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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 22nd June 2002
Issue No 285

Clan Honours War Hero

A heroic clan chief whose World War II exploits inspired a famous book and film about the "wooden horse" escape drama is to have a permanent memorial to his incredible life.

Donald MacDonell was a Battle of Britain Spitfire ace who later gathered intelligence in Russia during the Cold War. But few knew that the 22nd clan chief of the MacDonells of Glengarry was one of the "wooden horse" heroes. After being shot down, MacDonell was sent ot Stalag Luft III PoW camp where he became adjutant in charge of Allied prisoners and helped organise escape attempts. The most famous involved using a wooden gym vaulting horse to dig a tunnel under the noses of the German guards. Day after day the horse was carried into the exercise yard, with the tunnel diggers hidden inside, and placed over the entrance to the escape route. To get rid of the soil without the German "ferrets" noticing, the prisoners carried it in bags suspended inside their trousers. The soil was then scattered on the compound as they walked. When the film The Wooden Horse from the Eric Williams novel of the same name was released in 1950, it became an instant hit, and remains a "stiff upper lip" classic. As a Squadron Leader aged only 25, MacDonell was one of Winston Churchill's "Few". He led No 64 Squadron from Kenley in Surrey, and was credited with eight confirmed "kills" with a further three possibles - a feat that won him the Distinguished Flying Cross. MacDonell's luck ran out in March 1941 when he was raked by a Messerchmit fighter over France. He had to ditch in the sea where he was picked up by a German E boat. MacDonell inherited the clan chiefdom while a PoW. After the war he held high ranking appointments in the War Office and was chief flying instructor at RAF Cranwell. But his life of derring do wasn't over, and after promotion to Air Commodore he was sent to Moscow as air attache to the British embassy. He was officially a diplomat, but one of his duties was to discover as much as possible about Soviet air defences. The war hero died aged 85 three years ago at his home in Fortrose, Easter Ross. A specially commissioned memorial was unveiled on Clan Donald at Armadale in Skye earlier this month when clansmen from all over the world gathered in honour of their late chief. The memorial consists of a rock taken from clan land at Glengarry, surmounted by a bronze raven created by noted sculptor Gerald Laing, depicting the Glengarry crest, Creag an Fhithich, The Raven's Rock.

Clan Chief Weds

One of the top society weddings of the year took place recently when the Duke of Argyll, chieftain of Clan Campbell, married the great granddaughter of the Cadbury's chocolate empire. But instead of using the duke's ancestral home of Inverary Castle, the ceremony took place in a 15th century church in Gloucestershire. Wearing a Campbell tartan kilt for the ceremony, the duke, Torquil Campbell, tied the knot with Eleanor Cadbury in front of 300 guests in the village of Fairfield. The pair chose to wed in Gloucestershire, rather than Argyll, because it is the family home of the chocolate dynasty. Founder George Cadbury, who died in 1922, established the town of Bourneville for his workforce in the region in 1895. As well as inheriting his title in April last year when his father Ian died during a heart operation, the duke also became heir to a family fortune of more than 30 million and 50,000 acres of Scottish countryside.

Hi-tech Access

Greater understanding of the Scots language is to be delivered through the WWW with the launch recently of a project at Dundee University. Records of Scots words, from about 1200 to recent times are to be opened to the public through access to key reference dictionaries. By February 2004, all internet users, including school pupils, will have unlimited access to Dictionary of the Scots Language. Included in the project are all 12 volumes of the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the 10 volumes of the Scottish National Dictionary. The move is expected to be the most important development to hit the Scottish language since the parent dictionaries were begun in the 1920s. A small team at Dundee University are working their way through about 100,000 word entries, translating the pages into electronic format suitable for the web. The three year task will be led by Victor Skretkowicz and his assistant, lexicographer Susan Rennie, at the university's department of English. Mr Skretkowicz said: "This will open up the Scots language to all kinds of study and interest groups." Further information will be posted on the university website at

World Heritage Site Bid

The prospect of the Cairngorms becoming the first World Heritage Site in the Highlands remains a firm possibility - but not until the Cairngorm National Park is established. Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MP David Stewart has learned new rules mean the Government can now only make one nomination a year, a change which had slowed the nomination process. The site selected for this year's nomination is Kew Gardens. Baroness Blackstone, Minister of State for the Arts, told him: "The Government has recognised the natural environment of the Cairngorms as a place of truly universal significance by including the site on the UK's Tentative List of 25 prospective World Heritage Sites, from which nominations will be developed over the next five to ten years. "Unfortunately there is no potential in the immediate future to progress the nomination of the Cairngorms for World Heritage Site status. The management team responsible for developing the necessary nomination documentation for World Heritage status for the Cairngorms, will not be ready to do so until the work associated with the formation of a National Park has been completed next year." Mr Stewart said: "I am pleased with the response I have had from Ministers. Obviously, I would like to see early progress, but I agree that the National Park should be in place before we proceed with a formal nomination."

