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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 31st August 2002
Issue No 295

A Highland Village Marks Link to Murdered Beatle

A memorial garden dedicated to Beatle John Lennon was unveiled recently in a remote Highland Village.

The pop legend has a special place in his heart for Durness, which inspired the Beatles' song In My Life. Now the lyrics have been carved into the memorial, three standing stones created by local craftsman Neil Fuller. The unveiling ceremony was a magical and emotional moment for Stan Parkes, Lennon's oldest living relative. It was in Durness that he and his cousin ran wild on their summer holidays 50 years ago. Lennon even returned to the little village on the wild Sutherland coast in 1969 with wife Yoko Ono, son Julian and Yoko's daughter Kyoko. Stan who was born in Liverpool but now lives in Largs, said: "John would be thrilled with this tribute and I know it would have meant more to him than any fancy statue. "He really loved Durness and he would love this tribute." Graham Bruce, of the Durness Gardeners' Group said the villagers hoped the memorial would help make tourists aware of the Beatles' connection. He said: "Once people know about the new garden and the John Lennon memorial, I'm anticipating a significant rise in visitors to Durness."Stan came to live in Scotland as a schoolboy and his mother - who was sister to John's mum Julia - married an Edinburgh dentist. His stepfather had inherited a croft and Durness became his family's destination every summer. Eventually, Stan made the village his home until ill health forced him and wife Janet to move to their present home in Largs. He understands why Lennon, who was murdered outside his New York home in 1980, loved Durness so much. He said: "John just loved the wilderness, the Highlands, the hunting and fishing. "He loved sketching and he'd go away into the hills to sketch the area. He was thrilled with it." Now more than 20 after Lennon died, his older cousin misses him more than ever. Stan said: "We were in Durness when John was murdered. One of the last contacts I had with him, he said "When I come home, we'll have a big family reunion." While they never did get that reunion, the family will know that a little piece of Lennon will live forever in Durness.

Cairngorms Like Alps

The Cairngorms are just as important a mountain range as the Swiss Alps, a mountain expert said in Inverness recently. Douglas McGuire, head off the co-ordination unit for the International Year of Mountains, was speaking during the second day of a major conference at Eden Court Theatre. The Euromania conference is the single most important gathering of delegates from mountainous areas to be held in the past three years. Mr McGuire said: "The Cairngorms and other mountains in Scotland are no less important than the highest peaks of the Alps. Although they may be less impressive from some perspectives because they are a different type of mountain, it is how important they are in a local context that matters." Mr McGuire said the agricultural, tourism and recreational sectors in the mountains had to be considered together, rather than individually, for areas like the Cairngorms to make progress. He added that in future the idea of twinning places like the Cairngorms and mountain areas in the developing world would be considered. "This would mean people in the Cairngorms could provide advice for people in the area they were twinned with," he explained. Mr McGuire insisted that it was vitally important that the world's mountain areas were preserved as they provided between 40-60% of the world's fresh water. He added: "We have to look after our mountains in terms of natural resource management and environment protection but also consider livelihood opportunities for people living in these areas."

Hollywood Break

Young Highland composer Lorne Balfe ran away to Hollywood to make his name - and now has Arnold Schwarzenegger marching to his tunes. The 25 year old rising star is to pen the music for the latest Terminator movie, the Rise of the Machines, currently being shot in Los Angeles. He has now set up his own company, Metrophonics, based outside Inverness, to help other British music talent break through in Hollywood. It is backed by the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust, and has support from Scottish Screen and Inverness and Nairn Enterprise. Mr Balfe, who went to Tony Blair's old school Fettes, played with the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra on percussion and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Determined to make his own way Lorne went south but was then forced to drop out of London's prestigious City University because of ill health. It was a chance letter to Los Angeles based Media Ventures, home of Oscar winner, Hans Zimmer, which put him on the road to success. "I had always wanted to work on big films and there was not much opportunity in Britain. "I sent off a random letter to the company in America and asked if I could have a job. Two weeks later they said I could go as an intern, basically unpaid work experience.." Mr Balfe added: "So I went over, thinking it would not last very long and got made an assistant very quickly." He has since arranged and composed for seven films, including Ancient Warrior. For Faust with Claudia Schiffer he composed the music in Inverness then e-mailed it to the US. He now splits his time between six months in America, three months in Britain and "three months on a plane".

Pleas to Aid Monitoring

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) would like to hear from anyone who hears a corncrake calling in Caithness and Sutherland - following recent surveys which show that these are the most important areas in mainland Britain for the birds. The RSPB Scotland, in partnership with Highland Council Ranger Service, is this year again gathering useful information about corncrake numbers and their distribution. Corncrake numbers have declined rapidly and are now mainly found in the Outer Hebrides, where the numbers have gradually increased in recent years because of positive work by locals to improve their habitat. Kenny Graham, the RSPB Scotland's Conservation Officer for Caithness and Sutherland said: "Corncrakes call around dusk and dawn and between midnight and 3am during the summer period. They are distinctive by their rasping, 'creek creek creek' call and by contacting the RSPB you will help us to secure their future in the areas."

