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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 14th September 2002
Issue No 297

A Tale of Romance

Local historians researching an unusual tombstone with a French inscription in a Sutherland graveyard now believe it may have links with the Duchess of Sutherland.

The tombstone - believed to be the only gravestone in the Highlands inscribed in French - was uncovered during a cleanup by the Clyne Heritage Society at the Old Clynekirkton Graveyard at Brora. Its inscription reads: "Isit corps de John MacKay Dalvait mort l'annie 1779" (Here is the body of John MacKay Dalvait died in the year 1779). And society members are eager to discover why there should be a French tombstone in an east Sutherland cemetery. An appeal for information in a local newspaper recently brought a flurry of calls from people with theories on the reason for its existence. The society's chairman Dr Nick Lindsay said they had received no firm leads but they were following a number of lines in inquiry, including a theory involving the Duchess of Sutherland. He explained that local historian and society members Rob Wilson of Brora, had pointed out that the duchess spent much of her time in France during the relevant period. "It seems she lived in Paris for a while - either she was the ambassador or her husband was a dignitary over there - and the duchess used to bring her French entourage on her return visits to Dunrobin," said Dr Lindsay. Mr Wilson has suggested that, on one of these visits to Dunrobin, a female member of her entourage became involved with a local man, stayed in Sutherland with him and, when he died, she insisted on his tombstone being inscribed in French. "We still have no clear understanding of how this tombstone came to be inscribed in French, but this is possibly the most plausible explanation so far. We will definitely be researching the possibility of a connection with the Duchess of Sutherland," said Dr Lindsay. The society is also investigating a report from a woman in Elgin who said she vaguely remembered seeing a tombstone inscribed in French at the Spynie Graveyard in Elgin. Dr Lindsay described the tombstone, uncovered from dense undergrowth by volunteer and society member Donnie Baillie, as "one of the most exciting discoveries ever to be made in graveyard research in the North of Scotland".

Dinosaur Print Found On Skye

A woman walking her dog along the beach on the Isle of Skye has found the biggest and best dinosaur footprints in Scotland. Cathie Booth was on the beach at Staffin, on the north east coast of the island, with Rigg, a cocker spaniel, when she picked up a piece of loose sandstone with a clear threetoed print embedded in it. She took it home to her husband Paul, an amateur fossil hunter, and he realised it was something extraordinary. He said: "The minute I saw it I thought, 'That is a dinosaur footprint, all right.' It was marvellous." The print was made by a plant eating dinosaur, but when the couple returned to the beach they found 15 larger footprints made by a large carnivore in the Jurassic period, around 165 million years ago. The prints are on a solid slab of rock and scientists, helped by schoolchildren, began taking casts of them while they were exposed at low tide. No attempt will be made to remove the rock, and the 20 inch prints are likely to become a tourist attraction as the only dinosaur footprints in situ in Scotland. Mrs Booth, a hotelier who runs the nearby Glen View Inn with her husband, said: "I wasn't sure that I had found a dinosaur footprint and I was absolutely delighted to have it confirmed."

Adventure Offered

A Sutherland village which has been in decline since the opening of the Dornoch Bridge now has a new tourist attraction to give the economy a much needed boost. It is hoped the recent opening of a new activities company, called Kyle Adventures, at Bonar Bridge, will attract visitors back to the area. The business, which has been set up by brothers David and Paul Livingstone, who are both ex-servicemen, will initially supply Canadian canoes and mountain bikes for hire. David Livingstone said Bonar Bridge was once the gateway to Caithness and Sutherland, but it had seen a dramatic decline in visitors since the A9 was rerouted in 1991 with the opening of the Dornoch Bridge. "Tourist numbers were further reduced by the closing of the salmon netting stations on the Kyle of Sutherland in the mid 90s. Coachloads of people used to line the bridge to watch the nets coming in. "These visitors contributed to the local economy by visiting local shops and staying in the village's three hotels, bed and breakfast establishments and guesthouses, while the salmon netting supplied work for many of the village men," said Mr Livingstone. The brothers are hoping their new enterprise will help to improve the situation. Mr Livingstone said the Canadian canoes would be used to travel the length of the Kyle of Sutherland from Rosehall to Bonar Bridge. Mr Livingstone also added: "With wonderful scenery and wildlife, including ospreys, as well as historical sites, from the magnificent Carbisdale Castle to brochs and standing stones, the trip is sure to please."

