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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 20th July 2002
Issue No 289

Bicycle at MacMillan Clan Gathering

A rather unusual bicycle proved a real attraction at the Clan MacMillan Gathering in Fort William.

Around 200 MacMillans from around the world took part in The Great Return of 2002, which commemorates three boat loads of MacMillans leaving Lochaber for Canada in 1802. Other MacMillans moved to Dumfries-shire and it was there in 1830 that Kirkpatrick MacMillan is credited with inventing the first pedal cycle. One of those taking part in the gathering, professional genealogist Graeme MacKenzie, said: "It appears that Kirkpatrick worked as a blacksmith but was a very inventive fellow. He put pedals on a hobby horse and is credited with inventing the pedal cycle." To prove it worked he also cycled it from Dumfries-shire to Glasgow, which must have been quite a feat. Graeme said: "It is basically wood, with metal handlebars and wooden wheels with metal rims." Rather than pedals moving in a circle the propulsion was accomplished by a treadle system where they were moved back and forward rather than round and round. Although the original bike has long since gone the present one was copied from another copy for the Clan MacMillan Museum at Finlayston in Renfrewshire. Graeme added: "We take it out for gatherings and have bike races in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief." During the weeks events members also took to Loch Arkaig in canoes for charity, and to commemorate forbears who used birch bark canoes in Canada when they were involved in the fur trade.

Clan Burial Vault

A worldwide appeal was launched recently to help fund the restoration of an 18th century church and the 400 year old Clan MacLeod burial vault in the West Sutherland parish of Assynt. Donors are being invited to "buy" the dedication of a window or pew inside Inchnadamph Church, or have their names inscribed in a special Restoration Book which will be preserved in what will be the focal point of a 1 million historic project. This includes the consolidation of the ruins of Ardvreck Castle and nearby Calda House, a major tourist draw on the shores of Loch Assynt alongside the Ullapool to Lochinver coastal route. Maggie Campbell, Historic Assynt's Inchnadamph Project director, in announcing the appeal, said: "Now that the Ardvreck and Calda elements are progressing, we can turn our attention to the church." The castle, which figured prominently in the capture of the royalist Duke of Montrose by the Covenanters in 1650, presently offers no facilities, has no official car parking, and is accessible only over a broken footpath and by climbing a fence. But last year 26,000 visitors were "clocked" by special monitors. Anyone interested in contributing to the church restoration fund and having their support permanently acknowledged should contact Historic Assynt for details. Their email address is:

Farewell to Feshie

A ceremony in the Cairngorm mountains at Glenfeshie recently marked the end of an era linking the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst with a wartime fieldcraft school established in the Highlands to turn young army recruits into officer material. The Rowallan Company at RMAS, which was the successor to the World War II Highland Fieldcraft Training Centre, has been formally disbanded in the latest round of defence budget cuts. Since 1977 the company has produced 53 courses and more than 2000 young officers, many now holding senior positions in the armed forces. Its predecessor offered a gruelling 10 week course to potential officer recruits between 1943 and the end of the war. The course at Glenfeshie produced more than 900 junior officers to serve in the invasion of Europe and other campaigns to bring about the final victory. 30 officer cadets from Rowallan Company and 10 instructors met up with 12 veterans at a Drumhead service at Glenfeshie. The young recruits carried with them, 650 miles from their base in Camberley in Surrey, the company's stuffed stag's head emblem to present to officers of the Highland Fieldcraft Training Centre Association. John Morrison, who trained at the centre during the war, said: "The fact that a 10 week training course in 1943 could lead to an association spanning nearly six decades and forge such good links with the RMAS Sandhurst, and that a dozen members with families and friends can travel hundreds of miles at short notice for a brief service in the Cairngorms, demonstrates in itself some of the good of the underlying philosophy behind the training."

New Studio for the Isles

A new TV studio was opened recently in the Western Isles. Dr Kim Howells MP, Minister for Broadcasting, performed the honours at the former Grampian Television base at Seaforth House in Stornoway. Existing video systems at the studios have been upgraded for widescreen TV format to produce a variety of programmes for digital broadcasting. The new facilities include video recording equipment and graphics and editing suites. There is also a new post-production audio dubbing facility. The hi-tech equipment was funded from a partnership of the Scottish Executive, Western Isles Enterprise, Western Isles Council and the Gaelic Broadcasting Committee. In addition to a tour of the studios at Seaforth Road, Dr Howells saw filming in progress in Ness, where the Stornoway production company Mactv were shooting scenes for a new two part Gaelic drama. He also visited some of the tourist attractions of the island.

