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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 2nd November 2002
Issue No 304

Highland Clearances Project Hailed by Minister

Scottish Deputy Finance and Public Services Minister Peter Peacock was briefed recently on plans for a 5 million project to commemorate the heritage of the Highlands.

The Highlands and Islands Labour MSP visited Helmsdale in east Sutherland to meet with organisers of the Highland Clearances Project, which includes the construction of a 120ft monument on a nearby hill and an information centre in the village. The project should be fully operational by 2008 and will feature in the Inverness and the Highlands bid to be European Capital of Culture for that year. Mr Peacock was briefed on the progress of the project so far and was shown a model of the 30ft high bronze statue of a Clearance family that will be mounted on a 90ft spiral plinth, in the form of an ancient hill fort. He also walked up to the top of Creag Bun-Ullidh to see where the statue is to be erected at a height of about 600ft above sea level. Following his visit to Helmsdale, Mr Peacock gave his backing to the project, pointing out that it would be important in remembering the devastation caused during the Clearances and would provide a focus for the descendants of Highlanders around the world. He said: "This is a hugely significant project as it remembers an enormously important period in the history of the Highlands. The Clearances devastated communities and scattered families to every corner of the globe. "This project will provide a focus for those descendants to come back to the Highlands and experience the benefits of this project, including the opportunity to visit the Clearances Centre, which will hold archives and includes a museum. "Given that the Clearances caused a century and a half of decline, it is important to recognise the historical legacy of that period and also to look forward with confidence to the economic and social progress that the Highlands is making in the 21st century." He added that it was also an important development which hopefully would help the Capital of Culture bid in 2008. "I know that the culture bid team are strongly backing this project as it shows the depth of history and culture that has been forged in the Highlands over centuries. This, hopefully will be one of the many elements that will attract the bid to the judging panel," said Mr Peacock. It is hoped that the project will eventually attract 100,000 visitors a year to the area.

New Director of Taiwan Arts Summit

The democratic Chinese republic of Taiwan is seeking to cash in on its cultural assets and has asked Highland Festival director Alastair McDonald to help tell them how it's done. He flew to the Far East recently to join a high powered team that includes the head of the creative industry division of the UK government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the directors of the City of London and Cheltenham Festivals at a creative industry summit being held in the island's capital of Taipei. "Although it has a population of 22 million, Taiwan is the same size as the Highlands," Alastair explained. "Much of it is rural and they wanted someone with experience of running a festival with a rural dimension." Chaired by the head of Taiwan's Council of Culture Affairs, the event has adopted the slogan "Festivals Mean Business" and has targeted politicians, policy researchers and officials of local and national cultural organisations."

Mountain Experiment

A 32 year forestry experiment in the Cairngorm mountain range has finally been discontinued and all the trees have been removed in spectacular fashion. In absolutely freezing conditions the trees blossomed, but have now been taken away from one of Scotland's last great wildernesses. A high elevation plot was planted in 1970 to assess the response of commercial tree species growth at high altitude. The bank of trees were placed high up the side of the Cairngorms, close to the Ptarmigan area of the ski slopes. Visitor and locals were fascinated as the trees were cut down and removed by helicopter. Clutches of trees were hitched to a helicopter and then flown down to the bottom of the mountain. There were a varying array of trees planted at the elevation plot including lodgepole pine, sitka spruce and Scots pine. The trees were given various fertilising treatments over the years and grew to an average height of 4.55 metres. A decision was taken by Forest Enterprise to cancel the experiment in 2000 and to begin a gradual removal programme. Approximately 100 tonnes of trees were felled then and extracted by air and twice that amount were removed the following year. The remaining trees were removed this time round, leaving the landscape bare. Jack Mackay, a spokesman for the Forestry Commission said: "We have discontinued this experiment because we want to return to the natural tree line. We want to expand the natural Caledonian forest at Glenmore up to the hill. "This experiment was just to see if it was possible, which it is. "The whole thing was done with conservation in mind."

Dram With a Tartan Flavour

The maker of one of the finest malt whiskies in the world came home to Scotland - from Japan. Takeshi Taketsuru, whose uncle Masataki Taketsuru founded the Nikka Distillery in Hokkaido in 1934, arrived in Fort William with a brand which found international fame. Yoichi Single Malt was chosen ahead of 40 Scots contenders as the best of the best for 2002. In a blind tasting at the Whisky Magazine annual competition, the 47 judges from Scotland, America and Japan selected the Japanese 10 year old malt, distilled in Hokkaido. Mr Taketsuru Jr - whose uncle's wife Rita came from Kirkintilloch - visited the Ben Nevis Distillery in Fort William, owned by Nikka and Asahi Breweries in Tokyo. The announcement that Yoichi Single Malt has received such recognition has brought about an unprecedented step by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. The Edinburgh based society is to bottle Yoichi this autumn as the first ever Japanese made dram available exclusively to its members.