Dalwhinnie Dram

A 15 year old whisky distilled at a small Highland village, was sipped by the Queen and her guests at a sumptuous lunch during her recent Golden Jubilee. The malt whisky from Dalwhinnie Distillery was served as the end of the fourth course along with coffee and petits fours. Other highlights of the menu included bouquet of asparagus, tournedos of beef, pearls of passion fruit and Sancerre, Domain de la Moussiere, Mellot 2000 wine. Staff at Dalwhinnie Distillery said they were delighted their whisky was chosen for the event. Brand home manager Elizabeth Thomson said: "I am over the moon that Dalwhinnie was on the menu, especially when they could have any one of the many other distilleries in the Highlands - the Queen has very good taste. "However, I am not at all not surprised they picked our malt - it is much lighter than most other brands, which would have made it ideal to sip at the end of a big lunch."

Nairn Beach

A popular Highland beach was once again given the thumbs up to fly a European Blue Flag - and is one of only five beaches in Scotland to boast the cleanliness award. Nairn's central beach is the only one in Scotland, outwith Fife, to retain the flag this year - the second year of holding Blue Flag status in a row for the North beach. The sandy shores, which attract both weekenders from the local area and those from further afield in the sun seeking months, picked up the award again for high quality water standards and a host of demanding safety, amenity and beach management criteria. But, although the natural beauty of the coastline is a factor in the success of the beach, maintaining amenities and cleanliness are tasks for the whole community to get involved in. Nairn beach manager, Simon Workman, said: "This is a nationally recognised award which gives visitors and locals some confidence in the quality standards of the central beach. "This success reflects the efforts of partnership working between council services, government bodies and community groups. "The Nairn area committee are delighted with the award and aim to continue to support Nairn as a top tourist resort."

Hebrides Route Plan

Walkers have long been attracted to the West Highland Way and, if a Mull man's proposal comes to fruition, they could soon be tackling the Hebridean Way. Derek McAdam, chairman of Holiday Mull, came up with the idea of promoting island based holidays by devising walking routes to link up the Hebrides. Mr McAdam, of Tobermory has written to Argyll and the Isles Enterprise, asking if it would be prepared to provide finance for a feasibility study on the plan. The study would examine the cost of establishing and sign posting a new walking route, and would also look at factors like the cost of maintaining the footpaths and whether local landowners would be in favour of the scheme. Mr McAdam said: "It's a dream, an ambition which I am trying to get off the ground. "If you can have a West Highland Way, why can't you have a Hebridean Way." He said the expansion of small ferry service links and causeways between islands made the idea more feasible today than in the past. And he added: "It could be linked up to the Walking Wild initiative, in which there are five tourist boards involved, and the Escape to the Edge initiative, which is a joint initiative between Argyll, the Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and Trossachs Tourist Board and Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board." He envisages a large number of islands, including North and South Uist, Barra, Skye, Mull and Iona, being part of the route.

Tourism Stalwart Remembered

Tourism operators in rural Lochaber have contributed to a seat in memory of a former clan chief's daughter. Grace Dignan of Roybridge, who lost her fight against cancer last year, had extensive knowledge of the area's history, passed down by her late father, John, who was Chieftain of the MacDonnell Clan. Up until her death, Mrs Dignan worked at the Spean Bridge Tourist Information Centre, a job which allowed her to share historical facts about the Braes of Lochaber. Over 60 members of Mrs Dignan's family and representatives of the tourist industry recently attended the unveiling of a memorial bench near her Mulroy Terrace home, which was funded by the Glen Spean and Great Glen Tourism Group, Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board and Highland Council. Chairman of the Glen Spean and Great Glen Tourism Group, Jackson Anderson, who runs the Gairlochy Holiday Park, said: "The group came up with the idea for a bench to recognise Grace and all the good work she did for tourism in the area. "She had a great knowledge of local history and could relate tales which went back years and years."

Charity Event

An Avoch woman got on her bike recently to raise over 1200 for charity with a cycle ride in memory of her late brother. Joanna Reid pedalled from her home on the Black Isle to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness to raise money for the hospital's cardiac unit and for the Cardiomyopathy Association, a group seeking to raise awareness of this disease which affects the heart muscle.

Political Roundup

Call to Remove 'Anti-Gaelic' Civil Servants

Pressure was mounting recently on the Scottish Executive to remove or redeploy a group of civil servants who are being accused of being deliberately obstructive and of frustrating attempts to save the Gaelic language. Highland MSP John Farquhar Munro said that it was now obvious that Gaelic would make no progress while the existing civil servants retained responsibility for it. He suggested they should be relieved of their duties and a special unit of Gaelic speaking civil servants, dedicated to the recovery of the language, appointed in their place.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Broken cloud and sunny spells. East coast will have low cloud and mist. Winds light E-NE'ly. Temperature 15c to 21c.
Saturday Night
Clear skies but mist or fog patches forming. Coastal mist in the E. Winds light N'ly. Temperature 6c to 14c.
Early mist clearing to leave a dry and sunny day. Light winds. More mist overnight.
Partly cloudy with patches of rain at times. Sunny spells and light winds.

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