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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 23rd November 2002
Issue No 307

Hospice Auction Makes Big Money

A charity auction in the Highlands raised a staggering 125,000 recently as bids poured in for lots ranging from a walk on part in TV's Taggart to a Faberge egg.

The profits from Highland Hospice's auction were more than six times the highest amount the charity has ever raised from a single event. The auction went on all day with 50,000 alone raised at a dinner attended by 250 people at the Newton Hotel, Nairn. In the highest price paid, Conon Bridge businessman Gavin Taylor parted with 62,000 for a plot of land at Milton of Leys in Inverness. The site, which covers a quarter of an acre and is worth over 50,000, was donated by Tulloch.plc. After auction costs are taken off, the hospice will make 37,000 from that sale alone. Mr Taylor, who owns Taylor Electrical and Glad Lighting in Inverness was delighted with his purchase. He said: "It's just a good investment, with house prices in Inverness going up at the moment. There were quite a few bidders against me but I was keen." Among the items which attracted eager bidders were the Neva Egg, a Faberge egg designed by Sarah Faberge for the St Petersburg Collection, which went for 2,200. The first dinosaur footprints found in Scotland, made by the Coelophysis on Skye, were sold for 600, while a walk on part in TV's Taggart went for 800. Other notable lots included a week's hind stalking on the Duke of Westminster's estate in the Highlands, which went for 3,500. A luxury trip to London including Mohammed Al Fayed's donation of accommodation in Mayfair and a shopping spree at Harrods, went for more than 1,000, while a bottle of 1924 Royal Brackla single malt whisky was sold for 1,260. An evening with the hospice's heart throb doctor Stephen Hutchison, bought by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd, went for 350. Dr Hutchison, who has worked at the hospice in Inverness for eight years, said: "I offered some of my time for auction and I am delighted it raised some money. I certainly wouldn't call myself a heartthrob." Also auctioned off was a stay at Skibo Castle where Madonna was married. It went for more than 1000. Bidders at the day auction were linked by telephone at three venues; Inverness (Aquadome) Fort William (Safeway) and Thurso (Boys Brigade Hall). As well as generous bidding during the day, the hospice coffers were swelled by 40,000 worth of bids made on the Internet before the start of the event.

Lewis Chessmen

Heritage campaigners are demanding the return of the ancient Lewis Chessmen to Scotland from the British Museum, after an absence of more than 170 years. The chess pieces, made in Scandinavia and brought to the Western Isles by Vikings, lay hidden in the sand for a millennium until they were discovered by a crofter in 1831. Most of the pieces were sent to the British Museum in London, where more than 80 of them are still kept, but the remaining 11 are at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. A small selection of the pieces were temporarily brought back to the Hebrides two years ago for a six month exhibition display. However, the Celtic League, a group campaigning on cultural and political issues, wants senior politicians to take the saga of the chessmen into an endgame so that they can be restored permanently to Scotland. At its recent annual meeting on the Isle of Man, the organisation agreed to get in touch with the Scottish, Irish, Welsh and Manx parliaments and assemblies, and urge them to pursue the return of historical and cultural artefacts, including the chessmen. The league has written a letter to leaders including First Minister Jack McConnell, Irish Premier and Welsh First Minister. The letter claims that, while the question of ownership may be contentious, decisions on the location of many of the items were made at a time when the UK was "effectively a colonial power" and historical discoveries would "invariably" be taken to its capital, London.

Dolphin Venture Award

Schoolboy Myles Westerman spent part of his summer holidays helping tourists get to a spot for the best view of a stranded dolphin. The friendly nine year old entrepreneur also made a lot of pocket money from his holiday job by charging the visitors 2 each. Now Myles, from Harris in the Western Isles, has also been given a rare award from Scotland's national body for tour guides in recognition of his work in the best traditions of the organisation and its members. When young Myles realised that the dolphin in the bay, just out from his home village of Leverburgh, was a crowd puller, he hit on the idea of being a local guide to anyone who wanted to know where best to see it. He would cycle up and down the road in the village looking for potential customers - at 2 a time. Even tourists with failing eyesight were helped to see the dolphin by Myles, who is now on primary six at Leverhulme Memorial School, as he always carried with him his plastic toy telescope. "I let them use the telescope but that was an extra 50p," he said. One dolphin watcher, Paul Pawlowski of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, said: "Back home, if youngsters asked for money you have to be very careful. But Myles was very polite and helpful and obviously knew the area well. "I wanted to see the dolphin and I am very glad I paid him his 2 because I would not have found the best spot without him. He has a great business career ahead of him." Myles was presented with the Scottish Tourist Guides Association Certificate of Initiative.

Hand Reared Wildcats

A wildlife park which has successfully bred one of the UK's rarest animals recently disclosed plans to place the young creatures in their natural Scottish habitat in a bid to protect the species from extinction. Four Scottish wildcat kittens were born at Wingham Wildlife Park, near Canterbury, Kent, and staff hope to transfer the animals north of the border. There are only about 200 Scottish wildcats left - predominantly in the Highlands. The Edinburgh based Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said the arrival of the new kittens was "a major coup" for the UK. Spokeswoman Doreen Graham added it was extremely difficult to breed captured Scottish wildcats and said park staff must have "gone out of their way" to create the ideal environment for them. Keeper Leigh Wigg said the secret to the park's success was preventing the cats from having too much contact with humans and giving the animals a varied diet. "We knew it would be difficult and are just over the moon that the kittens have arrived," he said. "We did a lot of research into the species and believe we got the environment right for them and went out of our way to stay out of their way and leave them to it." Mr Wigg said staff at the 250 acre park now hope the kittens will take part in a captive breeding programme in the North of Scotland.

