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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

The Friendliest NewsPaper on the WWW

Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 16th December 2000
Issue No 210

Checkmate for the Lewis Chessmen

Six dour Vikings were at the centre of an airport security alert which held up dozens of passengers on a British Airways flight to Glasgow.

Security staff at Stornoway Airport refused to allow officials of the British Museum to board the plane with cases containing some of the famous Isle of Lewis Chessmen, ivory Viking figures from a set valued at 3 million. It was only when the plane's chess playing captain was summoned from the aircraft that he realised the true importance of the six tiny bearded VIPs. He immediately gave permission for them to be carried in the cabin, and even ordered that the chessmen, famous for their po faced bearded looks, be allocated their own seats. The six 3in figures, thought to date from the Viking occupation of the Hebrides more than 1,000 years ago, had been on display over the summer months at Museum nan Eilean - The Isles Museum - in Stornoway after an earlier one day exhibition at Uig community hall, on the west of Lewis. It was near there, according to a report of the time, that they were found in 1831 after being dislodged from their seaside hiding place by a cow rubbing her hindquarters on a sandbank. A local minister then handed them over to the British Museum for safe keeping. Their appearance at Uig sparked huge interest with hundreds flocking to see them from the islands and much further afield. Also known as the Uig Chessmen, there are 78 remaining pieces of the legendary chess set. They are made of walrus ivory. The six pieces were on loan from the British Museum and on show in Stornoway museum since last April. Darren Roberts, a spokesman for British Regional Airlines, which operates the Western Isles' BA flights, finally confirmed the security mix up which led to the famous chessmen almost being grounded. He said: "The gentlemen from the British Museum turned up with these two cases and said they wanted to take them as personal luggage "for security reasons". "Unfortunately, although the airline had been told they were travelling with valuable hand luggage, because of a breakdown in communication, the security staff were not told and they refused permission. "Items like that would normally have to go in the hold." Other intrigued passengers were ushered through as the heated discussions with the officials continued. But the museum men refused to part with the cases containing the chessmen and it seemed at one point as if they would not be able to fly to Glasgow. Mr Roberts said: "It is true that the captain was then summoned from the aircraft for the final decision. "Having inspected the documentation, the captain decided that not only should the pieces be allowed to travel in the cabin, but that the cases containing the famous tiny figures should also be allocated their own seats and not be put on the floor." It is understood the captain, who is not being named by the airline, is a chess fanatic and was "quite chuffed" to have the famous pieces on his plane.
** There has been an ongoing campaign for the return of the pieces to Uig. Local councillor Norman MacDonald, a member of Uig Heritage Trust which was a major player in securing the pieces' brief return, said: "I would hope in future that we could take care of them not just for one day but for a longer period of time." But he accepts storage and security problems could arise if the figures were to return for longer. However, Robert Anderson, director of the British Museum, has so far refused requests for the chessmen to be based in the islands. He said: "Five to six million visitors come here each year and can see our collection every year although making loans to other museums like the one in Stornoway is an important part of our work too."

Internet "Ghost" Purged

Madasafish, the Internet service provider with a call centre at Stornoway, has called in an online exorcist to ghostbust their ISP, after a series of ghoulish goings on. Following numerous reports from members of unexplained and ghostly happenings, Madasafish asked self styled American cyber-minister the Rev Arnold Bumpennicheten to come to their aid. The Internet pastor, who holds regular online church services, will attempt to rid Madasafish of its poltergeist by holding an exorcism service and server blessing ceremony at Internet House, the UK Internet hub where Madasafish's computer technology is based. The Rev Bumpennicheten of the Cyberspace Church of Eternal Light, based in Salem, Massachusetts, said: "This is a first for me - a ghost in the Madasafish machine. I have conducted a number of exorcisms before where unsettled spirits have caused disruption in homes, cars, office blocks and once, even a fridge. But a possessed service provider would seem to me to be unique." When he returns to the US he will reinforce the exorcism rites by holding virtual services online and uploading transcripts directly on to the Madasafish servers. Madasafish web editor Malky Burns says he had several chilling encounters with the Madasafish spook. He said that on at least three occasions when he has been alone in the office he has felt an eerie presence. He said: "First there is a sudden drop in temperature, then a very faint shuffling noise coming out of nowhere. "There is then a strange smell then I get the very strong feeling someone is looking over my shoulder as I sit at my work station."

A Bigger MOD

The National MOD, Scotland's second biggest cultural festival after the Edinburgh Tattoo, has become so successful it has outgrown many of its previous venues. It is now likely a circuit of only five selected towns will host the annual event which leaves a multi million pound economic bonus in its wake. Dunoon this year has proved so popular it will probably join Inverness, Fort William, Oban and possibly Perth as the preferred locations in future. Donald John Macsween, chief executive of An Commun Gaidhealach said recently the event and its popular fringe attractions had grown so much many smaller towns which had hosted it in the past simply could not handle the influx. He said: "The MOD is growing at such a pace some locations are not sufficiently equipped to hold it." Officials were also impressed by the fact that Gaelic activities in Dunoon, on the southernmost fringe of Gaeldom, has been boosted since it hosted the event in 1994.

