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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 12th October 2002
Issue No 301

World Wide Interest in Island Haunted House

The isolated ruin of a "haunted" house on a small Scottish island has been sold to an English buyer for an undisclosed sum.

The Wind House, on the Shetland island of Yell, has stood empty for the past 70 years after it was abandoned by a family who had been through one too many bad experiences there. The new owner, whose identity still remains anonymous, bought the building from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, who took it over as part of the Lumbister estate, which they turned into a bird reserve recently. But Robyn Mitchell, of the RSPB, said the organisation did not have the power or the money to renovate old buildings. She said: "We didn't know how much to ask for the house, so we just asked for offers. The interest we've received has been staggering, with inquiries from as far away as Singapore, Germany and Ireland." Interest was so great that chartered surveyors Bell Ingram had to reprint the brochure about the building to send out 200 copies worldwide. Yell historian Mary Helen Odie said the building's shady history dates back to the 16th century, when it was taken over by the Niven family using nefarious methods. The ghost stories began in the 18th century when the owners used to leave the premises over the Christmas period because of a ghostly apparition which appeared every year. That was until one year a shipwrecked sea captain turned up at their door, and was left to stay there over the festive season while the family went away. The man supposedly tackled a "blob like thing" and succeeded in doing away with it, in a spot which is still recognised. There are also stories based on more palpable evidence, such as the one about a man whose body was found under the flagstones at the door. Mary Helen said the Wind House was last inhabited in 1932, by a Mr Gordon and his mother. Their dog died there and was buried in the grounds. "Shortly afterwards the house was struck by lightning. That was the last straw for Mrs Gordon," she said.

VIP Treatment

A Canadian visitor was recently given a private tour of Cawdor Castle by Lady Cawdor herself after winning a competition on the Internet. Margaret Rodgers, from Vancouver, was selected for the prize after entering the competition on the Only in Britain website. The prize was one of many offers available to overseas visitors as part of the 40 million Only in Britain tourism initiative. Ms Rodgers, originally from the UK, said she was delighted to have been chosen for the tour. She said: "I started organising tours for the rural areas in Britain because I wanted people to visit the more remote areas instead of just going for the cities. I have been all over the world, but this is my favourite country. I am thrilled to have been invited to Cawdor Castle, and it is great to be back in my own native country." Lady Cawdor said: "Cawdor has been a home to generations of my family and it is nice to be able to share some of the personal stories from my own time in the castle, as well as its fascinating history with Ms Rodgers." Scott Armstrong of the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board, said: "To many of our visitors, particularly those from overseas, the Highlands is seen as a land of spectacular beauty, rich in history and heritage. We are delighted that Margaret Rodgers has been able to experience at first hand her own dream destination."

New Lease of Life

An Inverness building which played an important part in the development of 19th century transport has recently been given a 21st century spruce up by a local firm. The Highland Railway Locomotive Works at the rail depot earned a reputation as a training ground for some of Britain's most famous railway engineers. Formerly known as the Lochgorm Works, the 150 year old building was one of two given a new look by BIC Construction in a maintenance contract worth 300,000 and involving 25 local employees. BIC staff working on the building tried unsuccessfully to locate the original key stone bearing the date of construction, but it is known to have been erected in the mid 1950s. "The Highland Railway Locomotive Works was quite innovative," local historian and former railwayman Syd Atkinson said. "A lot of famous engineers started work there. One of them was David Jones who designed the Jones Goods Engine - there's an example on display at the National Railway Museum in York. "Probably the most famous person to have started work there, though, was Sir Murdoch MacDonald, who was MP for Inverness for 25 years. He was an engineer who was a partner in a firm that went on to build the Aswan Dam on the Nile." Other who learned their trade in Inverness included the talented Drummond brothers, Dugald and Peter, who went on to design locomotives for Highland and several other railway companies. BIC is one of the few firms in the country certified to carry out work for Railtrack and the company's work on the Inverness carriage and train depots coincides with the completion of a 450,000 contract to upgrade signal boxes across Scotland.

Village Joy

People in the Seaboard village of Easter Ross celebrated recently when their dream community hall was officially opened. The Seaboard Memorial Hall Committee, serving Hilton, Balintore and Shandwick, has been fundraising for seven years for the 500,000 development. The new building provides up to date social and recreational facilities for local people and visitors and a base for the new Seaboard Community Development Group which provides a range of services to the community. The new hall replaces the old community hall, which was built in 1957. The National Lottery Community Fund donated 328,000 towards the project, 80,000 was donated by Highland Council, 80,000 by Ross and Cromarty Enterprise, and other funds were raised by the local community. Commenting on the opening, committee chairwoman Maureen Ross said: "This is a very special day for the community. We have been waiting seven years for this new hall, and the facility was very much missed by the community. "It has been a long, hard struggle for the community, but it has paid off."

