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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 28th September 2002
Issue No 299

Gift of a New Banner Welcomed

As the Queen and Prince Philip watched this year's Braemar Gathering they were presided over by a new banner.

The Braemar Royal Highland Society was given the banner, which features its coat of arms, by former residents who now live in Canada. Ian and Maureen Mennie, now of New Brunswick, originally lived in the North east. Mr Mennie was a classmate of society vice president John Duff some 50 years ago at Robert Gordon's School in Aberdeen. They renewed their acquaintanceship in 2000 at a reunion and have corresponded by e-mail ever since. Mr and Mrs Mennie formerly lived in Braemar Castle, when they were newlyweds, and helped run the old Invercauld Theatre. At that time Mrs Mennie made a replica of the standard raised for the 1715 Jacobite rising which hangs to this day in Braemar Castle. During many hours e-mailing and recalling those days in the theatre, she volunteered to make a banner for the Braemar society - despite being severely disabled following a surgical mistake which has left with only one functioning hand. Work on the banner took around 200 hours sewing and Mrs Mennie was responsible for 90% of this, with her husband's contribution being confined to designing the layout, to meet the requirements of the blazon supplied. Mr Duff said: "We received the banner in August from Canada. We weren't sure what to expect but we are delighted with it, it's beautiful."

Dolphin Station Upgrade

Important international research into seals and dolphins is set to benefit as a result of new building and conversion work at the Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty. Conversion of an old buoy store into new research, training and visitor facilities at the station is about to start following confirmation of significant funding from oil and gas operator, Talisman Energy (UK) Limited and Ross and Cromarty Enterprise. The station provides a Highland base for the University of Aberdeen's Department of Zoology's research and teaching on the ecology of seals, dolphins and other marine life. Paul Thompson, of the Department of Zoology and head of the filed station's research and training programme, said: "Research here at the lighthouse aims to understand the effects of environmental change on the behaviour and ecology of marine mammals and seabirds, with our international research group involving students from all parts of the world. "These exciting conversion plans will allow the station to further expand its international programme of marine research and teaching, provide a permanent university presence in Cromarty and allow greater public access to these activities."

The Great Return

Clansmen descended on Fort William recently by mountain track and river. The Macmillans then donned their kilts and finery to attend a civic reception then answer a clan rallying call. More than 200 worldwide Macmillans were in Scotland for the "Great Return", commemorating the bicentenary of their ancestors departure from Lochaber to Canada in 1802. Another group of them took to the water, but this time in two 26ft eight seater birch bark Canadian canoes. They paddled from Loch Arkaig, where the latter day clansmen had held land, to old Inverlochy Castle on the outskirts of Fort William. There, they linked up with six walkers, some of whom had completed the entire 95 mile West Highland Way, from Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow to Fort William. Both sponsored events were aimed at raising funds for the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity, founded by Douglas of that ilk in 1912. Clan chief George Macmillan, with leading clan society members attended a Lochaber House civic reception, hosted by Councillor Olwyn Macdonald, Highland Council's local area convenor. They then returned the compliment with councillors and senior officials attending a rally for 130 clansmen at the nearby Nevis Centre. Around 200 Macmillans travelled from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand to attend the gathering, the second part of which moved from Lochaber to the clan chief's home at Finlaystone in Inverclyde. A memorial was dedicated at the clan chief's burial ground on Loch Arkaig side on the anniversary of the 299 emigrants' departure in three ships from Fort William two centuries ago.

Historic Building Restoration

One of the finest buildings in Easter Ross has been restored to its former glory. The Highland Buildings Preservation Trust has now completed restoration work to the former procurator fiscal's office at Tower Street, Tain, and the property is to be used once again as an architects office. It is an amazing coincidence that the building, originally designed in the 1870s as the offices for local architect, Andrew Maitland, has been bought by Cyril Smith, proprietor of Future Plans in Tain, and is being returned to its a original use in the 21st century. Mr Smith said: "It's nice that the building is returning to its former glory." He added: "The whole building has gone around in a cycle. It was designed, built and used by architects and is now going to be occupied by architects again." It is an unusual building for the area, having been built in an English arts and crafts style by the local architect, and former Lord Provost of Tain, Andrew Maitland. The exposed timber framed exterior has been repaired as part of the restoration works and, following extensive research, the original terracotta colour scheme for the building has been restored.