Historic Bell-Tower Found

Local historians who discovered a rare French tombstone during vegetation clearance at an East Sutherland graveyard have now uncovered a 17th century bell-tower on the site. Clyne Heritage Society chairman Dr Nick Lindsay said Clynekirkton Graveyard and the nearby bell-tower at Brora had become overgrown and were in danger of disappearing into the undergrowth. To prevent this from happening, the society has been undertaking a clearance project, with the support of Historic Scotland, Highland Council and an Internet group of individuals, who have ancestors buried in Sutherland graveyards, known as Preserve Our Sutherland Heritage. Features which came to light after the clearance of the bell-tower, one of only three in Scotland, included, a stepped path up to the entrance, for the bell-ringer to access the tower, and a sturdy dry stone retaining wall at the rear of the building. Local folklore suggests that the bell-tower was used as a watch-tower during the days of potential grave robbing or that the circular structure was a doo-cot, (dove cote). But Dr Lindsay said both of these myths can be finally laid to rest as the graveyard itself cannot wholly be seen from the tower and there is an actual watch-house attached to the western wall of the graveyard. He said: "The internal structure of the tower reveals timbers which would have supported the heavy bell, and the supposed small upper entrances for the doves are actually to let the peal of the bell penetrate the ears of the parishioners who lived far away in the townships of Strath Brora." Dr Lindsay said the former Clyne parish church, now in ruins, was erected in 1775, but the discovery in the 19th century of two Type I Pictish stones in the graveyard and a Type 3 Pictish stone in the east wall shows that this may have been a religious site before the 10th century.

Beauly Station Back in Action

Beauly station, which had lain unused since the 1960s, re-opened recently after a series of recent delays. Passenger services resumed at the station for the first time since its closure during the Beeching era which saw thousands of miles of rail lines ripped up all over Britain. It was originally planned to open in September, the first train stopped at what is now the shortest platform in the UK. The Strategic Rail Authority, Highland Council, Railtrack, Inverness and Nairn Enterprise, Highland Rail Partnership and Scotrail supported the project. The Highland station consists of a single platform, waiting shelter and a car park which includes spaces for the disabled. There is also a public telephone with a helpline facility that will allow free access to train running information. The new station also provides access for cyclists and disabled passengers, including the visually impaired.

Scottish Say Wanted

Scotland should have a say on the city nominated as UK candidate for the European Capital of Culture bid in 2008, according to Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MSP Fergus Ewing. Mr Ewing wants the Scottish Executive to nominate a member to the independent panel which will scrutinise all the UK bids. He pointed out that the single Scottish bid from Inverness and the Highlands faced competition from 11 other UK cities, and added: "The English based Culture Department will have the power to determine the members of the independent advisory panel. "Their work will lead to a short list being drawn up. It is therefore essential that although the Scottish Executive appear to have no formal right to play a part in selecting the membership of the panel, they make a recommendation to the Culture Department down in London as to someone who can serve on the panel with a direct knowledge and understanding of the Scottish candidate."

Charity Event

Animal welfare officers took the lead recently when they organised a day of sponsored dog walks. Organised by the Scottish SPCA, the event raised funds for animals which have been abandoned, abused or neglected. It also aimed to emphasise the responsible message of pet ownership, such as the importance of regular exercise. The money raised will help fund the Scottish SPCA's wide and varied work which includes a 58 strong team of inspectors, a national network of 13 animal welfare centres and education department.

Political Roundup

Argyll SNP Name Choice

The SNP in Argyll and Bute recently announced its candidate for the next Scottish elections - replacing the youngest MSP who will stand down. Chartered accountant Jim Mather, who has been the party's national treasurer since 2000, is to attempt to step into the shoes of Duncan Hamilton, who announced he was quitting politics earlier this year. Mr Mather previously stood in the Scottish elections for Ross, Skye and Inverness West in 1999 and at the Ayr by-election in 2000. He also stood for Ayr in the 2001 Westminster elections. Married with two teenage children and living in Glasgow, the Glasgow University graduate is also a director of Scotland in Europe and Business for Scotland.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Mainly dry with showers in E. Showers or longer periods of rain in W. Winds light NE'ly. Temperature 13c to 16c.
Saturday Night
Outbreaks of rain in E. Cloudy elsewhere. Winds light NE'ly. Temperature 6c to 10c.
A mostly fine day with a mix of sunny spells and cloudy periods. Showers at times.
A few showers are likely from time to time but otherwise a day of sunny spells and cloudy periods.

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