New Chief for Gaelic Society

The Gaelic Society of Inverness has named Morag MacLeod of the School of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University as their new Chief for the year 2001, cementing a long standing relationship between the two organisations. Morag MacLeod will be the first woman to be Chief of the Society, which was established in 1871. She will take over from Dr Norman Gillies of Sabhal Mor Ostaig in Skye, who is the current Chief. The Society has also confirmed that Mr Roddy MacCrimmon of Inverness, formerly headmaster at Holm Primary School, will take over as Chairman of the Council in January, succeeding Mr Murdo MacLeod. Morag MacLeod's appointment as Chief builds on links between the school and the society which will culminate this coming year in a special celebration marking 50 years of scholarship at the school. Mr MacLeod said: "We are delighted that Morag MacLeod has accepted this position with the society for what promises to be a momentous year for the school. "We will be issuing further details of our own annual event which will be held next February at Eden Court Theatre in the coming weeks. "With Morag now becoming our Chief, we can celebrate the School's achievements together."

Jumping For Joy

Inverness Highland dancer Carrie Morrison has good reason to leap for joy after she came out top of her section in the North of Scotland championships and was chosen to represent the town in a prestigious tournament next year. An Inverness Royal Academy pupil, Carrie beat off competition from 22 other dancers to win the under 15s section of the championships which were held at the town's sports centre recently. Carrie, a member of the Robyn Kennedy School of Highland Dancing, was also picked as one of the best dancers for her age group to represent the town in the area finals which will be staged in Oban next May. Carrie's mum, Pat Morrison, who until recently was involved in fundraising for the school,said she was delighted with the result, especially because it was the first time Carrie had taken part in the competition.

Too Far Doon the Water

A Highland booking office made a firm apology after pointing a MOD bound man to a hotel hundreds of miles away from Argyll - in North Wales. The Thomas Cook accommodation bureau at Inverness Railway Station were completely unaware the Dunoon Hotel was not in Argyll but in the principality when they tried to help Alastair Beaton obtain a booking for the recent premier Gaelic Festival in Scotland. Mr Beaton, formerly of Skye now Inverness, was on the point of making the booking with the hotel until he suspected something was amiss. He said: "They (the booking office) told me to check out the Dunoon Hotel which seemed relatively cheap. At first I was a bit perplexed because it wasn't the Dunoon postcode but I called and was told there were plenty of rooms, which I thought strange because of the MOD. "It was reasonably priced, so I made a provisional booking. When I called again I talked to a different person who gave me a more expensive quote, so I declined." Confused by what he'd heard and by the non Highland accents Alastair asked his brother to make a further call and find out more. Alastair continues the story. "My brother asked how far the hotel was from the ferry terminal and the receptionist replied they were not too far from Holyhead and it was then he clicked that this place was in another country." Happily, Alastair managed to find accommodation in the Dunoon area in time for the extravaganza. Richard Green, operations chief for Hotel and Travel Reservations, who are responsible for the bureau, explained how the mix up occurred. He said: "What has happened is that the quickest system on the computer has called up Dunoon and come up with the Dunoon Hotel. The first line contains the address and telephone number but the location is listed further down. I can only apologise to the person for the inconvenience caused."

Forging a New Link

Estonian links with the Highlands were strengthened recently through a pioneering visit by photographers, film makers and musicians. The week long visit was organised by the Estonian Institute to build links with the UK, as a newly independent nation rather than a part of the former USSR. The trip was essentially a scouting exercise in anticipation of the development of an Estonian Institute in Scotland next year. The country, which is half the size of Scotland and one of the least populated in Europe, is experiencing a revival in its folk traditions. The band Oort, whose repertoire includes genuine folk songs, music performed on ancient instruments and reworkings of old folk tunes, performed and ran workshops at venues in Inverness recently. Andre Help, of the Estonian Institute said: "The Highlands is the place culturally closest to Estonia. We have similar cultural influences and there is definitely a possibility of common features which have originated from Scandinavia."

Charity Event

The Volunteer Centre in Inverness is to expand across the Highlands thanks to a funding boost. The centre acts as a service to link those people who want to volunteer their services with others who need help. The volunteer centre has been given a grant of 30,000 and additional funding will be raised by the charity.

Political Roundup

MSP is Top

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Lib Dem MSP Mike Rumbles has come out on top of a recent poll published by the Scottish Parliament. MSPs have been given scores for the number of electronic voting they have taken part in. In the North East, Mr Rumbles has the highest percentage for voting since the parliament started.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy with rain or showers in the W. Frost/dry/sunny in the E. Winds light/mod W. Temperature 4 to 8c..
Saturday Night
Variable cloud. Clear spells. Mist/frost. Winds light variable. Temperature -1 to 4c.
Dry and fine. Mainly bright . Freshening S winds.
Most places staying dry with sunny periods. Cloud will spread from the W with light rain in the W overnight.


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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