Tribute to Poetry Legend

An internationally acclaimed Edinburgh poet was remembered by family and friends recently at his home from home in the Highlands. The son and granddaughter of the late Norman MacCaig who died in 1996 aged 85, travelled from their Central Belt homes to Kirkaig Bridge, near Lochinver, to unveil a plaque commemorating the poets links to the area. Mr MacCaig, contemporary and friend of other leading 20th century poets like Hugh MacDiarmid and Sidney Goodsir Smith, spent his summer holidays in the west of Sutherland with his wife and family for many years - and made many friends in the area. In a short ceremony, Mr MacCaig's granddaughter, Catherine MacLean, unveiled the simple plaque, engraved with an excerpt from the poem Climbing Suilven, about the poet's trek up the hill just a few miles from where the plaque is situated. Son Ewan McCaig remembered his childhood visits to Sutherland - and recalled equally well how the area inspired his father to write. He said: "My father was born and brought up in Edinburgh, but I think this part of the world was of equal weight in his perceptions of life." Surprisingly, it seems that Mr MacCaig rarely, if ever, lifted a pen while in the North - preferring more active fishing, walking and cycling outings on his holidays. A ceilidh after the official ceremony showed the warmth that the small community felt for MacCaig - a wee dram, some impromptu readings, songs and stories went on well into the night.

Return From the Deep

A plaque recalling a team of Nessie hunters who found a Wellington bomber in the depth of Loch Ness almost 30 years ago was unveiled recently. The monument, built at the loch-side overlooking the spot where the bomber ditched on Hogmanay 1940, near Lochend, tells the story of a team of American and British scientists, who in 1976 happened by chance to discover the intact bomber in the loch. The plane, designated R for Robert and now in Surrey's Brooklands Museum, was found by the team while on a expedition to study marine life in the loch - using what was then a new and revolutionary type of sonar scanning equipment. One of the team, Bob Rines, who played a part in the plane's accidental location, said he was impressed by the monument. "The plaque is excellent, well constructed and it contains all the information people need to know about what we came across," he said. Ten years after its discovery, the Wellington, the only surviving aircraft of its kind to have seen action in WW II, was salvaged from the loch surprisingly in almost immaculate condition. The bomber was lifted out of its watery grave by a massive crane on September 28 1985, 85% intact, from 230ft of water.

Highland Culture Bid Backing

The Highland bid for Capital of Culture 2008 has been formally backed by 19 public bodies. First Minister Jack McConnell and tourism, culture and sport minister Mike Watson also supported the bid being made by Inverness and the Highlands to become the European Capital of Culture in 2008. They gathered recently in Edinburgh to present a united front in endorsing Scotland's bid for the prestigious European programme against competition from Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton and Hove, Bristol, Canterbury and East Kent, Cardiff, Liverpool, Newcastle and Gateshead and Oxford. A total of 19 agencies have already signed a concordat of support, which recognises the opportunities which success in the competition will bring to Inverness and the Highlands and by extension the rest of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Councillor David Green, chairman of Inverness Highland 2008, the company promoting the bid said the continued support of the First Minister and Culture Minister and the key national bodies in Scotland was a huge boost to our bid.

Charity Event

A veteran former member of the Parachute Regiment has successfully tackled the Great Glen Way, in a fundraising mission. John Dingwall, who completed the gruelling 73 mile walk in four days, undertook the challenge to raise money for the Parachute Regimental Association. Mr Dingwall, from Edinburgh, who was planning to walk the recently opened long distance footpath in any case, decided to do it for a worthy cause at the same time. He said: "I love the outdoors and the fresh air anyway, so it was perfect for me."

Political Roundup

Gaelic Future

The Scottish Parliament has sought to dispel fears about the future of its Gaelic services by creating two new posts to promote the language. One of the jobs will see a dedicated staff member involved in a strategy to develop Gaelic, while the other employee will work on the Parliament's inhouse translation and interpretation services. The new posts have been agreed by the Parliament's decision making cross party corporate body and are expected to be advertised in the very near future. There had been concerns about the level of Gaelic provision at the Parliament after its first Gaelic officer, Alex O'Henley, quit in May amid allegations that he was being obstructed in his job by civil servants hostile to the language.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Mainly cloudy, patchy drizzle in the far N. Sunnier in S and E. Winds mod SW'ly. Temperature 13c to 17c.
Saturday Night
Mainly dry, in the E. Cloudy in the N and W with drizzle increasing. Winds fresh S-SW'ly. Temperature 7c to 12c.
Cloudy with a few showers likely early on, followed by rain from W later.
Cloudy with further showers and rain. Light winds freshening by night as cloud breaks.

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