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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 3rd November 2001
Issue No 255

Family's 250 Year Silence is Broken

An 89 year old woman has faithfully kept a family secret about a controversial Highland murder mystery that has baffled historians for 250 years - but, after reading about the latest book on the

subject, she contacted a local newspaper with an astonishing offer to reveal the name of the guilty man to author Jim Hunter. The eminent historian - and chairman of Highlands and Islands Enterprise - wrote "Culloden and The Last Clansman" to mark the forthcoming anniversary of the Appin Murder - a real life incident which became a key element in Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel "Kidnapped". Dr Hunter re-examines the story of James Stewart - James of the Glens - who, in 1752, was hanged as an accessory to the murder of the notorious Government agent Colin Campbell of Glenure known as "The Red Fox". In his book, Dr Hunter - who grew up in nearby Duror and has been fascinated by the mystery since childhood - exonerates "Kidnapped" hero Alan Breck Stewart in 1752 and speculates on the real killer - but he is unable to point the finger at the actual murderer. His identity, however, has been handed down through generations of Anda Penman's family and, when she read of Dr Hunter's book, she wrote to the Inverness Courier to reveal that she knew who fired the fatal shot and was prepared to share her secret with the author. A descendant of the Stewarts of Appin, Miss Penman now lives in a residential home in Fort William and the secret of the murderer's identity passed through generations of her family to her late sister who passed it on to Miss Penman. Now, she wants to pass it on before the secret dies with her. Miss Penman - who ran the Laroch House Hotel in Ballachulish for many years with her sister is currently threatening to starve herself if she is removed to a council care centre from the private home where she has lived for 14 months - was asked if anyone else knows the killer's identity. "Not a living soul," she replied. "Our grand uncle, he was Dean of Argyll and the Isles and he was the only Stewart to know the name of the man who fired the fatal shot," Miss Penman explained. "Historians and famous authors came to him to try and divulge the secret, but he never said. "The real killer was very young man who had to be held down in Ballachulish House on the day that they hanged James Stewart because he wanted to confess - but if he confessed there were another three with him who would have been hung." Shortly before his death in 1932, the Dean had revealed the secret to Miss Penman's sister, Annie, who then passed it on to Miss Penman. "I asked her, now that the great interest in the famous Appin Murder is dying out if I could tell and she said I could to a historian or an author," the 89 year old explained. She supports Dr Hunter's theory that there was a conspiracy to assassinate Campbell who was preparing to evict members of the Stewart Clan from Duror and revealed that the killer was one of four young lairds of Appin. All descendants of Stewart of Lorne, they practised their shooting skills on a nearby island in order to pick the man with the best chance of success. The three others were to provide an alibi for the killer. "It was Donald Stewart of Ballachulish, the nephew of old Ballachulish," Miss Penman revealed. "He was the best shot and he had the best chance of bumping off Campbell of Glenure. He was always ashamed he couldn't clear James of the Glens because it would have cost four lives. They knew the Campbells would get the four of them. "Robert Louis Stevenson spent a great deal of time with my grandfather, but never found out who committed the murder. I would like to pass the secret on now that they are going to note the 250th ]anniversary of James Stewart being hanged for a murder he did not do," she said. "After 250 years, it had to be disclosed now." Dr Hunter said he would be interested to hear Miss Penman's story in full. "A number of people over the years have claimed to know who carried out the Appin Murder and I will be contacting her as soon as possible," he commented. "There's a long standing tradition that some of the Stewarts of Appin knew that James of the Glens was innocent and knew who was guilty - and that was said when I launched the book."

Canadians are Top Pipers

A Canadian university band has won the World Pipe Band Championships after performing in front of a record crowd of more than 20,000, who endured pouring rain to witness the 6000 bagpipes and the drums. The championships, which took place recently on Glasgow Green, have been staged each year since 1947 by the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association. The winners of the main Grade One prize, Canada's Simon Fraser University Pipe Band, from Burnaby in British Columbia, previously took the award in 1995, 1996 and 1999. Last year's winners, Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band, came second, while Field Marshall Montgomery from Co Down, Northern Ireland, came third. The winners of the Best Drum Corps were Boghall and Bathgate from West Lothian.

On Track

Plans for the Cairngorm mountain railway are still steaming ahead for a December inauguration, despite newspaper reports that work ground to a halt recently. Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and operators Cairngorm Mountain Company were bemused at claims in a Sunday paper that contractors Morrisons had stopped work due to financial problems. They went on to refute the claims by guaranteeing that the planned December opening date will still be honoured. Cairngorm Mountain Company sales and marketing manager Tania Adams said: "We're still planning to inaugurate the railway sometime in mid December. I don't know where these rumours have come from." Ms Adams went on to add that the base station of the railway was now almost complete, and that innovative "behind the scenes" tours of the work in progress had already attracted more than 300 curious visitors. A spokesman for HIE said: "There should be no questions that HIE would meet its contractual obligations over the funicular project. "The work is 90% completed and our project managers advise us that we're on schedule for a December opening." When contacted, a Morrisons spokesman said that the company endorsed HIE's statement.

Conversion Plan.

