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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 11th May 2002
Issue No 279

"Woodhenge" on Highland Hillside

Modern astronomers who have rejected a forest clearing as the site of a new observatory are instead planning to use it to turn the clock back thousands of years.

For instead of a state of the art telescope, members of the Highlands Astronomical Society and the Abriachan Forest Trust are considering creating a "woodhenge" overlooking Loch Ness. The society is consulting with members about the possibility of erecting a circle of sculpted hardwood pillars - similar to the prehistoric circle at Stonehenge. The move follows the society's decision against building a permanent astronomical observatory on Carn a Leitire at Abriachan, which is considered to be unsuitable. With help from public funding, the trust took over the extensive woodland in one of the first community land buy outs three years ago. The society's opposition to the Abriachan site for the observatory followed extensive consultation among members. Plans for the "woodhenge" have been revealed on its website. Society member Pauline Macrae said the idea of woodhenge is ideal. "It fits in well with the trust's current attractions," she said. "Visitors to the site can learn about astronomy at any time of the day, not just night." She said members would be helping the trust with designing and building the henge - which is more within the society's current capabilities. Another member of the society, Maarten de Vries, said: "After the discussion about the site, I couldn't stop thinking it would be a shame just to turn our backs on it, especially since the Forest Trust has been exceptionally kind to us." He remembered visiting a modern henge in the Netherlands which he described as a truly impressive structure, comprising a wooden palisade ring. "Gaps in the ring pointed to where the sun sets and rises during midwinter and summer solstices," he explained. "The major advantage of such a structure is that you don't need to have an interest in astronomy to enjoy the site." The society is now considering a site in the Culloden area for a small observatory which has been bequeathed to them. But members of the trust remain hopeful that some time in the future an observatory may still be provided at Abriachan. Highland councillor Margaret Davidson, a director of the trust said: "It would be lovely to have the observatory at Abriachan, but if the society has decided to locate it elsewhere that's fine. "The beauty of the Abriachan site is it is 1,000 feet up, but it could be a bit remote and perhaps they were looking for somewhere nearer the town." Chairman George Hawco said the big advantage of the Abriachan site was that it is shielded from the street lights of Inverness. He added: "My understanding is they are now looking at a site in the Culloden area. "They will be able to use filter equipment to combat the sodium lights from Inverness. "As for the main observatory site, there is no reason why there won't be one at Abriachan. "There's no urgent timescale. We have been looking at a range of ideas for sometime and these will continue to evolve."

Township to be Preserved

One of the last townships to be evicted during the Highland Clearances looks likely to be preserved for posterity. Durness Development Group chairman Ronnie Lansley said the residents of Ceannabeinne township on the eastern outskirts of Durness are thought to have been partly responsible for the introduction of crofting legislation, which stopped crofters being taken off the land. The group is now keen to see the township preserved for the benefit of both tourists and local people. "We know that this site has its own uniqueness because of the riot of June 1841. "Ceannabeinne can arguably be described as an important township in that it brought to the attention of the Scottish population the atrocious situation in the Highlands. "The publicity of one of the first organised riots was in part responsible in bringing about the crofting legislation," said Mr Lansley. He added that, with close inspection, many signs of the township are still visible. Mr Lansley said that by 1841 the only survivors of the old townships in the Durness area were those on the Rispond Estate. "The biggest farm town on the estate was Ceannabeinne, with 14 houses and a school. "In September 1841 the people of Ceannabeinne were told they had to leave. "A sheriff officer from Dornoch brought the note of eviction on a day the men of the township were cutting bent (grass) for thatch at Balnakeil about 10 kilometers away when a woman was heard shouting from Ceannabeinne. "The woman forced the sheriff officer to burn the writ by holding his hand over a fire," said Mr Lansley. "The people of Ceannabeinne had to leave their homes in May 1842, but the publicity over it stopped the Duke of Sutherland's factor clearing the tenants from the Durness Estate and, in 1886, the Crofters Act became law and landowners could no longer force their tenants off the land," said Mr Lansley. He said the development group saw this as an important piece of local history which should not be allowed to fade away.

Queen Mother Tribute

The Queen's three sons are to build a tribute to their grandmother with their own hands. Prince Charles, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward plan a memorial to the Queen Mother in the grounds of the Castle of Mey. The three foot high cairn will stand with others dedicated to her close friend and confidant Ruth, Lady Fermoy, which the three princes built with rocks from the nearby beach after her death in 1993, and her former private secretary, Sir Martin Gilliat. Assistant factor James Murray said: "The cairn will be about 150 yards north of the castle, looking out to sea. "The plaque will be a Caithness flagstone, and they will try to use some granite from Glamis, the Queen Mother's family home. The Royal will be gathered together in Scotland when the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh host a garden party at Balmoral Castle on Wednesday, August 7, to conclude the jubilee celebrations. The family, including Princes Charles, Prince Edward and Prince Andrew, are expected to slip away north afterwards.

Custom Built Bothies Planned

A series of bothies with a difference is being planned to create a new tourism route from Inverness to Fort William and Portree to Skye. The proposal for the new havens for walkers and climbers is one of the ideas submitted to the team behind the Inverness and Highlands campaign for European Capital of Culture status in 2008. Campaign co-ordinator Bryan Beattie says the idea has real potential. He said: "The bothies would be located around one day's walk from each other. But as well as being functional, their designs would be something special. "The idea is that each bothy would be designed by a different pair of local artists and architects working in co-operation. "Their brief would be to incorporate a natural feature focal point of their design. This would give each bothy individuality and artistic merit and be a real conversation piece. We feel these unique bothies would also appeal to visitors. "We think that a new walking route which takes people all the way to Skye would be a particular attraction and would generate commercial benefits to the communities along the route. "It is another intriguing way of showing the Highlands is such an exciting blend of innovation and tradition. For the purposes of European Capital of Culture competition, it would be something which our rivals south of the border could not replicate." The project will be included in the Inverness and Highland application. The Government will select the 2008 culture capital in autumn from 14 entrants.

