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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 15th June 2002
Issue No 284

Fort William Hopes for Arts and Culture Focus

An arts and cultural centre could be included in a multimillion pound waterfront development at Fort William, putting the future of a controversial derelict school back on the agenda.

A Lochaber action group has been investigating converting the century old former Fort William Secondary School into a focal point for the area's arts and culture. But the Arts Council of Scotland, which would help fund the project has now expressed an interest in it forming part of the Loch Linnhe waterfront development. Four consortia shortlisted by Highland councillors from eight Europe wide companies to undertake the prestigious development have now been asked to make provision in detailed proposals. John Hutchison, Highland Council's Lochaber area manager, said: "The consortia have been made aware of interest by a provision of facilities within the development." Mairi Maclean, secretary of the Old School Project Group, added: "We have had a meeting with Arts Council officials who are interested in the waterfront location and further talks are planned." The former secondary school in Achintore Road closed more than 12 years ago. Highland Council had wanted to demolish it in the mid 90s, claiming it was unsafe and a danger to the public. But following a local protest campaign and the last minute intervention of Historic Scotland, the council was ordered to secure and make the building safe. An interim feasibility study endorsed the widely held Lochaber view that there is a need for an arts and cultural facility and confirmed that the old school was suitable site. A council led steering group wants to maximise the Loch Linnhe location by the provision of a leisure, commercial, retail and housing mix on 14 hectares of land between the old fort and the West End car park in a public private partnership. Suggested facilities include a marina, leisure village, hotel and tourist centre, all linked to the High Street by an elevated mall comprising shops, bistros and restaurants.

Museum Gets National Acclaim

A Lochaber venture to document local history, started as a community project in 1966 and now grown into a museum, has gained national recognition for its work. Glencoe and North Lorn Folk Museum recently launched a new part of the exhibition on the Appin Murder, with a scene from Robert Louis Stevenson's book, Kidnapped. The museum has also managed to get hold of one of the actual windows from the house of the murder victim, Colin Campbell, the Red Fox. The award winning museum has a huge amount on display reflecting local history, such as lifestyle, employment, industry and recreation. It even has on display the boat once used to transport coffins containing the bodies of the chiefs of the clan MacDonald for burial on the nearby Island of Tears. The gravestones are still visible today. One of the main reasons the museum was set up was to show how much more there was to Glencoe than just the massacre, an event locals refer to as one which only took up an hour of their local his troy. However, the museum also seeks to dispel the myth that the bloody day in 1692, was the responsibility of the Campbells. Rae Grant, who has been involved with the museum since its beginnings, said:"It was actually Government troops who carried out the massacre and we have copies of the letter, the original of which is in the National Library of Scotland, made by order of the King for his men to carry it out. "The captain was a Campbell, but that was coincidence. The truth is that the troops came from a wide variety of clans."

Islands Celebrate

The flags of the Western Isles Council and of South Carolina flew in Stornoway recently to mark the signing of a twinning charter between the council and Pendleton Town Council. It was through the schools industry liaison officer about 10 years ago that contact was made between the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway and Pendleton High School. This resulted two years later in an exchange programme between pupils and staff of both schools which has continued ever since and lead to the twinning ceremony. The 36 strong party from South Carolina was led by the mayor of Pendleton, Ms Carol Burdette, and from the time they arrived on the island they had a hectic itinerary visiting places of interest in Lewis and Harris. After a visit to a Harris Tweed mill there was a ceilidh and dance. Ms Burdette, who was paying her third visit to Stornoway, said: "Being here has been delightful." After the formal signing of the charter there was an exchange of gifts between the two councils.

Going Through Their Paces

Police forces from all over the country converged on Inverness recently to compete in the Scottish Police Dog Trials.For the first time in six years Northern Constabulary hosted the event over three days at the Inverness Caledonian Thistle Stadium. A total of 12 competitors - handlers and dogs - from six forces in Scotland - took part in what was described by Northern Constabulary's sergeant Alan Heath as a "wonderful event". Sgt Heath said: "I was very impressed by the good standard that was shown all round, from all forces, even some young dogs performed very well. "And the weather couldn't have been better either." The dogs had to compete in a total of four events, tracking , searching, obedience and criminal work. The trials tested the animal's ability to obey its handler whilst successfully completing set tasks such as locating, chasing and detaining a criminal. In line for an award from the Highlands is Northern Constabulary's Constable Jimmy Simpson and his dog Kruger. Constable Simpson, who has more than 25 years experience as a dog handler, said he was proud of the way Kruger had performed. He said: "There's a possibility we might get second place and that would mean we'd get to represent Scotland in the nationals. "The all round quality was very high. "I'm very pleased. Obviously we would like a few more marks, but I'm very pleased. It was a good competition."