Historic Grave Slabs

A new visitor centre opened recently at an Argyll landmark which is one of Scotland's most historically important sites. The new centre, at Saddell Abbey near Carradale, is part of a community driven conservation project which is centred on the preservation of a magnificent collection of late medieval carved stone grave slabs. A new modern shelter has been constructed to house and protect the Saddell Stones, a mixture of ancient sculpted stones and effigies, which had been lying, exposed to the elements alongside the ruins of the abbey. Of the collection of 12 carved stones there is one cross, six graveslabs and five effigies - portraits in stone of the men they commemorated. The stones once marked the resting place of great lords and churchmen in and around the abbey church. Saddell Abbey is a Scheduled Ancient Monument which was founded in the 12th century by Somerled, the first Lord of the Isles. Second only to the Benedictine Abbey on Iona, which was founded by Somerled's son Reginald, Saddell Abbey was the most important ecclesiastical site in the Lordship of the Isles. A spokesman for the conservation project said: "The story of Saddell Abbey is the story of the Lordship of the Isles and of the great monastic adventure which swept across Europe from the 11th century. "These two historical movements were to come together in a quiet wooded valley on the east coast of Kintyre in the year 1148 to create the little monastic church that has survived, ruinous but still upstanding, over eight and a half centuries to the present day." The spokesman added: "Today, at Saddell Abbey, you can stand face to face with three great warriors from the time of the Lordship. You can see the armour they wore, the swords they wielded and the ships they sailed in. "Better than any song or saga, these stone carvings show us just how powerful fighting men of the Lordship were."

Open Doors

Visitors flocked to an open day held at Avoch Parish Church recently. The event gave people a chance to learn about the history of the church, see its beautiful stained glass windows and pulpit and hear organ music. Session clerk Tom Dalziel said: "A number of people have come here over the years and said what a beautiful building the church is so we decided to let as many people as possible see it. "I think people really feel God's presence when they come in here." Avoch Parish Church records go back to 1728. In 1670 the first church was built on the present site. The present building was the third, the first two being destroyed by fire. The sacrament house in the vestry wall is very rare and may have come from the chapel of Ormonde Castle which once stood outside the village. The famous explorer of North America Sir Alexander MacKenzie is buried in the churchyard. There is also Cruikies Baby, a gravestone with a baby sculpted on it. The church is famous for its beautiful stained glass windows, while many years ago a young painter painted the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer in gold on the rear pulpit wall. Recent additions to the church are the banners sewn by the Women's Guild under the direction of Lillian Noble.

Saltires Flying

An annual march commemorating the life of "Braveheart" William Wallace saw more than 140 people walk through Stonehaven recently. People from the North east and the Central Belt joined the procession to Dunottar Castle, marking the anniversary of Wallace's execution. Saltires flew during the march following a wreath laying ceremony the previous evening at the statue of the Scottish patriot opposite HM Theatre in Aberdeen. Stonehaven's Wallace celebrations are now in their 22nd year and included a well attended concert featuring Gaberlunzie and the Bourach Brothers. Tourist from Canada and Austria joined the celebrations. Scots author and historian David Ross spoke on Wallace's life and times in Aberdeen and Stonehaven at the town's Royal Hotel. The rally organiser Brendan McCabe said he was pleased with the turnout for the event - the success of which he measures by speaking to its founder. He explained: "Alan Knight, the chap who first set this event up, still comes along every year and said he was happy with the way it had all gone. "We're still going strong after all these years and it was excellent to have events in Aberdeen as well as here in Stonehaven. Mr Ross is turning a lot of his attention to the 700th anniversary of Wallace's death, which is in three years, and we'll all be involved then as well."

Charity Event

The Women's Royal Voluntary Service has handed over 26,000 to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness following another successful trading year at the hospital's shop. The WRVS profits were presented to Highland Acute Hospital NHS Trust chairman Stewart Whiteford by shop manager Ann Mackenzie.

Political Roundup

Major Boost for Gaelic School Plan

Plans for a Gaelic medium school in Inverness appear likely to become reality sooner than expected after a guarantee from the Scottish Executive that it would fund 75% of the annual revenue costs of the project. The pledge opens the way for fast tracking the plan for a purpose built primary school in the city, as part of a 100m public private partnership (PPP) project to build or redevelop 24 schools across the Highlands.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Bright spells. Scattered showers in N and E. Winds mod/strong ESE'ly. Temperature 8c to 11c.
Saturday Night
Rain moving North. Cloudy. Winds mod/fresh ESE'ly. Temperature 3c to 8c.
Breezy with scattered showers, especially in Western Isles but some sunny spells too.
Reasonably settled and dry with bright spells for a time. Thicker cloud will move in later in the day.

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