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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 1st December 2001
Issue No 259

The Forgotten Scot

A Scot who appeared in paintings of Admiral Nelson has been commemorated after his forgotten grave was discovered in a Highland cemetery.

Nelson's death in the Battle of Trafalgar gave rise to two famous paintings - The Death of Nelson by Arthur William Devis and Benjamin West's depiction of the same deathbed scene, completed a year after the battle in October 1805. In West's interpretation, kneeling at Nelson's head was Niel Smith, an assistant surgeon who fought bravely to save his life after he was fatally wounded on HMS Victory. In the Devis painting, Smith is shown tending to Nelson while a chaplain comforts him. Now it has emerged that Smith was a Scot and is buried in a grave in a Highland cemetery, which was restored to mark his important place in history. The work was carried out by the 1805 Club, a group named after the year of the famous naval battle which seeks to restore monuments associated with Nelson. The significance of Niel Smith's overgrown grave was only discovered after Cawdor Heritage group carried out a survey of Cawdor gravestones. Group chairman Jenny Rose Miller said: "Two of our members were cleaning the stone when they noticed the inscription referred to a naval surgeon and something about Nelson and HMS Victory. "Everyone was intrigued because no one knew anything about Niel Smith and this prompted our inquiries." Smith's family originally came from Nairn. His father was Duncan Smith of Howford and his mother was Anne Macpherson. He was born on April 12, 1780. At the age of 23, he gained the diploma of membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in London and followed a family tradition of joining the Royal Navy. He served on board HMS Canopus before joining Nelson on board the Flagship HMS Victory. When Nelson was shot by a French sniper the musket ball severed his spinal cord. He was carried below deck, where surgeon William Beatty, aided by assistants Niel Smith and William Westenburgh unsuccessfully tried to save him. Nelson's body was brought home and preserved in brandy before a state funeral and burial in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral in January, 1806. Smith survived the action and was later promoted to full surgeon. He carried on serving on other naval ships, before moving to the Caribbean island of Martinique to take charge of its hospital and prison. He served there until 1812 before returning to the Highlands where he married his cousin, Anne Macpherson of Ardersier, the daughter of the factor of Cawdor estate. They retired to Forres but Smith died in 1819 at the age of just 39 and he was buried in Cawdor cemetery. The restored gravestone's unveiling was carried out by Nairnshire's Lord Lieutenant Ewen Brodie of Lethen who said: "We never knew that such an important character in our country's history who has been immortalised on canvas was actually a son of Nairnshire and the Highlands."

Piper Wins at Dunrobin

A Ross-shire piper swept the board at the second annual Dunrobin Castle Piping Championships recently. Niall Stewart, from Alness scooped five senior trophies after impressing judges at the competition held at the castle, near Golspie in Sutherland. Mr Stewart picked up the Glencalvie gold medal as overall senior winner. He also won the Glenfield Crystal trophy for pibroch playing, the Reay Forrest Cup, for light music, and the Badenloch Cup for Jig and Hornpipe playing, and the Inverinate Cup for his performance in the March Spey and Reel category. The under 18 overall champion was Ruhiridh Macleod from Portmahomack and Ewen Henderson from Fort William claimed Dunrobin Cup as overall champion in the under 15 category. Organisers of the competition praised the high standards of the entrants and were especially grateful to Lord Strathnaver for letting them use Dunrobin Castle, which kept them shielded from the Highland weather.

In the Dog House

A playful puppy ended up in the doghouse recently after an 80ft fall from the top of a Kinlochleven waterfall. Bruno, a seven month old collie, strayed while walking with his owner Mark Collins who was on holiday in the area, and got stuck on a ledge on the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall at Kinlochleven. It sparked off a rescue operation, involving village firefighters, police, SSPCA officials in Inverness and the Glencoe Mountain rescue team. Firefighters, who went to the scene were unable to see or hear any barking from the dog and because of the difficult terrain, contacted SSPCA officials. But because of the time that would be involved travelling the 85 miles from Inverness to Kinlochleven, SSPCA inspector Andy Brown contacted police at Glencoe. They in turn alerted mountain rescue team members, who went to the aid of Bruno, who was in some distress, and whining and barking. Bruno had by this time been stranded for more than 3 hours. Five members of the mountain rescue team abseiled cautiously down the 80ft drop - down which Bruno had fallen only hours before - to find the shivering collie hiding in a small cave. The ledge had broken his fall, but below him lay another 200ft stretch of waterfall. A police spokesman said Bruno appeared none the worse for his adventure, but confirmed the puppy was taken to a Fort William vet by his anxious owner, for a quick check up.

