer Highland in Inverness, which received 2000.

Political Roundup

Cheeky Banker

The Aussie boss of the Scottish Clydesdale Bank has issued a grovelling apology for his astonishing slur on Scotland. Frank Cicutto said Scotland had been in recession for 200 years and opportunities were inferior. Unions, politicians and bank customers reacted furiously to the slur from the man responsible for hundreds of job cuts in Scotland. And they were further angered when Cicutto refused to apologise despite a national newspaper giving him a chance to retract his comments. But shame faced Cicutto finally decided the next day to say sorry.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
A cold start with showers, some wintry. Cloudier later with rain. Winds moderate W-SW'ly. Temperature 6c to 12c.
Saturday Night
Showers in the W after midnight. Dry in the E. Winds light SW'ly. Temperature 2c to 5c.
Cloudy and unsettled with showers or periods of rain. Light to moderate W'ly winds.
A cloudy and cool day with some frequent showers or longer periods of rain. Fresh NW'ly winds.

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