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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 26th May 2001
Issue No 233


The might of the RAF was brought to a standstill recently - by a sitting duck.

A feisty mallard refused to abandon her chicks, which were stuck down a drain on the main runway at RAF Kinloss. The defiant duck stood her ground in the path of an incoming 90 tonne Nimrod jet. Then operations at the NATO base came to a halt as crewmen and firefighters tried to rescue the chicks. The drama began when the Nimrod pilot made his landing and taxied right next to the unflinching mother duck. The pilot was due to turn the aircraft round, ready for another take off but his crew feared the duck would be sucked into one of the plane's four powerful jet engines. That would have meant curtains for the mallard. Station wildlife expert Dave Barrowman was called to move the duck out of danger. But his arrival with two RAF firefighting vehicles made no impression on her. The reason for the defiance became clear when Dave got down on his knees and saw her chicks. He said: "She was standing over a gap on part of a 150 feet long storm drain and when I looked into it I could see her brood in the water six feet below. "They were so tiny. It looks like they tried to follow their mum across the runway and fell down the two inch gap above the drain. The gap is there to allow surface water to run into a culvert. "The mum obviously managed to jump over it easily but, one by one, the chicks would have tumbled into the crevasse. "She is one amazing mum for sticking by her chicks in the face of a 90 tonne aircraft." Getting the chicks safely out of the drain presented a problem, which was solved by station engineer Paul Binks. In a major operation that brought exercises at the NATO base grinding to a halt for the rest of the day, a crane lifted a nearby drain cover while firefighters poured gallons of water into the drain at the other end. Paul said: "The idea was to float the chicks down the drain where we were waiting to pluck them out. "But they saw us waiting and scuttled the 50 yards back to the other end again. "So we blocked off our end of the drain, poured more water in and floated them out. We still needed their mum's help to call them in our direction, but eventually, we did it." The chicks were scooped out by firefighters and dumped in a waiting tool bag. The mother duck was captured and reunited with her brood on a wildlife area - well away from the runway. As soon as they were released, they ran off into the undergrowth, none the worse for their ordeal. Bird expert Dave said that as soon as broods are hatched their parents often walk them several miles to the nearest pond. Just two weeks ago a pair of shellducks marched their offspring the entire length of the Kinloss runway to reach the nearby Findhorn Bay nature reserve.

Yarn Proved

A yarn about a horse and cart entombed in a Victorian viaduct, which has been hotly debated in a rural community for the past century, has been proved to be true. The animal was said to have fallen to its death inside a pillar of the viaduct in 1899, during the building of an extension of the West Highland Railway Line, between Fort William and Mallaig. According to local legend, builders at the remote site decided to seal the dead animal and cart in the pillar rather than haul them out. But the tale earned as many doubters as believers as it was passed down the generations in the fishing and crofting community around Mallaig. The mystery has been solved by Prof Roland Paxton, who witnessed "an amazing sight" when he used radar equipment to examine the eight span concrete Loch-nan-Uamh viaduct. He said: "The cart is lying at the bottom of the 40ft pillar with the horse sitting vertically on top, as though they had fallen backwards." Prof Paxton read the tale about a horse and cart in a book more than 17 years ago but because of conflicting reports he was unsure of where to look. It was not until Prof Paxton received a tip off from a local man, Ewan Macmillan, from Arisaig Argyll, that he switched his search to the right location. Mr Macmillan said: "My father and an old farmer who worked next to the viaduct told me the story about 70 years ago. I was fascinated and the story stuck in my head ever since." Prof Paxton said there were no plans to recover the horse and cart.

Dancers for Norway

A group of Highland country dancers hoping to pick up some fresh dancesteps are to set out across the North Sea to Norway - to celebrate the group's 25th anniversary. The Kilmorack Scottish Country Dancers were formed 25 years ago and associated children's group, Happy Feet Dance Classes, celebrates its fifth anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, around 30 dancers will make a cultural exchange visit to Norway, dancing in every city they visit. The event follows a visit by a Norwegian traditional dance group, who came to the Highlands three years ago. The Scottish dancers hope that the Venner Gremmel Dans Danser group, from Oslo, will show them a dance step or two, Norse style, and teach them about the rich culture of the Scandinavian country. Tutor Frances Grant said: "It is a great challenge. It is unknown territory and we hope to entertain them with singing, dancing and music as well as bringing them a taste of Scotland." The group, who have named the trip Norway 2001, will be joined by musicians Marian Anderson and her dance band and a number of dancers who can also sing. The Highlanders will bring a hamper, containing Scottish delights such as clootie dumpling, haggis, whisky and black bun, to give Norwegians a real taste of Scotland. During their 10 day stay in Norway, the dancers will visit the towns of Voss, Bergen and Asker, near Oslo and will dance nearly every night. To fund the trip the dancers have been fundraising for months. The group fly out to Norway on June 3.