Re-enactment Volunteers Wanted

Weapon maker Brian Davenport is spearheading a campaign to recruit volunteers for a re-enactment group which will live in a 13th century township at the foot of Aonach Mor, near Fort William. Mr Davenport, a freelance armourer, who along with a small team made nearly 2,500 weapons for the blockbuster movie, Braveheart, has founded The Friends of Leanachan Township. "We've got over 30 members so far, but only three from the Lochaber area," said Mr Davenport, of Fort William. "I can't believe more local people haven't come forward, as what we are proposing will be unique in Scotland. It really will be living history." The group, which will don medieval costume, will be transported back in time, for educational purposes, to work and live in the settlement. A long house and four ordinary 13th century homes will be constructed as part of phase two at Lochaber Rural Complex. Forest Enterprise has agreed to supply the timber free of charge for the development. Mr Davenport said: "Once funding is secured things can really start rolling and I hope by September next year we will be able to put on some living history activities." It is also planned to host training courses on medieval and rural skills, such as thatching and wattling, at the complex.

Royal Date

A special event, on Saturday November 9, to mark the Queen Mother's unveiling of the Commando Memorial - 50 years ago - is to be led by her son-in-law, Prince Philip. The Commando Association and Highland Council are expected to play prominent parts in the proceedings at Spean Bridge. Detailed arrangements are being worked out in conjunction with the Lord Lieutenant's Office in Inverness. Poignantly, it is likely the occasion may herald the last major parade and final salute for The Commando Association. The Association, which has had the Freedom of Lochaber bestowed upon it, has confirmed it is beginning to wind down its activities, albeit its members will continue to be involved in plans to mark the 60th anniversary in 2005, of the end of World War 2. The November parade at the Commando Memorial will be led by the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band, and music for the service will be provided jointly by the Lochaber Schools Wind Band and the Band of the Royal Marines, Scotland. Delegations of commandos from Europe, accompanied by US Rangers, will also attend. The traditional Remembrance Service will take place at the Commando Memorial the next day.

A Fair Cop

Justice was carried out by prison staff in Inverness recently - 1902 style.Officers stepped back in time and into the shoes of their predecessors during the celebrations at Porterfield Prison to mark its 100th birthday. In a re-enactment of how prisoners were processed 100 years ago, one of the prison's staff took on the role of a disgraced inmate and was marched from the Castle - which housed the previous prison - via Castle Street, Old Edinburgh Road, Mitchell's Lane and Duffy Drive before being driven through the prison gates in a horse drawn Black Maria. On arrival at the prison, the procession was met by centenarian Carolina McRitchie who unveiled a special commemorative plaque. Governor Alastair MacDonald said he hoped the prison would continue to serve Inverness for many years to come. "For 100 years, Scottish Prison staff at HMP Inverness have been proud to serve the people of the Highlands and Islands and it is our hope that, for the foreseeable future, we will contribute to maintenance of public safety." The first governor of the prison who served until 1922 was John Nicol. Today, the prison covers the courts of the Highlands, Western Isles, Orkney Isles and Moray, providing custody for all remand prisoners and short term adult prisoners.

Charity Event

Women from the Inverness area raised more than 66,000 during the Race for Life event in May to raise funds for cancer research. The event started and finished at the Bught Park and involved 1327 runners and walkers. The women only event was organised by Cancer Research UK and sponsored by Tesco supermarket group. This year a total of 25,833 women across Scotland raised 1.297. 693.90.

Political Roundup

MSP Questions the Role of Historic Scotland

Highland Labour MSP Rhoda Grant recently tabled a series of detailed questions in the Scottish Parliament probing the role and powers of Historic Scotland. The move follows the dealings between the quango and Ayrshire aviation millionaire, Lex Brown, over the future of the ruined Castle Tioram in Moidart, Ardnamurchan. Mr Brown has planning consent to carry out 3 million renovation of Castle Tioram, the 13th century stronghold of the Lords of the Isles. He wants to re-roof his property, provide living accommodation within, and open a clan centre. But, as a result of a public inquiry 18 months ago, his proposals were knocked back, largely on Historic Scotland's objections. Rhoda Grant said: "I am very disappointed with the agency's stance on this. My concerns are shared by other MSPs. "In asking specific questions of Historic Scotland on the issue, I am also querying their accountability to Scottish Ministers."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy with bright spells in W. Showers in the N and E. Winds fresh. Temperature 9c to 12c.
Saturday Night
Overcast with outbreaks of rain, some heavy. Winds strong/gale SE'ly. Temperature 5c to 10c.
Unsettled and very windy with frequent bursts of rain. Brighter in the E.
Showers or longer spells of rain, heavy at times. Winds strong to gale.

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