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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 25th May 2002
Issue No 281

Theory of Clan's Viking Ancestors

MacLeod men prepared to give a piece of themselves for their clan are being asked to step forward - so the family's proud claim to Viking origins can be put to the test.

Males of the species are being urged to agree to a simple DNA test by top geneticists at University College London. Earlier research there established that Norse blood still runs in the veins of Orcadians. The latest project being supported by the Associated Clan MacLeod Societies. The study will follow two lines of inquiry. It will seek correlation between the Y chromosome and the surname MacLeod and look for Viking DNA traits in the volunteers. ACMS American president Dr Alex McLeod said: "Thirty years ago, while involved in a study of hereditary deafness at Vanderbilt University here in Nashville, I was becoming interested to see if there might be a chromosome marker that was common to the surname and a Swiss geneticist friend did a chromosome analysis and felt that the Y chromosome might have such. "He was willing to have his Geneva laboratory perform the study." But attempts to arrange the trials failed when the clan powers that be on Skye refused because "it would be an invasion of privacy". "I was far too junior at that time in the clan and was unable to take the idea further," he said. Then some months ago, he read an article about a study by Professor David Goldstein and contacted him at University College London. "He was very interested and responsive and we just happened to appear on the scene as he was initiating a Y chromosome surname study," said Dr McLeod. "He agreed ti use MacLeods for the study and run the Viking DNA testing concomitantly. "Now, being president of ACM, I was able to present the possibility to its management council where it met with enthusiasm and was quickly approved as something we wished to support. "The study affords two important aspects for us. First, it offers the possibility of finding a common genetic marker for the clan and second, it offers the possibility of confirming our historical tradition that we are a Norse clan." Interested Macleods do not need to be members of the Clan MacLeod Society of Scotland as non members are welcome. Clansmen wishing to take part will be asked to submit a DNA sample which is taken by rubbing the inside of the mouth with a cotton swab. This will be sent to University College London. Volunteers must have the last name MacLeod no matter how it is spelled, and must have received that name through the father's line, not the mother's. "Only one male MacLeod from a given immediate line may participate. "Built into the research project is complete privacy and individual results will be released only to the individual participant - and that only upon written request on the application accompanying the sample," said a clan spokesman. The study will close on December 31.

Right on Cue

Roy the collie dog was always going to be different. Being born with a white coat and short hair meant he wasn't destined to run round a field. The sheep simply didn't recognise his strange appearance and refused to be rounded up. But now the 15 month old dog has developed other talents. He's become a dab hand at pool and entertains tourists from all over the world with his skills in his owners hotel pub. Martin Macrae and partner Sarah Maloney run the Balmacara Hotel near Kyle of Lochalsh on the road to Skye. Sarah, who moved to Scotland from South Island, New Zealand four years ago, said: "Roy came from a litter of pups where all the others became working dogs. "When we moved into the hotel about a year ago we were redecorating and he started trying to jump up on the pool table. "He was only about two months old and could hardly see over the top. But even when we told him not to he'd still go for the balls." Although dogs are meant to be colour blind, that doesn't stop Roy. He uses his nose to push the cue ball against the other balls - and from time to time he's even been seen hitting the white ball with a pool cue. His antics also help out Sarah when she's rushed off her feet running the hotel. She said: "If I'm really busy I sometimes don't have a lot of time to take Roy for long walks. But he always does a couple of laps of the table after someone pots a ball. It must add up to about 300 laps a day." Hotel owner Martin, a former farmer, said: "Everyone who comes in is fascinated by Roy. "Now we don't even charge people for playing pool because they can't get peace from him racing round the table. People from the campsite behind the hotel, the coach tours and the locals love him. "He follows people and tries to get them over to play pool. He even sleeps on the table sometimes." But all that pool playing is thirsty work and Roy's latest trick is propping up the bar with a 10 note between his teeth. Roy is now passing on his skills to a puppy prodigy. He's showing five month old collie Celtie how to pot balls. Sarah said: "Celtie's owner brings her in and she's following in Roy's footsteps. No doubt she'll be up there with him in a few months."

Recognition Wanted

A Highland society insisted recently that a new tourist attraction to be built on the outskirts of Inverness must be historically accurate. The 20 million film studio planned for Milton of Leys also includes a Braveheart fort which, it is hoped will attract thousands of visitors. Rob Gibson, secretary of Avoch based Andrew de Moray project, welcomed plans for the studio and the fort, which would showcase the Braveheart period of the Scots Wars of Independence. However, he said the fort must tell the whole story. "The north's hero Andrew de Moray's name should be included in the theme park title alongside Wallace. "It was de Moray's lead role that raised the North of Scotland for the patriotic cause and he shared leadership with William Wallace at the Stirling Bridge victory in 1297." He went on: "Wallace, to our knowledge never set foot north of Stonehaven. We know so little about him. Additionally, the film Braveheart famously ignored the bridge that gave its name to the Battle of Stirling in 1297 that set back English occupation planned for Scotland. "Secondly, Hollywood ignored the facts of Andrew de Moray's role as co-commander of the battle. Indeed, he was probably supreme commander, due to his rank and military success. Because de Moray died of his wounds after Stirling Bridge his name was largely forgotten in favour of later medieval propaganda that turned Wallace into the sole national hero. "It was Inverness historian Evan Macleod Barron's book in 1914, The Scottish Wars of Independence - a Critical Study, that restored Andrew de Moray to his rightful place in our history." Mr Gibson added: "Since the good name of Wallace is to be used to promote commercial ambitions at Milton of Leys, it should be linked with de Moray as the de Moray and Wallace Park."

