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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 10th August 2002
Issue No 292

VC Hero of the Mutiny Honoured

War hero James Munro is to be honoured - 145 years after winning the Victoria Cross.

The Scots colour sergeant rescued a wounded officer under fire during the Indian Mutiny. But he turned to alcohol because of the constant pain of wounds that never properly healed. He died a mental and physical wreck in a Highland asylum. And his grave in the grounds of the Inverness asylum, which became the now closed Craig Dunain Hospital, has lain neglected and overgrown. Now the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, which includes his old regiment, is restoring the grave and will put up a plaque in memory of Munro, who was 45 when he died. Lieutenant Colonel Malcom McVittie, chairman of the Regimental Association, which is funding much of the work, said: "Our money is mostly spent helping the living. "But having discovered this information about Munro, we are now trying to put right what was wrong before, in full co-operation with the hospital trust that owns the land. "It is very sad a soldier with such a distinguished record should have died and been buried in such circumstances. I think if his regiment had known of his circumstances at the time, they would have given him a proper burial." Once work is completed, the Regimental Association plan to hold a small ceremony at the cemetery. Munro, who was born in Nigg, Easter Ross, was declared unfit for further duty on his return to Britain. He received his medal from Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1860, two years after he was discharged.

Big Cat Carcass Found

The mystery surrounding big cat sightings in the north east deepened recently after the discovery of a creatures body left experts at loggerheads. There have been numerous sightings throughout the region over the years, but no carcass has been found - until now. A farmer thought he had solved the riddle when he found a dead giant cat in a ditch beside a busy road near Peterhead. But the discovery of the headless remains has left animal experts divided over exactly what kins of beast it is. Bill Duffus of Newton Farm, near Boddam, stumbled across the three and a half foot long creature on the Peterhead-Boddam road, beside the power station. It was around the size of a fox or a medium sized dog. He said: "I have never believed there are pumas or big cats of that nature in this area. "But if people saw this cat when it was alive, under the glare of headlights, they would have got quite a scare. "It would look big in that situation." The striped creature was buried close to the scene of its death. A number of locals went to Newton Farm to see the beast buried. Iris Durno of Boddam, took a snapshot of it. She said: "It was quite some size. I haven't seen a cat that size before." Mr Duffus said: "It wasn't like anything I have ever come across in these parts and we go shooting rabbits all the time." He added: "A lot of people have said they have seen a big cat and I hope this lays their minds at rest." Philip Crosby of the Scottish Big Cats Society said he was baffled after seeing the body. The chances of a cat that large being domestic were "one in a million", and the feline equivalent of an 8ft tall human being, he said. "I can't understand how it has been killed either. A fox normally removes the head of an animal but not in this way. "It has the colouring of a lynx, but the tail rules it out from being that straight away - lynx don't have tails. There is a breed of wild cat in the Peterhead area known as the kellas, but even for it to be one of them it would be unusually big. It's possibly a Scottish wild cat but really I can't be certain."

Bid to Save the Highland Pony

Sophisticated DNA testing is being introduced in a bid to save part of Scotland's natural heritage - the Highland pony. For the past 10 years has seen a drop from over 400 to just under 250 registered foals. Now, the little horse has been classed as "vulnerable" by the Rare Breeds Society of Great Britain. "The problem is, that many of the smaller studs have found it increasingly difficult to run on young colts as the pressure on grassland becomes greater and the keeping of these youthful hooligans in check is time consuming, as is taking in mares," said Clare Molyneux, a member of the Highland Pony Society. She said the demand for steady geldings and mares was growing by the year as they were much sought after as riding ponies. But as a result, there were fewer stallions and mares at stud for the future and these were being produced from even narrower bloodlines. "In short, the genetic pool is beginning to get a little shallower," she added. Now, the HPC, together with the Rare Breeds Society, is to identify and log all the genetic profiles of the remaining breeding stallions in the country. From this season, all newly licensed stallions will undergo a DNA test and all foals will be identity chipped so that strong and weak genetic lines can be identified and appropriate steps taken. Clare said owners could help by having all unregistered ponies inspected and registered on the society's appendix "A" register. From then on through its offspring, the next generation would proceed to the "B" register, then to the "C", and finally into the full stud book.

Forward Looking Ways

School children were rewarded recently for their "ingenious" visions of their community in 50 years time. More than 40 pupils and staff from four of the area's primary schools took part in the local Technology Awards competition, sponsored by Gleesons. The youngsters were asked to make models using technology packs on the theme of time travel. The pack included solar power packs, straws and small electric motors. The design and development work forms part of the 5-14 technology curriculum of all associated schools and is part of the liaison programme between Glen Urquhart High and pupils from Cannich, Dalchreichart, Balnain and Glenurquhart primary schools. Balnain Primary pupils were judged the overall winners of the competition with their idea for a hydraulic lift to take elderly people up mountains in 2052. They were presented with certificates by Inverness Caledonian Thistle players at a presentation ceremony. Pupil Scott Douglas,11, said he was delighted that his team's design won the competition. He said: "The project was quite difficult but we were amazed at what we produced. We decided it would be a good idea if elderly people could be taken by lift up to the top of the hills to enjoy the view of the glens, so we used the hydraulic lift in our packs to create a model of this. We also come up with the idea of a clockwork bus and post van for Drumnadrochit 50 years from now."

