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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 6th July 2002
Issue No 287

Remains Found of Dark Ages Scottish Capital

The 1,500 year old remains of a Dark Ages citadel which were uncovered by workmen digging a trench could be a former capital of Scotland, archaeologists said recently.

The remains, at the foot of the Wallace Monument in Stirling, have been identified as part of a cliff top fortification which was occupied between AD500 and 780. An excavation of the area uncovered entrances, stone walls and ramparts which provide the first evidence that Stirling was a key centre of power during the Dark Ages. The citadel also overlooks the scene of one of the most important battles of the time, when Kenneth MacAlpin, the Scots king, defeated the Picts in 843 to establish modern Scotland. Lorna Main, the regional archaeologist for Stirling, says in a report that the discovery puts Stirling firmly on the map at a time when Picts, Scots, Britons and Angles ruled separate kingdoms in mainland Scotland. Other sites, including Stirling Castle, have been suggested in the past as likely centres of power during the period but Miss Main says the fort on Abbey Craig rock closely resembles those places chosen for other Dark Ages capitals. The archaeological find was made during the digging of trenches for cables to floodlight the monument to William Wallace. Miss Main said: "It occupied one of the best vantage points in Scotland. We knew there was a chance we would find some archaeology but what we discovered is far more exciting and significant than we dared to imagine. "Along with rubble from the building of the Wallace Monument we uncovered stone ramparts laced with timber and clear evidence of where up to two entrances would have been. "There is also what appears to be deliberate placement of flat flagstones along the top which may have been patrolled by lookouts." Prof Ralston, of the archaeology department at Edinburgh University, said: "Such a strategic place would be a capital. From the early prehistoric times this area was an important route from the south of Scotland to the north, and many of the main sites of the Dark Ages were situated on craggy cliffs like the Abbey Craig. "Dark Ages kings, the aristocrats and the elite of the time, moved around the country and whenever they were was the important capital of the time."

Hi-Tech Learning

People in Ross-shire were given a 43,000 cash injection recently to pioneer a new virtual learning centre which can be accessed through a local village hall network. Learners living in the Black Isle will be able to access the centre, thanks to the Scottish Executive award from the Capital Modernisation Fund (CMF). The virtual learning centre, has been created by the Black Isle Partnership, which plans to set up it's main hub in Fortrose. It will deliver a wide range of IT courses to 11 village halls throughout the Black Isle, where residents will be taught by tutors either on site or online. Project member Terry Fraser, said: "Thanks to the CMF award, we have been able to establish the virtual centre and increase the range of equipment, including 12 computers, a projector and mobile servers. "There are transport and social issues in the Black Isle which mean that many people could not access learning and training. "The fact that we can take a tutor - whether in the flesh or online - to these village halls, will enable learners to achieve their goals in a relaxed, local environment that's easy to get to."

Going With a Swing

A Highland primary school teacher has produced and released his own album, to help Highland shinty starts of the future. Linn gu Linn - Century of Century - is the brainchild of Graham Bell, headteacher at Tomnacross Primary School, Kiltarlity. With more than 20 years of involvement with shinty's youngest age group, Mr Bell decided to put his musical skills to good use and produce the album as a fundraiser for the young players. He has been writing and playing traditional music for years and, during several shinty exchange trips to Ireland, he was inspired by the affinity between the shared Celtic cultures. He said: "I was knocked out by the way the children just clicked with each other. "Staying in the homes of host families gave the kids the chance to experience much more of the culture than if they had stayed in a hostel. "Although the visits are only a few days, the friendships made are very real. Many of the children and parents have continued to correspond with each other regularly." Funding for the production on which Mr Bell plays accordion, keyboards, guitar and mandolin, was provided by the Columbia Initiative, a Scottish-Irish organisation which supports the development of cultural links between the two countries.

Taking Shape

A new and unusual tourist attraction has been created by a group of volunteers in central Sutherland recently. The volunteers, including local school children, donned their wellington boots to help plant a living willow sculpture maze behind the Ferrycroft Visitor Centre in Lairg. Highland Council landscape officer Anne Cowling said the aim of the maze was to "capture the imagination of visitors to the area by creating a sustainable local environment amenity. She explained that footpaths linked the maze to the visitor centre, the archaeology trail and forest walks, providing a variety of activities for both tourists and local people. The helpers planted two year old willow wands. These were woven into arches, which will become walls of greenery when their leaves appear. A second layer of wands will be woven in next year to make the structure more robust. Vice convener of the Highland Council and local councillor Alison Magee welcomed the community and tourism development project, devised by Lairg Community Council and the Rotary Club of East Sutherland and funded by the Highland Council. "I am really glad that this project is happening. Using natural, living materials in this creative way will be good for the environment and good for Lairg. "This is a first for Lairg and is something that people can be involved with now and in the future. I hope the maze will be a boost to local people and visitors alike," said Mrs Magee.