Bus Chief Takes the Helm

Inverness bus operator Freda Rapson has swapped the steering wheel for the helm of Caledonian Canal boat company Jacobite Cruises. Ms Rapson, who has bought the company from Rod and Etta Michie, is now stepping down as the managing director of the Rapson Group, operators of Rapson's Coaches and Highland Country Buses, to concentrate on her new venture. "I have spent the best part of 16 years with Rapson's and watching it grow has been a wonderful experience," she revealed. "Jacobite Cruises gives me the opportunity of a brand new challenge and I am very excited about the venture." She has no plans to make immediate changes although over the longer term she hopes to bring in new ideas. She said the Michies had provided her with an excellent operation and she will spend the next year getting to know it inside out. Under her management, Rapson's has seen annual turnover increase from 5 million to 11 million while its workforce and vehicle fleet have also doubled to 360 and 250 respectively. Jacobite Cruises operates morning and afternoon return cruises from Inverness to Urquhart Castle on the 159 passenger Jacobite Queen as well as one hour trips from the Clansman to Urquhart Castle on the 50 passenger Jacobite Warrior.

Gunn Contest

Writers from all around the world are being encouraged to harness their Muse in memory of one of Scotland's best known authors. And entrants for the Neil M Gunn writing competition, launched in 1988, will be able to make their submissions online for the first time - thanks to a suggestion made as part of the Inverness City of Culture bid. Poets and prose writers of all ages can win up to 300 in the prestigious competition, which focuses on themes related to Caithness born Gunn's work. The competition is based on the titles of two of Gunn's books this year - The Well at the World's End for the adults, and The Key of the Chest for younger creative types. Winner of the last competition in 199 Ian Blake, who was victorious with his poem 2084 - a bleak look into Scotland's imagined future. This year, he will be one of the judges. He will be joined by seven other literary names, who will have less than a month to make their choice after the June 28 closing date. Secretary of the Neil Gunn Trust Robert Davidson, who also edits the literary magazine Northwords, said: "We're trying to encourage people to write creatively, and show their work to others. The competition gives the opportunity to have their work read and even published." Gunn, whose most famous works is probably The Silver Darlings died in 1973. And local author Katherine Stewart thought that she was probably the only one of the illustrious gathering who had actually met the legendary writer. They met in 1965, after Gunn had written the forward to Mrs Stewart's first book, A Croft in the Hills.

Plans to Reclaim Harris Loch

Plans to reclaim part of East Loch Tarbert in Harris to provide a site for a Harris Tweed Centre and for other commercial developments have won wide support from the local community. A public display of the proposals was held recently in the Harris Hotel in Tarbert. The latest plans were exhibited for the projects, which are being led by Western Isles Enterprise (WIE), with support from Harris Development Ltd and Western Isles Council. The proposals involve spending an expected 1.565.000 on reclaiming land at the head of East Loch Tarbert, inland of the car ferry terminal. This would provide land for the proposed visitor centre, future craft and business premises, car parking, future marine facilities, an upgraded slipway with breakwater and a boat laydown area. The 1.1 million Harris Tweed Centre is expected to attract up to 25,000 visitors a year and help towards achieving WIE's objectives to increase visitor spending and extend the time spent by visitors on the islands. It is expected that it would create the equivalent of 4-5 direct new jobs and create further employment benefits. WIE chief executive Donnie Macaulay said that while there appeared to be many areas of land available in Harris, it had proven very difficult to identify land in close proximity to local services, adequate public utility supplies and ferry entry/exit points necessary to support tourism projects of the type planned.

Charity Event

Voices raised in song at a non stop Carolthon have also swelled the coffers of Save the Children. Inverness Choral Society members handed a cheque for 2300 to Brenda Sellar and Sally Fraser, local committee members of the international charity. Choirs sung in relays throughout a day at the Eastgate Centre last December. Half the money raised - from friends sponsoring singers and shoppers donations - will assist the charity with its work with children in Scotland, the UK and overseas.

Political Roundup

Strange Call for Self Rule in the North

Demands to devolve the power of the Scottish Parliament further North got short shrift recently. The proposal for a Parliament for Caledonia and the Isles came from Baroness Strange, of Megginch Castle, Errol, Perthshire. - prompting Labour peer Lord Hogg to suggest that "the noble Baroness lives up to her name".

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy with sunny spells. Showers mostly in the S. Winds mod/fresh W-SW'ly. Temperature 14c to 20c.
Saturday Night
Clear periods, dry at first. Cloudy, rain in the W after midnight. Winds mod S-SW'ly. Temperature 9c to 13.
Unsettled. Mostly cloudy with patches of rain. After noon strong winds and more rain will arrive.
A mainly wet and windy day with strong to gale force winds. Showers or longer periods of rain.

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