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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 27th October 2001
Issue No 254

Legend of the Seer to Unite Ross Residents

A celebration of the life and times of the Highlands' most famous folk legend has brought together people from four different communities.

When the Brahan Seer Action Group was awarded a grant by the Scottish Arts Council's National Lottery Awards for All this time last year to celebrate the life of the Brahan Seer, the group were keen to involve the whole community. This involves, not just the community from Fortrose, where the famous soothsayer was put on trial and condemned for witchcraft, but also the nearby villages and towns of Conon Bridge, Dingwall and Strathpeffer. The Seer Festival involved the Scottish premier of the Seer Opera. The celebrations started in August when children from the support unit at Dingwall Academy and St Clements School, in Dingwall, created a Brahan Seer banner during a series of three workshops with painters Geordie MacDonald Haig and Lizzie MacDougall. In Fortrose, Martin Danziger of Pan 2000 revealed his re-enactment of the trial and burning of the Brahan Seer. The event featured stiltwalking, processional fire sculptures and drumming. At Strathpeffer, John Batty of Highland Outreach, and Bob Pegg, Highland Council's musician in residence, led a Story Walk in the Strathpeffer Community Centre. The community event involving local youngsters from class P7 upwards in some drama pieces with musical interludes, of course on the theme of the Seer. The Seer Opera by John Bevan Baker was produced by William Conway. This was followed by the Seeing Stone, a storytelling prelude written by Highland author Elizabeth Sutherland. Mrs Sutherland, an author five times over, wrote the play specially for the festival.

Osprey Centre Wins Award

The Loch Garten Osprey Centre was flying high recently after being recognised in this year's prestigious UK Civic Trust Awards - the only project in the Highlands to win an award. The centre, which is owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, was officially opened two years ago. It was carefully designed to blend into the forest landscape and its extremely sensitive environment. Much of the timber used in its construction came from the sustainable forest management taking place at the RSPB's Abernethy Forest Nature Reserve where Clydesdale horses were used to minimise any ground disturbance or damage to forest habitats. The RSPB, along with architect Mary Binnie, contractor Sylvan Stuart Ltd and quantity surveyors McBains Cormack received special commendations in the civic trust awards, which attracted more than 600 entries. This year, the veteran pair of ospreys at the Loch Garten site - Ollie and Olive - raised two chicks. The adults and chicks left the site in August, headed south then started their long migration journey to West Africa.

Funding Sought for New Pier

A Skye community development group has made a bid for cash for what it says is a vitally needed upgrade for the controversial Uig Pier. A report which was conducted on behalf of the Uig Community Development Association and issued recently identified a need for major development of the pier, above the existing work currently being carried out. At the same time, the Uig community also expressed concern that it may end up paying some of the costs of the existing pier upgrading. Andy Anderson, secretary of the Uig Community Development Association, said the main body of the report had been put together by Conservation and Development in Sparsely Populated Areas (Cadispa), a project based at Strathclyde University. He said: "The report expresses our concern about the lack of development in the area as a whole. "It deals with a number of issues affecting the community, like giving a higher profile to fishing and crofting, but the development of the pier forms the main part of the report because that is the most important issue in the Uig community."We plan on using the report to obtain European funding, and we will also submit it to the Fraser of Allender Institute in Strathclyde, which is a very influential economic study group."

Unravel Geological History

Visitors to Wester Ross can now straddle 500 million years at a time thanks to a new geology centre which opened recently. Knockan Crag visitor interpretation centre, 12 miles north of Ullapool, provides a guided tour of one of the major mysteries of the geological world. In the late 19th century, equipment and knowledge was such that geologists assumed that the order of rock layers in the Highlands was chronological. But Benjamin Peach and John Horne made strides in understanding the planet in the 1880s, when they discovered that one plate of rock had moved so much that it had overlapped the other. Now known as the Moine Schist, this landmark discovery changed the face of geology, and is the main reason for the opening of the new centre. Aubrey Manning, Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, said "I think that what we can see here is a chance for people to get some sort of grip on the fact that the planet is such a dynamic place. "The continents are constantly shifting, and Scotland continues to move north. Right here in Wester Ross is a place where two great masses collided. "You get a sense of unimaginable movement - you can put your hands on two rocks that are 500 million years apart." Scottish Natural Heritage geologist Alan McKirdy said: "People are coming here in their droves already. It's quite a complicated story, but it's very fascinating."

