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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 9th November 2002
Issue No 305

Another Successful Year for the Piping Festival

The second Gairloch Piping Festival culminated recently in the dedication of a memorial at Flowerdale, close to the site of the house once inhabited by Iain Dall - "Blind" John Mackay (1656-1754) - renowned piper to the Mackenzies of Gairloch.

Local supporters of the festival together with pipers and visitors gathered to hear the first reading of Am Piobaire Dall, a fine new poem especially written to commemorate the occasion by the internationally renowned Gaelic poet from Skye, Maoilios M Caimbeul, who teaches in Gairloch. Duncan Watson played the Pibroch Lament for Patrick Og MacCrimmon, Iain Dall's tribute to his great teacher, and Lament for the Laird of Contullich was played by Stuart Letford. A dram of whisky was poured on a cairn imaginatively designed by Peter Macdonald and a toast proposed to the memory of the poet and composer of 24 pibrochs by festival founder Alastair Pearson. The competitions in Gairloch High School, attracted entrants from as far apart as Glasgow, Ayrshire, Campbelltown, Inverkip, Inverinate and Achiltibuie, as well as from Easter Ross. The Iain Dall Trophy, for the best senior overall aggregate, presented for annual competition by the Clan Mackenzie Society of Scotland and the UK, was won by Roddy J MacLeod, director of piping at the Piping Centre in Glasgow. The Saturday night ceilidh audience was entranced by the singing of Ishbel MacAskill, a very good friend to the festival, while The Kiltearn Fiddlers, Gaelic poet Aonghas Padrig Caimbeul, together with local talent, Kathryn Mackenzie (accordion) Hannah Kibble (clarsach) and the Gairloch Scottish Country Dancers completed a varied programme.

Tartan Daft

The Highland Hospice shop in Fort William's High Street has a problem - it can't get enough tartan to meet demand. It is one of nine shops run by the Hospice across the Highlands to raise funds, but tartan seems to have become a Fort William speciality. Shop manager/fundraiser Linda Black said: "As we get the majority of the tourists, tartan has become a big seller." They ran so short of tartan goods they appealed for help on local radio for people to have a look for any unwanted tartan items. The Fort William shop also gets tartan from other shops but they still have trouble catering for demand. A lot of the tartan goes to holidaymakers who have time to browse through charity shops. Some of the bus companies who run tours in the area also run "Tartan Nights" where holidaymakers are encouraged to wear something tartan. The demand runs right up till the end of the year as there tend to be a lot of Americans and Australians towards then and they are exceptionally keen, says Linda.

Clansmen Meet at Evanton

Almost 300 Munros from all over the world converged on Easter Ross recently for the international clan gathering and a welcome home ceremony at Foulis Castle, Evanton, the ancestral seat of the Clan Munro. Clan chief, Hector Munro of Foulis, opened the event. In his address, he emphasised it was a family gathering. He said: "That's what it's all about. A clan gathering today is something very special, and we are just one big happy family. "It is a gathering of people sharing a common interest in a name, and a heritage, in a small piece of a wonderful country that we all know as Scotland." He said it was the first time they had met since the opening of the Clan Munro Centre at the Storehouse of Foulis. He told clan members: "It was formed by the Clan Munro Association and it's a tribute to our joint heritage." All day a shuttle bus transported people between Foulis Castle and the clan centre, which is situated a couple of miles away at Foulis Ferry on the shores of the Cromarty Firth. During the morning a number of American delegates took the oath of allegiance to the constitution and were welcomed into the clan by their clan chief. Throughout the day clansmen and women enjoyed the freedom of the castle and grounds. There was an assortment of informal activities arranged for their enjoyment, including whisky tasting, traditional music and demonstration Highland games. As a special treat, two golden eagles, a symbol of the clan crest, were on display. They proved to be hugely popular, particularly with the visitors. The highly successful day culminated with a ceilidh and a dinner-dance.

Pour Your Own Heirloom

Whisky lovers were invited to raise their glasses and fill their very own bottle from what could have been the biggest optic in the world. Visitors to the tiny Aberlour distillery, which opened it doors for the first time recently, were allowed to pull the lever and watch as the water of life flowed from the sherry and bourbon barrels into the 70cl optics which filled their bottle. Not only did visitors get to hand fill their bottle, but they could also personalise the Aberlour Warehouse No1 Single Cask Selection, with their name and official distillery seal. Fans paid 50 for the privilege, but distillery owners Chivas Brothers Pernod Ricard, assured visitors it was the only distillery which offered the chance to own your very own drinkable heirloom. The Aberlour malt ranked the seventh most popular in the world.