Dolphin Care Pledge

The majority of dolphin watch cruise boat operators in the Moray Firth are for a seventh year signing up to a voluntary code of practice aimed at minimising disturbance to the North's most famous sea mammals. Launched in 1995, the Dolphin Space Programme (DSP) encourages boat operators to "watch how they watch" and provides a recognised accreditation for those who agree to follow particular practices when taking boat tours out to watch the dolphins. These include maintaining constant speed and direction and letting dolphins approach the boat if they wish. There are around 130 bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, one of only two resident populations in the UK. They have served as a major tourist attraction for many years and this year there are 11 dolphin watching cruise boats operating in the firth, more than at any other time in the past. Scott Gair of Moray Firth Cruises, who has been a member of the scheme for many years, said: "It's important that we, as wildlife tourism operators, demonstrate how we are taking into account the well being of the dolphins. "People are becoming more and more aware of the issues of disturbance and will be looking for reassurances from operators such as ourselves. "The DSP provides us with accreditation and we can, in turn, use this to reassure customers that we are particularly keen to keep the Moray Firth a safe haven for the dolphins."

Gurkhas Walk Through the Isles

Five hardy Gurkhas reached the south of Harris recently on their march through the Western Isles to raise funds for their welfare trust. Ran, Man, Suk, Khrishna - four of 106 men based at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh - and Dhal, a skilled piper of the Queen's Gurkha Signals, set off from the Butt of Lewis. They hoped to cover 150 miles and raise tens of thousands of pounds for their charity. Onlookers saw Dhal stand on the pier at Leverburgh playing traditional Scottish tunes and then go to meet his marching colleagues before leading them down to their final checkpoint of the day at Leverburgh Pier. They reached, up till now, 40,000 of their 60,000 target for the Gurkha Welfare Trust. The charity supports Gurkha veterans who have no other pension. With them was their Scottish organiser, former soldier Neil Griffiths, who said the weather had not been kind, with heavy showers pelting them even as they reached south Harris. It is the fourth annual fundraising walk Neil has organised with serving Gurkhas. Last year, he and four Gurkhas walked from Mallaig to Stonehaven, raising 55,000. The serving Gurkhas all give up their leave to raise money for veterans back home in Nepal, many of whom are living in poverty. "Just 5 a week is the difference between survival and destitution," Mr Griffiths said. "They are our oldest allies and our best. Their contribution in World War II went a great way to defeating the Japanese. "We would not have done so well without them in North Africa and Italy. We had 250,000 of the best infantrymen in the world serving on our side." He added: "They gave their services and lives so readily. It wasn't their fight. The debt isn't just military, it's a debt of honour."

Inverness Base Confirmed

Highland Council welcomed the Scottish Executive's decision that Bord na Gaidhlig will be based in Inverness. Councillor Allan Beaton, chairman of the Gaelic working group and depute chairman of the education. culture and sport committee said: "Contrary to what some people have claimed, we did not know about the Scottish Executive's decision in advance of the official announcement. "Obviously, we are delighted that Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, has been chosen as the base for Bord na Gaidhlig. "The Highland Council is working hard both on the Gaelic medium education sector and its general remit of Gaelic development to do its utmost to ensure that the language continues for future generations. "The city of Inverness is the appropriate place, as we have the transport infrastructure, excellent communication links and exciting plans to develop Gaelic, which include the building of a new Gaelic medium school."

Charity Event

Staff at an Inverness bar handed over more than 1500 to a local cancer charity recently. Staff at Dows Diner proved a hit with customers when they stripped off and struck some slightly risque poses in a fund raising calendar. The 1538 raised will go towards the development of a new Macmillan Chemotherapy Unit at Raigmore Hospital which is currently under construction.

Political Roundup

Call for Scots TV to be Regulated

A North East MP called recently for Scottish ITV regions to be regulated by Holyrood. SNP Westminster leader Alex Salmond gave his backing to a Commons motion calling for tighter safeguards to ensure Grampian TV remains committed to making local shows. The Independent Television Commission has recently agreed a new Charter of the Nations and Regions which is expected to lead to a reduction in the number of hours of regional programmes that local stations are required to produce.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Overcast, rain, heavy at times. Winds strong/gale SE'ly. Temperature 9c to 13c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy with spells of rain. Clearer spells and drier in the W. Winds strong SE'ly. Temperature 4c to 9c.
Shetland will see persistent rain. Elsewhere bright though drizzle on SW coasts.
Mainly dry but cloudy on the NE to start but rain or showers in the NW moving E pm.

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