Information Required

A call for information about a vintage car sparked a flurry of interest around Inverness recently. Ian Priestly, from West Yorkshire appealed to a local newspapers readers to help piece together the history of a 1928 fabric bodied Jowett car, which spent most of its time in Kiltarlity. The car was sold by the motor agent S. Mackenzie & Co, in Inverness to Alastair Macleod, who drove it around Kiltarlity until the 1960s. Visitor Reid from Nairn, told the newspaper that its first owner had been a registrar of births and marriages in the village. "He was the sole owner of the car until the 1960s. I can remember the car because it was the only one in the village at that time," he recalled. "He registered my birth and I've got his name on my birth certificate. My memory is very vague but I knew the car was unusual because it had a fabric body. I used to see it going about the village, because the school was quite near to his house." Retired mechanic Claude Mackenzie said he could remember working on the car when he trained at Aird Motors in Beauly during the 1950s. "I can remember doing one of two jobs on it. It was a really old car, even then, but the owner was away for months at a time working abroad," he commented. "I always remember that it had no driver's door and you had to move in place from the passengers side." It has also emerged the car was consigned to a concrete grave in Aberdeenshire during the 1960s, when the garage it languished in was converted into a supermarket complex. Mr Priestly said construction workers just blocked it up with bricks, and forgot about it. "We had to take the wall off the supermarket when I was buying it just to get it out, because it had been stuck for so long. "But I'm quite astounded at the information coming forward because the passage of time is so great. It's 40 years since the car was even on the road," he declared.

A Natural Look

A couple who have combined age old Celtic designs with modern hi-tech are hoping to give a new look to computer monitors. Rab and Tanya Gordon run Rainnea Graphics in an old farm steading and mill 600ft above the Loch Ness side village of Drumnadrochit. Already known for their work on bringing Pictish and Celtic inspired designs into the second millennium, they are aiming to put trees blown down in Glenurquhart to a novel use. Mr Gordon, who hails from Jura, said: "We have been putting Celtic designs on mouse mats for some time and now want to do something with the computers themselves. "Our idea is to provide wooden surrounds for computer monitors instead of the usual boring plastic and we are collaborating on that with a local woodworker. "The idea came to us before that last trade fair in Glasgow when we got a friend, Adrian Ellis, to take off the plastic casing and replace it with one made from local wood. "The favourable reaction was such that we thought there would be a market for it, and we are now doing proper market research with a view to going into production."

Under New Management

One of the most successful attractions in the Highlands has come under the control of a new manager. The recently appointed chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, David Windmill, will be responsible for managing its two sites, the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Kingussie, and Edinburgh Zoo. He will also be responsible for leading the society, a charity committed to the conservation of threatened species and habitats. Mr Windmill said: "For me this is the perfect job. It combines my wish to run a commercial organisation with a lifelong interest in the biological world. "It is a dynamic organisation and I look forward to working with the staff and members of the society and to achieving the exciting goals it has set itself for the future." Society president Johnnie Grant added: "I am delighted to welcome David, who joins us at a very exciting time in our history."

Charity Event

Buffalos and dancers in far off Arabia have given an Inverness charity a 1000 bonus. Geoff Penfold arrived from Saudi to present Mary Dormer, secretary of the Inverness Epilepsy Support Group with two cheques for 500. One of these can from the Dhahran Scottish Country Dance Group, who held a fund raising dance in the Saudi city.

Political Roundup

Volunteer Sector Praised by MSP

Western Isles MSP Alasdair Morrison praised the work of the volunteer sector recently, when he officially opened an exhibition in Ness Hall which featured the achievements and diversity of volunteer organisations in north Lewis. Over 30 volunteer organisations displayed their work and projects which covered education, the church, archaeological projects, the historical society, parent groups and other special projects. The aim of the exhibition was to demonstrate the range of skills among the volunteer groups and to encourage organisations to share resources and ideas.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Dry with some drizzle am. Rain and showers pm. Winds mainly moderate SW'ly. Temperature 13c to 18c.
Saturday Night
Showers confined to the N. Elsewhere the night becomes dry with clear periods. Winds mod SW'ly. Temperature 5c to 13c.
Sunday
Mainly cloudy with some bright spells and showers or longer spells of rain. Light to mod rain.
Monday
Frequent showers, some heavy and prolonged. Some bright periods and light W'ly winds.


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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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