Top Award

A Hebridean visitor centre has been recognised in the prestigious annual Interpret Britain Awards. Seallam, in the south of Harris, has been awarded a commendation for its excellent interpretative practice in highlighting Britain's heritage and history. The centre was opened in September 2000, and its name means "Let me show you". It houses a genealogical research business and a main exhibition area focusing on the story of the Western Isles. The awards, run by the Association for Heritage Interpretation, were presented at the Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed Lighthouse building in Glasgow. Loyd Grossman, who presented the awards, said: "The awards recognise the very best examples of heritage interpretation across the country. "It is very rewarding to see the exciting work that's being done in all areas of Britain by organisations with sometimes very limited resources." The awards, now in their 18th year, reward excellence in making natural and cultural sites accessible to all.

Plans for a Latin Quarter

A vibrant city centre cultural quarter centred round a riverside art gallery of national significance is the latest vision of the team bidding to bring the title Capital of Culture to the Highlands in 2008. Organisers of the bid for the coveted title say the price tag of 30 million to develop a Bohemian sector of cafes, arts, entertainment and music venues in Inverness is no barrier. The model for the new cultural quarter in Inverness is Galway in Ireland, says bid co-ordinator Bryan Beattie, who claims the Irish are way ahead in terms of creating a youthful buzz in their streets. Mr Beattie said: "I think Ireland is definitely a step ahead of us. Galway, of course, has the advantage of having a lot of the university students in the centre of the town and that creates a buzz on its own. "But who knows, in five to seven years we might be seeing part of Inverness college development moving closer to the city centre. If you look at the Temple Bar development in Dublin, which came about directly as a result of their city of culture in 1991, that's exactly the sort of thing we're trying to create here." The majority of those supporting the Inverness-Highland 2008 entry are in favour of creating a new look for the city, which could see tourists flocking to sample the unique cultural and artistic heritage the region has to offer. Mr Beattie said: "We've had over 1,200 ideas so far, but there must have been about 40 or 50 of them talking about various building developments in the centre of Inverness. "We have to answer the age old question of what do you do in Inverness on a wet February night; where do you go; where is the buzz and excitement?" The answer, claim organisers, is an area of the town which is full of good bars and cafes, museums and cinemas, galleries and places where people want to go. Mr Beattie said: "During part of the talks on a conference centre, there has been a fair bit of interest from all the hotels in the area who know there is a lack in this area. "Various plans have come forward, but the idea we are talking about here is a lot bigger and better and will be more attractive for conference delegates to come to some place where there is a whole area rather than just a hotel." If the plans are to become reality then the Inverness-Highland entry will need to beat off stiff competition from other entrants such as Belfast and Liverpool.

10th Year of West Cruise

Top yachtsman Sir Chay Blyth praised the stunning scenery of the Highlands recently when he paid a visit to Oban Distillery to mark the 10th year of the Classic Malts Cruise. The annual 200 mile sailing cruise, which journeys through the Inner Hebrides from a starting point at Oban, will take place in July and will this year be organised by Sir Chay's World Cruising Club. The club team joined Sir Chay at Oban to mark a decade of trips to the coastal distilleries that make up the Classic Malts of Scotland. The World Cruising Club will take on the event's participation management, while the Classic Malts will concentrate on managing hospitality at Oban, Talisker on Skye and Lagavulin on Islay, where the boats will call. Sir Chay, executive chairman of Challenge Business, said: "The Highlands hold a particular interest for me, as I'm Scottish and the cruise takes in some of the most stunning scenery in the world. "We're absolutely delighted to be involved with the Classic Malts Cruise which we're watched and admired from afar for many years."

Battle Lines Drawn

Scot millionaire Lex Brown, who was told recently by the Scottish Executive that his ruined Highland Castle can never become his home, is intent on appealing against the decision. He branded the 30 day Public Inquiry, which refused the necessary consent for scheduled monument conservation, "a total stitch up". Mr Brown, who bought the historic 13th century Castle Tioram in Moidart, three years ago, had submitted proposals for a 3million renovation, including plans to put a roof on the castle to make it habitable. But government agency Historic Scotland objected, necessitating an inquiry last year presided over by the Scottish Executive Reporter. Mr Brown then received what he calls "a contemptuous dismissal" of his bid on Historic Scotland notepaper. Standing near the crumbling walls recently, Mr Brown said: "This is a tragic day for the Highlands and a sorry one for Scotland. It seems Holyrood would like the Highlands to be kept in the same state the English left them in after the 1745 Rising." Mr Brown, and Ayrshire businessman with aviation interests, said he and his architects, lawyers and conservation specialists, intend to fight the decision. Great sympathy and backing was extended to Lex Brown in the village of Acharacle and Salen, close to Castle Tioram.

Charity Event

During the Youth Cafes in Action conference held recently at Dingwall's Victoria Park, guest speaker Cathy Jamieson, minister for education and young people, presented a cheque for 200 to the Smithton and Culloden Youth Centre Music Support Group.

Political Roundup

SNP Joins Nairn Name Battle

SNP MSP Fergus Ewing has joined the fight to have the name Nairn preserved in proposed boundary changes. The Boundary Commission has opted for the name change from the existing Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber to simply Inverness and Badenoch. And this has outraged Nairn businesses and residents who feel snubbed by the suggestion. BR>

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy, showery in the W. Sunnier in the E. Winds fresh/strong SW'ly. Temperature 11c to 17c.
Saturday Night
Showers and clear spells. Patchy rain in the W and S later. Winds mod/fresh SE'ly. Temperature 7c to 10c.
Cloudy with frequent showers and windy over Western areas. Most other parts will stay dry with bright spells.
Fresh SW'ly winds driving scattered showers across the area. Some brighter spells in the E.

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