Cadboll Stone

Work began recently on the excavation of a controversial Easter Ross Pictish stone carving. Surveyors from Glasgow University Archaeology Research Division (Guard) began the work which it hoped will uncover the mysteries of the 9th century stone. The project unearthed the stump of the famous stone, part of which was broken off in 1676 to serve as a gravestone. Guard project manager Heather James said: "We hope to retrieve the chippings from the front of the stone. "We know that there are at least 25cm of stump left down there but there could be more." But whether the stone truly belongs at Hilton is the crux of the matter for locals, Historic Scotland and the National Museums of Scotland. At the moment, the top half of the stone resides at the National Museum in Edinburgh, despite a local bid to bring it back north. If it is discovered that the stone is on its original site, then local feeling is that the stump should stay in the Highlands. Councillor Jim Paterson said: "I think we'll just have to wait and see what the museum and Historical Scotland are saying. If the stone is in its original position, I would be totally against moving it at all. "In fact, if that is the case, the argument is very strong for the whole stone coming back." But the situation seems less hopeful after comments from Historic Scotland. A spokesman said: "The decision would need to be processed under finds disposal procedures." It is understood that the finds procedure would generally rule against splitting up the different parts of the same artefact, and precedent would suggest that the new finds could end up in Edinburgh.

New Guide for Pipers

A new multimedia package which aims to teach people the art of Highland piping has been unveiled recently at the World Pipe band Championships. The Highland pipers and drummers who attended the Glasgow event were among the first to see the end result of the four year project, put together by the Piping Centre, which has been hailed as a breakthrough in music teaching support. A CD Rom lets learners pace their practice and match their style to the world's leading pipers. Students will also be able to learn about tunes and composers, as well as how to look after their instruments. Roddy MacLeod of the Piping Centre said: "The package recognises the partnership of learner and teacher, and sets out to enhance that relationship."

Pint for Ancients

Stone Age man staggering around drunk is not the usual textbook image, but new research showing evidence of a 5,000 year old brewery in the centre of Europes best preserved Neolithic village could change all that. Stone lined drains running under some of the houses at Skara Brae in Orkney were thought to have been part of a sophisticated internal drainage system, but Merryn Dineley, prehistorian from Manchester University, is convinced they were used in connection with brewing. "When Professor Gordon Childe did the original excavations in 1929 he noted a 'green slime' 18in deep in some of the drains, and the same 'curious substance' in a circular stone lined sump in Hut 7," she said. "The main floor of that hut had the smashed remains of a huge pottery vessel that had been standing by the hearth, and a slimy mass from it had seeped into the clay floor." She thinks brew was fermenting in the big vessel beside the fire, and says the 1929 notes also showed evidence of a kiln. "That would show that they knew about malting and drying grain. That's the way traditional brewers did it for centuries," said Mrs Dineley. Archaeology lecturer Jane Downes, who was part of the team who found the pottery recently at the Barnhouse site near Skara Brae, says that analysis showed residues that appeared fermented, though there was no way of knowing how organised or accidental the process had been.

Charity Event

A "Sunflower Ball" has raised 21,000 for the Highland Hospice. Staged at Berryfield house, Lentran, by Lynda and Klaus Perch-Neilsen, the biennial event attracted 250 guests to enjoy fine food and wine. An auction of luxury goods and services accounted for 10,000 of the total alone. Fund raising manager for the Hospice Martin Edwards said: "We are delighted that once again the Sunflower Ball has been such a huge success, raising an impressive total which will be of huge benefit to the work of the hospice."

Political Roundup

Scottish Politicians Step out for Charity

More than 1,200 walkers, including MSPs and company executives, stepped out recently to raise almost 1 million for worthy causes. The record number of walkers were taking part in the State Street Caledonian Challenge on the 54 mile West Highland Way from Fort William to Loch Lomondside. Among those taking part were a group of MSPs led by Fergus Ewing, who represents the Lochaber area, along with representatives from Scottish businesses.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Sunny spells. Showers, mainly in the W and N. Cloudy. Winds fresh/strong SW. Temperature 10c to 12c.
Saturday Night
Showers dying out during the evening but more general rain overnight in the W. Winds strong NW'ly. Temperature 3c to 8c.
Bright in S and E, showers in the northern areas before cloud moves in from N later.
An unsettled day with rain or blustery showers and occasional bright spells. Strong SW'ly winds.

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This is Caledonia ( Caley for short ) A Ness-Scape family member and mascot. She is a White German Shepherd. Caley has decided to take over the editing of Nessie's Loch Ness Times, and she's sure she'll make a good job of it. What do you think?

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