Local Crafts Get Showcase

Highland craftworkers are being given the chance to have their wares showcased to an international audience under a new visitor scheme. Historic Scotland plans to follow the success of a pilot retail venture at Skara Brae in Orkney and Iona Abbey which brought more than locally produced crafts into its shops. The Government agency, which is custodian of scores of sites of historic interest, will now earmark properties in the Inverness area, such as Fort George and Urquhart Castle, for the venture. Retail manager Gordon Young said: "Historic Scotland operates the largest number of paid visitor attractions in Scotland and, for many people, locally produced craftwork provides the ideal souvenir of a visit. "We are hoping to discover the best local art and craft and hopefully showcase them in our most popular regional attractions." He said Historic Scotland property stewards were now looking out for local talent. Councils and local enterprise companies have also been alerted about the new scheme.

Virtual Trail Uphill

A wacky new idea is allowing hillwalkers who might not be able to travel there for themselves to take a virtual hike up an Argyll hillside. The web walk, which is the bright idea of Benderloch man Steve Eccles is so popular that it has scored more than 6,000 hits in its first 2 days. Mr Eccles has incorporated the interactive and illustrated "walk" up Ben Lora, into the established website for his local area: Explaining how the project came about, Mr Eccles said: "I used to do a lot of climbing myself but I can't anymore because I was struck down with arthritis. "The original intention was to have an area of the website where the disabled could experience some of the delights of hillwalking. "We speeded the project up after the restrictions on hillwalkers were announced and "went live" in the hope that it would provide an alternative for people looking for a nice mountain walk during the present crisis." The web walk is illustrated with about 100 photographs taken by 17 year old Benderloch walker Ian Ezzi. It leads visitors through woodland paths on to Ben Lora at Benderloch and culminates in a full 360 degree interactive panorama towards the isle of Mull. Mr Eccles said: "We have been overwhelmed by the response, especially from outwith the UK." Mr Eccles said initial reaction from other people had been very encouraging and he now hoped to establish more virtual walks focusing on other Highland hills.

In the Frame

A collection of 15 watercolours of scenes in Knoydart between 1907 and 1911 astounded a Knightsbridge auctioneer by fetching more than 150,000 recently at a London auction. The pictures are the work of Scotsman Archibald Thorburn, considered to be one of the finest sporting wildlife artists of the modern age. Featuring scenes of deer stalking from an estate on the Knoydart Peninsula, the watercolours are carefully detailed studies of wildlife living on the estates of wealthy landowners commissioned between 1907 and 1911.

Return to Russia

A pipe band from the Highlands which was ushered off Red Square in Moscow four years ago by Kremlin security staff could be returning to play in the capital of the former Soviet Union. Nairn Pipe Band has been invited to perform at the fifth Moscow Highland Games this summer by the President of the Moscow Caledonian Club. The trip in 1997 was arranged to coincide with the first ever Highland gathering in the Russian capital. Hugh Allison was Highland Council's culture and leisure manager for Nairn at the time and he helped organise the historic visit by the band. He has been contacted again by Vitaly Mironov, a local teacher and academic with a passion for Scots history, who was instrumental in establishing the links between the two countries. Hugh has been asked by Vitaly if the band could return to Moscow again. Secretary, Les Donaldson, said the idea was received enthusiastically at band practice. "Three of us have already given a firm commitment to go while others have to discuss it with families and employers. At this stage I would say things are looking very hopeful." In 1997 six pipers and four drummers from Nairn were part of a group of 70 Scots including athletes, dancers and Highland Games officials from Aberdeenshire and Dufftown who helped launch the inaugural Moscow Highland Games. The party was accompanied by a BBC documentary film crew who caught the moment on camera when security officers appeared from nowhere on Red Square and asked the band to stop playing. "I remember we were passing Red Square in our buses when one of the pipers suggested it would be great to play there," Hugh recalled. "All the instruments were in the boot so we got out and went into a subway and the band marched up into the square where they gave an impromptu performance. "The reaction of the locals was great. Red Square is used a lot for civil weddings and the guests just looked on in amazement. Then we were approached by the security guards who politely asked us to leave."

Charity Event

Two Inverness pensioners raised 700 recently for two charities which helped so many of their friends and family. Miss Hester Chisholm and Mrs Helen MacBeth of Falconer Court, Huntly Street, hosted a sale of work and helped boost the funds of both Crossroads and Alzheimer Scotland's Highlands Woodlands Centre. The event actually clocked up a total of 641.91, but extra money was pledged afterwards to bring it up to the grand total.

Political Roundup

Critical SNP Launches European Policy

The fishing industry would not have been plunged into "crisis" if Scottish ministers had fought for the country's interests in Europe, Nationalists have claimed. The claim was made when the SNP launched its European policy in the run up to the general election. The SNP accused the Scottish Executive of a "contemptible" record at the European Council of Ministers, attending only 11 out of 120 meetings up to last December.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy/rain, then patchy rain/bright spells. Winds light/mod SW. Temperature 13c to 19c.
Saturday Night
Showers overnight in the W, dry in the E. Winds light/mod W'ly. Temperature 4c to 6c.
Mainly cloudy with either periods of rain or showers, some heavy falls. Winds mod/fresh SW'ly.
Staying mainly cloudy though some bright periods also likely. Showers possible at times.

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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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