An island castle, once owned by one of the world's most successful drug barons, may be turned into a top class conference centre. Crumbling Lews Castle stands across the harbour from the town of Stornoway and was built by Sir James Matheson, a Far East trader who made his fortune from the opium trade. A thriving college until 10 years ago, it is an imposing mock Tudor structure which stands in its own tree filled grounds and was a major draw for the Scottish aristocracy and elite earlier this century. It is now empty and semi-derelict. Lews Castle College is now no longer located in the castle, but on a recently developed development behind it. Closer inspection shows that the castle is boarded up and has warning signs to keep visitors away. Councillors dithered on what to do after being told six years ago that it would take about 3 million to develop the castle and about 2.5 million to demolish it. Now a hugely ambitious plan to turn it into a prestigious conference venue with accommodation is to be explored by a new group. The history of Lews Castle goes back to the late 1880s. It was in 1884 that Matheson, who was from Sutherland originally, bought the entire Isle of Lewis for just 190,000. With government backing, he and William Jardine, another Scot, had built up a fortune in the opium business, trading, it was said, with opium in one hand and the bible in the other. He is accepted as being one of the most successful opium barons, who got the British government involved, using the Royal Navy when restrictions were put on his reviled trade by the Chinese. Matheson was created the Baronet of Lewis for the work he did in helping the islanders of Lewis during a period of famine and crop failures. But nevertheless, he was a highly unpopular landlord whose brutal policies still rankle with descendants of his tenants today.

Red Squirrel Alert

A new group which will work to conserve the red squirrel in the Highlands, one of the last strongholds of the species in Great Britain - is inviting people to record sightings in their areas. The Highland Red Squirrel Group, which has been set up by the Forestry Commission and the Highland Biodiversity Partnership, hopes to raise awareness of the species which is native to Great Britain. However, in most parts of the country, numbers of red squirrels have reduced dramatically over the past 100 years, mostly because of the encroachment of their non-native cousin, the grey squirrel, which was introduced from North America in the 19th century. The group will also be carrying out surveys and monitoring, promoting conservation plans and looking out for any movement of grey squirrels into the Highlands. Ian Collier, a woodland officer with the Forestry Commission in Dingwall, said: "Fortunately, as far as we know, the grey squirrel has not moved into the Highlands - yet. However, their spread is relentless, so there is no room for complacency. "The good news for the Highlands' red squirrels is that the latest research shows that many of the region's big conifer forests could be key places to conserve healthy numbers of them. "This is because grey squirrels do not like conifer forests, but the red squirrel seems quite happy in them, especially if they have plenty of Scots pine and Norway spruce trees in them."

Rare Whisky

A rare bottle of whisky bottled in Scotland fetched 4025 at auction recently. The Macallan, bottled in 1886, had been expected to sell for 3500-5500 in the Phillips Scottish Sale in Edinburgh. It was bought by the Craigellachie Hotel of Speyside which is near the former premises of greengrocer and wine merchant John McWilliam who had bottled the whisky. A number of different distillations of the Macallan were bottled by McWilliam between 1856 and 1898 and there are some rare examples in the Macallan Distillery Archive. Craigellachie Hotel's general manager Duncan Elphick said the whisky would be added to the hotel's display. Although the price paid for it works out at 160 a nip, Mr Elphick was determined the bottle would not be opened. He said: "We have managed to bring the bottle back home." A large decanter, reputedly a gift from Queen Victoria to a resident of Aberdeenshire, sold for 3860 - nearly three times its anticipated price.

Under the Hammer

An oil painting of Mary Queen of Scots and rare pottery and jewellery were among the highlights of a Scottish sale organised by Sotheby's. The earliest painting in the sale, which was held at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, was by Sir William Allan (1782-1850), and is entitled Mary Queen of Scots arriving at Leith in 1561. The painting is dated 1827 and shows Mary arriving at the port of Leith at the end of her 14 year period of exile from Scotland. A second painting by Scottish artist William McTaggart, entitled Autumn, also was in the sale. In addition, there was a selection of jewellery and silver dating from the 1800s to the 20th century, including a selection of Scottish pebble jewellery. A spokeswoman for Sotheby's said the three day sale had been held at Gleneagles Hotel for more than 30 years. "The sale included a fine selection of the highly sought after Scottish pebble jewellery, first made popular by Queen Victoria on her acquisition of Balmoral in the 1840s," said the spokeswoman. "Designs were based on traditional Scottish folk jewels and personally commissioned to adapt to individual tastes. "Jewels were set with a variety of Scottish hardstones such as bloodstone, granite, jasper, moss agate, cornelian, pale pink Corennie and grey Aberdeen granite." The sale also included Scottish pottery and modern and vintage sporting guns.

Charity Event

Highland chartered surveyors raised more than 4400 at their recent annual dinner. The event's sponsor, the Inverness office of Graham and Sibbald, presented 3000 to the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre in Inverness and 1400 to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors Benevolent Fund.

Political Roundup

Scots Want Holyrood to have More Powers

Scots want the Holyrood Parliament to have more powers, while devolution has led to a greater mistrust of Westminster a conference was told recently. Professor David McCrone of Edinburgh University, also said there was little evidence of hostility among people in England to the Scottish Parliament. Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science at Glasgow University, he said: "It is true that people have downsized their expectations and they were never higher than before the Parliament began. "But the evidence suggests that there has been a reality check in terms of what institutions can do. Nevertheless, people wish the Parliament could have more powers and there is considerable scope to increase Holyrood's powers over micro-economics and social security."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Sunny intervals, showers in N and W increasing. Winds strong W'ly. Temperature 9c to 13c.
Saturday Night
Clear spells, showers in W spreading E increasing. Winds fresh/strong W'ly. Temperature 4c to 8c.
Unsettled with showers or longer outbreaks of rain accompanied by a strong and gusty W'ly wind.
Cloudy with moderate rain, some heavy over hills and coastal areas. Winds mod/fresh mainly E'ly.

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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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