Maltin Matilda

Scottish Whisky distillers may have to face up to new international competition - from Australia. The cheeky Aussies are trying to beat us at our own game by luring a Scots distiller Down Under to start up a new brand. The amber nectar will be made under the blazing sun of Western Australia but the methods will be exactly the same. The would be whisky makers have begun advertising for an experience distiller to set up the region's fist still, saying the position is an "opportunity of a lifetime". The successful applicant will have an opportunity to become a partner. The identity of the company is a mystery to industry insiders but Campbell Evans, director of the Scotch Whisky Association, believes the job may not be as glamorous as it first appears. He said: "Western Australia id fairly desolate. The firm may think there could be a certain cachet demand but bear in mind Scotland exported more than a billion bottles of whisky last year. "Running your own distillery is always a great job but whether it is as good a one in Australia as it is in Scotland is a matter of debate. "Our whisky industry is vibrant and I think Scotland is the place to set up. Here you have instant reputation and customers from around the world who beat a path to your door." Australian produced whisky is thought to be on the endangered species list. One hundred years ago, their distilling methods reflected those of Anglo-Celtic origin of the settler, with the end producer having a high malt content.

Dream Job for A Pictish Expert

A university of the Highlands and Island archaeology student has landed a dream job - showing off the magnificent base of the Hilton Cadboll stone. Emma Sanderson, who is doing a university masters on the Picts, has been put in charge of the display of the magnificent Pictish carving, which is over 1,000 years old. She said: "I was doing a case study on Hilton in relation to the Picts and the regional architect John Wood gave me the job, which obviously suits me down to the ground. "The stone is priceless, one of a kind, and it is very important to local people to have something of their heritage here, with the main part of the stone on display in the new Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh." The base has fresh and crisp designs that have been protected for centuries by being buried in the ground. It is carved on both sides, providing a tantalising glimpse of the front of the stone lost, since 1676 when the cross face was removed to make way for an inscription to commemorate Alexander Duff and his three wives. It also shows setting out lines and other details which help to explain how these stones were carved.

A Welcome For Overseas Clansfolk

Members of a Highland clan with no chief and over 70 ways of spelling its name returned to their ancestral lands near Inverness recently. A hundred MacGillivrays were in the area for their third International Clan Gathering, visiting sites steeped in their 800 year old history. One of the highlights was a "Kirkin O' The Clan" service in Dunlichity Church, next to the ancient burial ground of several clan chiefs, where some 30 couples reaffirmed their marriage vows. They also paid an emotional visit to Culloden Battlefield where the MacGillivrays led the charge from the centre of the Jacobite line. They are the only to have three monuments on the battlefield, indicating where they died. One marks the spot where their chief, Alexander, died from his wounds. In the aftermath of Culloden and the later Highland Clearances, the MacGillivrays were scattered all over the world and members from America, Australia, Canada, Holland, Italy and New Zealand were among those joining their British kinsfolk at the Gathering.

Charity Event

Fund raising cyclists showed off their pedal power in a sponsored bike ride recently which raised over 6743 for the Highland Hospice. Energetic locals who took part in the event, which started and finished in Culbokie, were given a choice of routes, each catering for different levels of fitness.

Political Roundup

MSP Consults Council Over Draft Gaelic Bill

Highland Council's Gaelic Working Group meeting in Inverness was visited by Mike Russell MSP, Shadow Minister for Gaelic, Culture and Broadcasting, who gave a presentation to members on the proposed Gaelic Language Bill which will be presented to the Scottish Parliament soon. He is consulting with local authorities and Gaelic organisations throughout Scotland regarding details of this draft bill, which will legislate developments of the language for the future. After the meeting, he expressed his delight at having had the opportunity to present the Gaelic Working Group of Highland Council details of the Secure Status Bill which was first recognised by the Ministerial Advisory Group's report on Gaelic.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
A few showers in N. Bright or sunny periods. Winds light N-NW'ly. Temperature 7c to 11c.
Saturday Night
Clear spells, dry start. Cloudy later, rain in SW. Winds light SE'ly. Temperature 2c to 7c.
Mainly cloudy with rain or drizzle to start. Scattered showers and some sunshine developing.
Cloudy with showers, some heavy and frequent in W. The E will be drier with some bright spells.

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