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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 24th August 2002
Issue No 294

Perth's Destiny to Display Stone of Scone.

A Scottish Parliament committee has agreed that the Stone of Destiny should be moved from Edinburgh Castle to Perth.

The cross party group of MSPs decided recently to urge the Scottish Executive to return it to Scone where it would help boost the tourist industry. The action is in response to a petition lodged before the Scottish Parliament by maverick nationalist campaigner Robbie the Pict. It is purported that the stone was used for the coronation of Scottish kings for 500 years until 1296 when Edward I took it from Scone to Westminster where it was placed beneath the English coronation throne. Apart from a temporary abduction to Scotland in the early 1950s, the stone remained in London until 1996 - when it was returned to Scotland and now rests in Edinburgh Castle. But Robbie the Pict claims Edward I was duped by the Abbot of Scone who gave him a toilet or cesspool lid in its place. In his inimitable style Robbie accused the Queen of reset and said the Crown had been unable to provide proof of ownership. Evoking Scottish common law he said it should be returned to its rightful owners, the community of Scone. He told the petitions committee the stone should be displayed in Perth Museum which is free to get into, unlike Edinburgh Castle where entrance costs several pounds. "I would support the wishes of Perth Museum that they house it," he said. "They have wonderful facilities there and it would stimulate visitor numbers to Perth. It is already quite expensive to see and difficult to get access to at Edinburgh Castle and if it helped to take visitors from Edinburgh to Perth then all the better. Winnie Ewing, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, said the committee should urge the Executive to return the stone to Scone. "This stone surely in some way belongs to us all and therefore we shouldn't have to pay to see it," she said. "Edinburgh has so many attractions that it doesn't have to compete, but Perth does. It would be wonderful for Perth and its people to get the stone back." Perth Museum is happy to take the stone, although an earlier attempt by Robbie the Pict to have it returned was rejected by the Scottish Executive. The committee agreed to write to the Executive asking for them to review the situation.

Wedding on a Mountain Top

Mountain lovers David Frew and Stroma Wedderburn became the first couple to celebrate their wedding at the top of the CairnGorm Mountain Railway recently. The couple, together with 100 wedding guests, boarded the cable railway for the highest wedding reception in the land at Ptarmigan Restaurant, 1,097 metres above sea level. They are no strangers to the mountain environment or indeed trains. Stroma, who comes from Aviemore, was employed by Virgin Rail and then joined CairnGorm Mountain Ltd, where she is now the "lifty supervisor". She looks after the carriage attendants and is also responsible in the winter for all the "lifties" who staff the ski-ing tows and chairlifts. The carriage attendants were under strict instructions to present gleaming carriages for the big event. David, from Aberdeen, met Stroma while working on the mountain. He was the ticket office and sales supervisor for five years and left in 2001 to establish his own website and marketing design company in Aviemore. Stroma said: "David and I have known each other for years. We met at the University of Stirling, although we were just friends at the time. She explained the reason for choosing the location of the reception. "I love the mountain and I wanted all my friends to see how beautiful it is," she said. "When we told them where the reception was going to be held, they couldn't wait." David said: "Holding the reception on top of the mountain is something different and we didn't want to be boring."

Battlefield Plans

The first public meeting was held recently to discuss plans for the forthcoming 1 million re-development of the Culloden Visitor Centre. The ambitious plans for the facelift were announced by the National Trust for Scotland. The trust claims the visitor centre, which is the gateway to Culloden Moor, will become a centre of excellence by 2005. Both locals and representatives of local and national agencies, including Comunn na Gaidhlig, the 1745 Association, the White Cockade Society and various community councils attended the public meeting. The trust outlined the background to recent developments on the battlefield site and explained the difficulties being encountered with the existing facilities. A trust spokesman said that the numbers of visitors to the site had continued to rise, but the present facilities were unable to cope. he said the trust was keen to review these facilities.

Ancient Chinese Healing Skills

Highlanders are now able to take advantage of 5,000 years of Eastern experience now that a new Chinese medicine centre has opened in Inverness. Massage, acupuncture and herb treatments are just some of the things that are on offer from Dr Ming Chen who brings her comprehensive brand of mind and body care to the North from her base in Edinburgh. The new centre offers services such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, therapeutic massage, reflexology, craniosacral therapy, aromatherapy, Shiatsu and Tui-na (Chinese massage) and also specialises in Chinese herbal medicines. She explained: "It's not just about treating illness - the principle of Chinese medicine is to take care of people before they get ill. "I'm also trying to educate people on how to live happily and improve their wellbeing." And Dr Chen's husband Gregor Robertson is one of her most vociferous converts - he was a sceptic, but he soon changed his mind. He said: "When Ming started, I felt sceptical about it, but it clearly helps people." And the reason for coming to Inverness was down to the demand from Highland people themselves. Dr Chen said: "There has been a lot of demand for the treatments - I have a five week waiting list for appointments in Edinburgh, and lots of people travel from the Highlands to see me. "It just made sense to open a branch here." But Dr Chen will not be sacrificing quality for quantity - with branches restricted to Edinburgh and Glasgow so far, she likes to be able to spend time with all her patients at least a couple of times a month.