Inverness, Florida

Inverness in Florida could teach its Scottish namesake a valuable lesson in how to look after its heritage. Pat Hayden, chairman of Crown Community Council, has visited the US town and returned impressed with the way the Florida Invernessians have transformed their former courthouse into a visitor centre and museum. Now she wants the same to happen to her home city's courthouse - Inverness Castle. "I suggest we take a leaf out of the book of Inverness Florida. Their most prominent building is called The Courthouse," she explained. "They built a new courthouse and turned the original court into a museum with free entry. The upstairs court has been preserved because it was used in the Elvis film 'Follow That Dream'. "They have done it very nicely and I thought it was beautiful building. If they can do it in Florida, then surely the original Inverness can do the same." Crown Community Council has already lodged a suggestion with Highland 2008, the body leading the Inverness/Highland European Capital of Culture bid, that the courts be removed from the castle and a purpose built courthouse be created on the site of the former town swimming pool on Glebe Street. Local construction company Tulloch is to redevelop the site for office and housing use after proposals for a hotel fell through. Despite this Mrs Hayden feels there is still time to create a new court on the Riverside site if the will is there and funding can be obtained to fund the project, perhaps from the Heritage Lottery Fund."We will be continuing to press for Glebe Street. I have mentioned it to David Sutherland of Tulloch and he thought that if a package was right it would be a good idea." Mrs Hayden said.

Fire Out

A Grantown smiddy, which has served the local community for more than 100 years, has closed its doors following the retirement of the town's only blacksmith. After 18 years at the anvil, making anything from coat hangers to spiral staircases for locals, Jim Reid has decided to hang up his apron. His departure marks the end of an era in the history of the Strathspey capital's blacksmith trade. Mr Reid bought the 220 year old building in 1984. It is understood the smiddy is one of the oldest buildings in Grantown, and was used as a blacksmith's as far back as 1782. Mr Reid, who has worked as a blacksmith since he left school, would not reveal his age, but said the time has come to retire. He said: "I am quite sad to be leaving because I'll miss chatting to the locals everyday. Over the years I have repaired and made hundreds of items for people. But at least I'll still be able to see folk in the town, and no doubt I'll still be doing jobs for them. "I have no immediate plans, I'm just going to relax a bit and spend some quality time with my wife, Rose. Being a blacksmith is a hard job." Alexander Grant bought the land in 1782 for the purpose of starting a blacksmith trade at the site. It is understood he was responsible for crafting carts to transport the stone for the building of some of the town's houses. However, Mr Grant emigrated to Quebec a few years later. The site was taken over by blacksmith John Terris - known locally as Jock - in 1868. The business then stayed in the Terris family until it was taken over by Mr Reid.

Mystery of Missing Tapestry

A huge rare tapestry, worth about 20,000 has mysteriously vanished from a Highland castle. Although the Louis XIV classical tapestry was only recently reported missing from Cawdor Castle, Nairn, it could have disappeared anytime in the last 23 years. The work, which dates back to around 1680, measures 9ft by 10ft and has not been seen since it was put into storage in 1979. Staff had recently been searching for it in the castle's stores, but contacted police when it failed to turn up. The tapestry, created by French 17th century artist Charles le Brun, who produced many large tapestries and murals for French royalty, tells the story of Alexander Aubusson, more widely known as Alexander the Great, and is woven with the Battle of Arbela in four sided floral border, incorporating military trophies. Castle owner Dowager Countess Angelika Cawdor said that although it was insured, she was extremely anxious to see the safe return of the tapestry. She said: "The staff were checking the contents of the storeroom as they do periodically, but unfortunately on that occasion, they found it had gone. "I'm afraid I have absolutely no idea how it went missing, but it is very embarrassing and extremely sad when something like this happens. "I just hope that after hearing the description it will jog someone's memory and will lead to its return." Cawdor Castle was built in the 14th century as a private fortress by the Thane of Cawdor. The Thane of Cawdor is one of Scotland's most ancient titles and Cawdor Castle was the scene of King Duncan's death, according to Shakespeare's Macbeth

Charity Event

Two teenage brothers have helped raise more than 1600 for the Inverness hospital ward where their mum was treated for leukaemia. Eleanor Kellas, who lives with her husband James and sons James and Kris, in Nairn, was in ward 1A of the hematology and oncology unit in Raigmore Hospital last summer. The care she received there so impressed her family and relatives they decided to do something in return. Relatives organised a ceilidh at Cawdor Village and was the main fundraising event, a raffle raised another 92.

Political Roundup

Kintyre Turbine Plant Opened

MSP Duncan Hamilton welcomed recently the official opening of the Vestas-Celtic Wind Turbine plant at Machrihanish near Campbeltown. The SNP politician said: "Vestas are world leaders in the technology of wind turbine manufacture and with developments proposed and proceeding across the UK and Eire for wind farms they are ideally placed here to take advantage of the increased recognition of the need for diversity in renewable sources of energy. "Harnessing the power of the wind is only one aspect of this and it may well be that Kintyre will be involved in other applications in the future."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Generally overcast. Drizzle in the E, rain in far W. Winds light NW'ly. Temperature 13c to 17c.
Saturday Night
Increasing cloud will bring rain to W by end of the night but clear elsewhere. Winds fresh S'ly. Temperature 7c to 15c.
Patchy rain will move east over the region during the day but bright spells possible early on.
Mostly cloudy in the W of the region but brighter and drier in the E. Bright spells are unlikely to last.

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