Record Dives in Lochaber

A man more accustomed to the warm Mediterranean took to the chilly waters of a Highland loch recently to establish a UK record. Steve Trugalia, from Middlesex, free dived to a depth of 76.8m in Loch Linnhe, at Fort William, without air support to establish a British record. Mr Trugalia, one of the world's leading sport divers held his breath for 2min 16sec after plunging into the loch from a support vessel. With the temperature of the water down to a chilly 7c, four fully equipped divers provided back up and judges from the British Free Diving Association were on hand to verify the record. Steve, undertaking his first deep free dive in cold waters, said afterwards: "I am just over the moon at being able to set a record." Free diving, an activity practised by pearl divers in the Far East for many years, has become a growing sport among recreational divers. Steve has been free diving for more than four years, mainly in the Mediterranean. Don Macgregor, managing director of Fort William Underwater Centre, one of the world's leaders in underwater technology and training, said: "He is very keen to come back to extend the record and is speaking to his coach about new techniques which would enable him to do so." The record bid formed part of the Diving and Research Technology Conference held at the centre and the nearby Lochaber College. More than 40 delegates from as far afield as Holland, Germany and Spain attended to hear speakers from Europe and the US present papers on technical diving, diving research, cave diving, free diving and diving medicine.

Promoting Loch Ness

An ambitious new partnership which aims to improve the area around Loch Ness as a place to live, work and play - and bring sustainable development to local communities was launched recently. The Loch Ness Partnership (LNP), which includes representatives from the public and private sectors, will drive development forward by identifying new business opportunities, promotion of sustainable use of the natural environment and a programme of marketing and events. Specific initiatives will look at improving access to the water and hills, address infrastructure shortfalls, co-ordinate the marketing of Loch Ness as a destination, improve safety, signage and tourism facilities on the A82 and the B862, and develop existing public transport. Alastair Hamilton, chairman of the Loch Ness Partnership, said there was no doubt Inverness had undergone a period of considerable economic growth over the past five years, while the hinterland of the city has struggled to compete with this success. "The Loch Ness Partnership aims to work with the communities and all interested parties to widen this economic development into the areas surrounding the loch," Mr Hamilton stated at the launch held at Dochfour House, Dochgarroch. "No one organisation can achieve this on their own and the communities themselves will be pivotal to the initiative's success."

Historians Get Under the Skin

Historians at the universities of Dundee and Aberdeen have embarked on a joint project to complete the latest series of burgh surveys. The Historic Scotland commissioned studies identify areas of archaeological and historic urban interest which require sensitive treatment in the event of proposed development. Fraserburgh, Tain, Kirkwall and Wigtown/Whithorn are the latest places being investigated. The research examines the geography and topography of the town, its known archaeology and history, historic standing buildings and the origins of its street names. Historic Scotland will publish a detailed illustrated book on each town as the three year project progresses. Project leader Richard Oram, of Aberdeen University, said: "This is an important project in a whole range of ways. It is not just a group of academics conducting a specialist exercise that is of purely academic interest. "It is about demonstrating through its history and archaeology how the living organism of a modern town was shaped and evolved." Professor Charles McKean, who is leading the Dundee University side of the project, said: "We have to get beneath the skin of each town to understand why a town is ther, its culture, why and when it grew. This will ultimately provide guidance to planners as to the genus loci, or spirit of the place, what is sensitive and what is not."

Charity Event

Local sufferers took another step towards buying the area's first mobile eye camera when Diabetes UK held a fund raising concert at Eden Court Theatre recently. The evening - A Touch of Tartan - was one of many fund raising initiatives held by members as part of a two year campaign to raise cash for a digital retinal camera which will be used to treat patients in rural areas who do not have access to a regular eye clinic. The group donated around 12,000 to Dr Sandra McLury of Raigmore Hospital where the camera will be based.

Political Roundup

MSPs Visit Colonsay

Four MSPs visited the remote island of Colonsay recently in an effort to learn about the transport and housing problems faced by the small community. With only 100 residents, the island is arguably the most remote of Scotland's inhabited islands. It has no air service and the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry timetable means Wednesday is the only day a trip is possible. This involves a three and a half hour outward journey and a three hour return, giving travellers just six hours on the island. There was originally talk of hiring boats to enable the Scottish Parliaments full rural development committee to meet on Colonsay, but it is understood the expense and logistics of this option saw it ruled out. MSP Alex Ferguson, the committee's convener, was joined by just three other members - Rhoda Grant, John Munro and Jamie McGrigor - for the visit.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy in the NW. Risk of patchy rain. NE will have bright spells. Winds mod N-NW'ly. Temperature 12c to 16c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy, patchy rain on W coast. Clear intervals elsewhere. Winds light /mod NW'ly. Temperature 6c to 10c.
Dry and bright to start with lengthy sunny periods. Clouding over from W later.
A band of cloud moving into Western areas bringing rain and drizzle. Dry with brighter periods in the E.

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