Castle Landmark "at risk"

Historic Scotland has warned that one of the north's best known castles, built from the proceeds of the opium trade, is in critical need of repair. Lews Castle, which has turrets 102ft high and overlooks Stornoway Harbour in Lewis, is in such a state of disrepair that it has been officially listed by Historic Scotland as "at risk". The A-list castle built in 1848 for Sir James Matheson, who bought the whole of Lewis for 190,000 four years earlier, and made much of his fortune from the Far East opium trade. The castle was later acquired by Lord Leverhulme, who transformed it into an even more magnificent home as the peer embarked on his plans to turn Stornoway into the "Venice of the North". But following Lord Leverhulme's departure from Lewis, the castle was left to the Stornoway Trust. It was then passed to Western Isles Council and was last used 20 years ago as part of Lews Castle College. In its bulletin for the coming year, Historic Scotland says the castle is in a sad state with much of the interior being stripped.

Inverness Curler Retires

The youngest member of Scotland's victorious curling team has announced her retirement from the sport at the tender age of 27. Inverness curler Fiona MacDonald, part of the team that won gold at this year's Winter Olympics explained recently that she wanted to put family and work commitments first. But she admitted that her competitive nature - and fond memories of reaching the pinnacle of her sport - made leaving the rink for good a difficult decision, and one that took a lot of thought. Although Mrs MacDonald - who is married to former world champion and Olympic team member Ewan - is young to retire even by curling standards, she has had a 13 year professional career and 16 years in the sport altogether. And the Salt Lake City veteran revealed that she had been toying with the idea of taking a back seat since arriving back in Scotland after the team's triumph in February. She said: "I've been thinking about it all - but keeping it close to my chest - since I came back from the Olympics, and now I've decided it's for the best. "Having achieved the ultimate in my sport at a relatively young age, I'm now keen to focus on other aspects of my life, including my career." And Mrs MacDonald, an account manager with the motor finance unit of the Bank of Scotland, said that the obvious high point of her career had been winning the curling gold this year with her team mates but she had enjoyed the journey to the medal, including Scottish Junior and Ladies titles.

Cape Wrath Crowds

The UK's most remote area received an economic boost recently with hundreds of people from around the world taking part and watching the Cape Wrath Challenge road race. Competitors came from as far afield as Australia, the US and Germany to take part in the event, based in Durness, Sutherland. But non-competitive runs and walks and many other activities were laid on prior to the main event to encourage visitors to stay in the area a while longer. The Cape Wrath Challenge developed from the Island Race around Great Britain, a one off event organised for the millennium year. One of the stages took runners from Durness to Cape Wrath - and this was voted by participants and organisers alike to be one of the most spectacular phases of the race. Island Race chairman Richard Haldane, who has a holiday home in the area and technical director John Joyner suggested it would be an exciting idea to repeat that lap on its own running "a marathon and a bit" called the Cape Wrath Challenge. Plans were started for the event last year but were disrupted by the foot and mouth outbreak and the race had to be cancelled at the last minute. A committee was formed to organise the challenge this year instead, and a positive response from several sponsors - plus the involvement of Mr Joyner's company, Weston Running Promotions, who handled such details as route planning and marshalling - has resulted in what was a premier event for North-west Sutherland. The Challenge finished with a grand reception, meal and ceilidh which took place in the village hall where the prizes were presented.

Charity Event

A group of Inverness boys stopped their usual "beavering" away and helped raise almost 400 for a Highland charity which helps the deaf. The 21st company Lochardil Beavers held a sponsored silence in aid of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, which is run in the Highlands by Bert Smale, who is himself profoundly deaf. The 16 Beavers raised 387.85 for the charity and they handed the cash over to Bert at the Scout Hall.

Political Roundup

Road Upgrade Claim Rejected

A claim that 3 million of new Scottish Executive money was being put into the A83 trunk road in Argyll has been rejected by the SNP's spokesman for the Highlands and Islands. MSP Duncan Hamilton said: "I have heard the claims that up to 3 million of new money but my enquiries at the parliament have shown that this is simply a restatement of the existing budget for maintenance of the entire A83, from Dumbarton to Kintyre. "In short, there is no new money in the budget and any real improvements are, to use the executive's own words, subject to adequate funding being available. "That is unacceptable given the necessity of good roads for tourism, businesses, hauliers and residents."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy, light rain am. Becoming brighter in the W. Winds light/mod NW'ly. Temperature 15c to 18c.
Saturday Night
Any light rain in the E clearing, then dry with clear spells and fog. Winds light NW'ly. Temperature 6c to 11c.
Cloudy and locally misty to start. Sunshine becoming widely spread, mostly hazy.
The W mostly cloudy with drizzle. Rain clearing the E to leave sunny periods.

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