House Take Over

A husband and wife team who run a successful Wester Ross art studio have launched a second venture, in Inverness. The new gallery at Abertarff House will feature work by contemporary Scottish artists. Stephen Plowman and his wife Susan have set up the new gallery which features work by painters such as Hamish MacDonald, sculptor Walter Awlson and fine enamelled jewellery by Mrs Plowman. The couple, who currently run the successful Studio Gallery at Achnasheen, could not resist the offer to move into Abertarff House. Mr Plowman said: "We walked by the building one day and noticed that it was up for lease, preferably as an arts venue. "We had been looking for a city centre venue and when we saw that Abertarff House was up for lease, we decided to take it on. It's an ideal location for what we are doing. "Because of the seasonality in Wester Ross, we only really get visitors for six months of the year, but with this new venture, we should be able to attract custom all year." Alexander Bennett, speaking on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland, which was responsible for the restoration of the 16th century building, said: "We are absolutely delighted to welcome the Plowmans and the Studio Gallery into Abertarff House. It is good news primarily because as an art gallery it will maintain public access to this historically significant building."

New Water Plant Onstream

A state of the art treatment works brought Inverness water into the 21st century recently. Scottish Environment Minister MSP Ross Finnie capped two years of building and 14.5 million investment when he opened the North of Scotland Water Authority's latest plant. He turned a ceremonial tap at the Loch Ashie treatment facility with Inverness grandmother Patricia Turnbull. Her uncle, John Scott, designed and built Inverness's first mains water system in 1877 during the Victorian era's great period of public works. Starting with a farm pond and then a small reservoir he then developed the first pipes to carry drinking water into Inverness. For the past 125 years basic screening and chlorination has ensured a safe supply to consumers. Now water is cleaned and filtered as it is forced through millions of tiny pipes each one thinner than a pencil lead. The new storage reservoir, which holds 7.7 million gallons of treated water, is more than 15ft deep and will supply 70,000 people in an area from Scorguie in the west to the outskirts of Nairn in the east, south to Farr and is piped over the Kessock Bridge to North Kessock.

Gamble Paying Off

Gambling on up and coming artists has paid off big time for a Highland Gallery owner. The Kilmorack Gallery near Beauly, which is now in its sixth year, has won itself a strong reputation across Scotland. Owner Tony Davidson said: "Things have gone very well since I set the place up in 1997. "I have gambled on featuring the works of a few up and coming artists and it has paid off. "The value of a lot of people's work has gone up since I opened. "I know a lot of artists and they put me in touch with other people coming up. I basically put on shows for people that I like." Art collectors from around Scotland now come up to view his shows, which feature works valued from less than 100 to several thousand pounds. "I have people coming up to the gallery from as far away as Glasgow, which is flattering," Mr Davidson explained. "The gallery is ideally situated. To me Beauly is more the centre of the Highlands than Inverness."

Charity Event

Comet Electrical store worker Ross Townsley is a bit of a star himself these days. For the 20 year old, whose normal daily walk involves pounding the carpets at the Inverness electrical appliance store where he works, is back recently from trekking across the Sahara Desert. And action man Ross raised over 2,000 for charity en route across the hottest place on earth. The money will go to Macmillan Nurses.

Political Roundup

MSP's Anger at Lost Opportunity

A North MSP has criticised the Scottish Executive for failing to take advantage of European funding to help finance much needed improvements to the West Coast's main road link with the Central Belt. Campaigners, who say the road is sub standard, has a high accident toll and is inadequate for the volume of traffic now carried, have been pressing the Executive to apply for the European Commission for funding to improve the A82. But Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MSP Fergus Ewing has now learned that the Executive has no plans to make such an application.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Showers in the E am, fewer pm. Cloudy with showers persisting in the W. Winds mod W-SW'ly. Temperature 12c to 18c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy with showers in N and W. Mainly dry clear periods in E. Winds mod/fresh W-SW'ly. Temperature 8c to 13c.
Cloudy and unsettled with rain at times in the W and more in the way of showers for the E.
Starting mainly dry with sunny spells but clouding over from the W with rain by evening.

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