Woodland Burials in the Highlands

Green burials in the Highlands, where the deceased are placed in biodegradable coffins and trees are planted to mark the grave, could become available if the local authority agrees on the new policy. Members of Highland Council's roads, community and protective services committee have been asked to approve a pilot woodland burial site and the development of formal policy on the matter. David Thomson, director of protective services has reported an increase in the number of enquiries about environmentally friendly burials. "A woodland burial ground is one where the body is returned to nature in natural surroundings, contained in a biodegradable coffin with a tree planted over the grave instead of a headstone," he said. "Woodland burial is claimed to reduce costs by having less maintenance and attention that within traditional burial grounds. "As woodland burial utilises single depth graves they require more land than traditional internments. "This may not be a problem in the Highlands but the unkempt appearance of these locations is in direct contrast to the neat and tidy condition which is strived for in all Highland Council burial grounds." Mr Thomson has asked councillors to approve an investigation into the development of a policy on woodland burials, the identification of a site and consultation with the public over the desire for such a facility in the Highlands.

Duncraig Castle in Film

A US film company is considering Duncraig Castle in Wester Ross as the location for a forthcoming production. Highland Council education committee chairman Andy Anderson said the company had made inquiries about the baronial style castle, which was built by tycoon Sir Alexander Matheson from proceeds of the opium trade between India and China. The castle, bequeathed to the former Ross and Cromarty County Council by its last private owner for educational purposes, was used for more than 40 years as a domestic science college, but closed in 1989 because of lack of students. The Victorian building, now owned by Highland Council, lay derelict for 12 years - with an annual upkeep cost of 50,000 - while the council tries to find suitable uses for it. Mr Anderson said: "A film company has expressed an interest in using it but we've received no details at all. "If it was convenient, we might lease for the short term, but I would certainly not be willing to enter into any contract which might prejudice the future sale of the building. "We've already had a number of informal inquiries about its sale and I'm certain we'll sell it." Plockton Community Council chairman Charlie MacRae said he had heard a film company had been looking for a rundown castle for two months and had shown an interest in Duncraig.

Bicentenary of Museum

Hugh Miller's Cottage in Cromarty is closed for the Winter and it could be the last time the 110 year old museum has such a break. Next year marks the bicentenary of the birth of Miller, a pioneering geologist, leading member of the then newly formed Free Church of Scotland, journalist, folklorist and author. Chief among plans to mark Miller's birth is a proposal to give the Hugh Miller museum a new home and restore the cottage to the appearance of a fisherman's house of the later 18th and early 19th centuries, just as it was when Miller was born. The exhibits dealing with Miller's later life will be moved just next door to a Georgian town house built by Miller's father in 1797 - the Miller House. The National Trust for Scotland, which owns Hugh Miller's Cottage has approved the move but is hoping to fund it from external sources. Oil giant BP/Amaco has already contributed towards the Miller House geology exhibition but the success of the project is dependent on securing further funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Festival Sculpture Unveiled

A sculpture celebrating the strong historic links between Caithness and Norse countries was officially unveiled recently, as part of the Northlands Festival. Scottish sculptor and artist George Wylie was commissioned to design and build the stone and steel creation, which represents a Viking longship. It is sited on a piece of waste ground at Burnside, just off the northernmost stretch of the A9 trunk road between Thurso and Scrabster. The 5ft high sculpture, called the Northland Vent, features a triangular opening which affords views out across the Pentland Firth. Its unveiling came at the end of a day which explored Thurso's Viking heritage. After the bus party arrived at the new roadside landmark, 17 year old Swedish piper Jesper Wegge-Lindh played several tunes before Mr Wylie spoke on the background to his latest work. He said he hopped the sculpture would encourage the local authority to improve the look of the historic area, which is close to the remains of the Bishop's Palace. Mr Wylie said he used traditional Caithness flagstone to celebrate the past and modern stainless steel to look forward to a regeneration of the area.

Charity Event

Highland members of the charity Canine Concern Scotland Trust did a sponsored walk in aid of their Therapet scheme recently. Several members of the 20 strong group, along with their dogs, completed a three mile walk along part of the Caledonian Canal, near Inverness. Therapet, with its network of volunteers, takes dogs around hospitals, nursing and residential homes throughout the Inverness, Nairn and Black Isle areas.

Political Roundup

Planning to be Streamlined

A drive to simplify and modernise the planning system was promoted recently by the Minister for Planning and Transport, Sarah Boyack. She pledged measures to increase public participation in the planning process. Among changes being considered by the Scottish Executive are ensuring neighbours get more notification, standardised forms for planning applications and cutting time allowed for appeals to be lodged from six months to two months.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Mainly cloudy, rain in many parts. Afternoon showers and sunny spells. Winds mod/fresh W.NW'ly. Temperature 6c to 10c.
Saturday Night
Variable cloud and clear spells. Showers in the W & N, frosty in land. Wind mod/fresh SW'ly. Temperature -1c to 4c.
A cloudy and mild day with not much in the way of brightness. Winds will be strong to near gale SW'ly.
A dry start with sunny periods. Cloudy with heavy rain spreading from the W pm. Strong S'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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