Appin Murder Remembered

A symbolic Appin Banner was borne from Ballachulish to Appin Church recently, as part of the 250th anniversary of the execution of James Stewart - James of the Glen. The North Lorn Civic Trust, the local authorities, community councils and other agencies have planned a five month programme of events to mark the "Appin Murder" - the slaying of Government factor, Colin Campbell of Glenure, in 1752. Campbell was gunned down by "person(s) unknown - albeit there are North Lorn locals alive today who are said to have the secret of the name of the killer, handed down to them. But the man who did not commit the murder, James of the Glen, was executed for the crime, following a jury trial on trumped up charges at Inveraray. James of the Glen was publicly hanged on a tree clad knoll at Ballachulish, his body being left to dangle in chains for three weeks as "an example" particularly to the Stewart Clan. At James's Execution Memorial at Ballachulish, a group of kilted locals remembered James of the Glen, prior to setting out on their march, bearing a replica Appin Banner. The original war banner of the Stewarts was heroically rescued from the battlefield of Culloden by Donald Livingston, a Stewart retainer, who wrapped it around his wounded body and returned it to Appin. The Appin Banner now has a place of honour in the National Museum of Scotland.

Preservation Required

Mystery still surrounds the final resting place of King Duncan despite an archaeological excavation of the supposed site in Inverness - but the stone marking its alleged location is to remain. Following local residents fears that vital evidence may be destroyed by reconstruction work at the site of the former Kingswell Filling Station adjacent to the 11th century monarch's alleged grave, Highland Council's senior Archaeologist John Wood visited the site and, in conjunction with Historic Scotland carried out a two day investigation. Many ancient Scottish Kings were buried on Iona but local legend maintains that the body of King Duncan - who was killed in 1040 fighting against Macbeth in a battle near Elgin - was buried at what is now the junction of Inverness's Old Perth Road and Culcabock Avenue. A monument marking the site reads: "Behind this lies the supposed burial place of King Duncan 1040." The redevelopment of the former filling station outraged a local resident who, concerned to protect the historic site, contacted a local newspaper who in turn alerted Mr Wood. But following the excavation the archaeologist said there was little chance of the redevelopment work being halted. Although the excavation produced no sign of a burial, royal or otherwise, he did not rule out that some evidence may already have been destroyed before his dig took place. "If we had discovered and recorded anything, it would indeed have been a very exciting find - but there is still a possibility King Duncan may indeed have been buried there at some point," Mr Wood commented. "Because we weren't informed when the building work started on the site, there is a chance the evidence which was there has been destroyed. "It's still a traditional site, however, and we would like to see the marker stones left - but as we failed to find anything during the dig there's now nothing we can do to avoid building work being done." A spokesman for the company carrying out the excavation work said he was happy to leave the stone markers there and we are obviously very pleased that nothing was found during the dig - but when we initially applied for planning permission I was led to believe that the development was welcomed by all the local residents.

The Elgin Marbles

The Scottish Trades Union Congress demanded recently that the Elgin Marbles be returned to Greece before the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The sculptures and friezes were taken from Athens in the 18th century by Lord Elgin and are currently in the British Museum. Demanding the return of the Greek treasures, Kenneth Macmillan, a trades council from Inverness, said: "The crude plundering of the Elgin Marbles from their original site at the Parthenon was a barbarous outrage against the Greek people by corrupt occupying Turkish forces and Lord Elgin. "The illicit retention of these stolen and reset treasures is totally indefensible and they should be sent back to the Greek people with an appropriate apology." He added: "Tony Blair must do what was promised in the 1997 Labour manifesto and return the Marbles to Greece." Mr Macmillan's father, Malcolm Kenneth Macmillan, was MP for the Western Isles from 1935 to 1970 and he campaigned against the military junta in Greece in the 1960s and 70s. The former MP is now buried in the town of Volos on land donated to him by the Greek Government for his services to the country.

Charity Event

Freemasons from around Inverness made a charitable difference to children with special needs recently by holding a fundraising event. Members of masonic lodges, from Lochaber up to Wick, raised a total of 330 for local children's charities when they got together for their annual Order of Cork event. The money is to be split equally between the Rainbow Ward at Raigmore Hospital, the Highland Deaf Children's Society and The Orchard respite centre.

Political Roundup

Call to Protect City of Culture Bid

Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MSP, Fergus Ewing, called on the Scottish Executive recently to nominate a member to the Independent Advisory Panel to scrutinise the EU Capital of Culture bids. The Highland MSP said it was essential that the whole of Scotland gets behind the Inverness Highland bid for European capital of culture. He said: "We are up against 11 other UK candidates. The English based culture department will have the power to determine the members of the Independent Advisory Panel who will be appointed to scrutinise bids. "Their work will lead to a short list being drawn up. It is therefore essential that although the Scottish Executive appears to have no formal right to play a part, it makes a recommendation to the culture department down in London as to someone who can serve on the panel with a direct knowledge and understanding of the Scottish candidate." BR>

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Bright in the W with showers later. Cloudy in the E with a few showers. Winds mod/strong SWly. Temperature 10c to 14c.
Saturday Night
Rain in the W overnight while the E will have clear spells with a few showers. Winds strong W-SW'ly. Temperature 3c to 8c.
A risk of showers in the N. The best of any bright spells will be in the S. Mod/fresh NE'ly winds.
A slight chance of showers in the NW but generally dry with some sunny spells.

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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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