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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 21st December 2002
Issue No 311

Inverness Coat of Arms Found

A charter signed by King James III of Scotland just two days before his death has been discovered among Highland documents that have not been seen since the time of Mary Queen of Scots.

A detailed examination of charters at Inverness Museum, prompted by the Penstrokes from the Past exhibition, also revealed what was believed to be the earliest existing version of the Inverness coat of arms. Out of an estimated 200 charters - ranging in quality from illegible to virtually pristine condition, came several interesting discoveries, with palaeographer Ross Mackenzie opening the door to the past. James III's signature at the bottom of a 1488 charter - written in Scots - granting revenues to the Master of Huntly is a graphic illustration of his last gasp attempt to garner support just days before his ill fated battle against his son at Sauchieburn, near Stirling. Although Inverness Museum staff had always known of the charters' existence, it was only research for the exhibition that revealed the importance of some of the documents. Curator Catherine Niven explained that the charters had been in the care of the museum since at least the 19th century, although they had never been in an exhibition before. She said: "The charters have been in the museum for ages. We knew they were here, but it required specialist knowledge to read them. It all comes together with this exhibition. "The museum took care of them, even though they weren't on display." The complete collection of charters, dating from the 12th century to present day, had been in care of the Inverness fathers since Mary Queen of Scots gave them back to the city in 1567. The other fascinating find was a Latin document dating from 1452, from Baillie of Inverness Johannes Thome selling a piece of land in Church Street to Alexander Hesow. The charter has a seal depicting a crucified Christ surrounded by a decorative border. It is believed that this may be the earliest known example of the Inverness coat of arms. Mr Mackenzie said: "The charters don't necessarily rewrite Highland history, but it makes us look at it in a different way. We might be looking at something that the public has never seen before. The two of them have never been seen publicly, as far as I know." And more exciting finds may still be on the horizon, as Mr Mackenzie still has a large number of charters to calendar. He added: "I've done 120 so far since October, and we keep coming across more."

Opportunity in Lochaber

A new computer based way to learn Gaelic will give people across Lochaber the chance to pick up the language on their doorstep. The scheme is the latest in a series of attempts to boost Gaelic speaking in the Highlands. A new initiative launched recently makes a CD-ROM of the Gaelic reaching programme "Speaking Our Language" available at locations from Mallaig to Kinlochbervie through the Lochaber Communications Network Ltd (LCNL). People will have free access to the existing computer bases operated by LCNL, with technical help on hand to help operate the technology whilst the individuals are learning. The CD-ROMs, which are available at nine locations, have been designed to make learning fun and simple to bring Gaelic to people of all ages and abilities. Samantha Reynolds of Voluntary Action Lochaber, who are partners in the project said: "This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in Gaelic and is an entirely free resource."

Hidden Treasure

A local school has unearthed an unexpected source of funds, thanks to a member of the Highland Historical Search Society. Self employed gardener Eric Soane, from Tornagrain, trawled the grounds of Raigmore Primary School with a metal detector and uncovered a haul of buried coins. "It took a long time but it was worth it," said Mr Soane whose collection of silver and coppers, some pre-decimalisation, has yielded nearly 200. He presented the money to head teacher Moira Leslie. Mr Soane joined the society just over a year ago and is now well and truly 'hooked'. "I had been given a metal detector some years ago which had been manufactured by White's Electronics here in Inverness," he said. "It's a good reliable machine and has turned up thousands of coins." Mr Soane said his first search with the detector was at the football pitch in Ardersier last winter. "I found 350 coins, but their cash value was only 30," he recalled. "Then recently I was working near the school and saw that most of the playground was under grass, so I asked the head teacher if I could use the detector on the grounds in the evening." Mr Soane, who said the Society would be happy to undertake similar searches in other schools, also unearthed a selection of rings, bracelets and bangles which were dropped in the playground over the years by pupils. "I don't think they are of any value and I'm sure the pupils will have long since forgotten about them."

On Line Access to Archives

A treasure trove of previously unseen Scottish history was made available on the Internet for the first time. The move is part of a new partnership between new media publisher Scotland Online and the General Register Office for Scotland. The innovative new website was officially launched recently at Edinburgh's New Register House by the Deputy Justice Minister. The service will enable Scots to track back through hundreds of years of historical data to trace their family histories. It will also provide an easily accessible route to the store of Scottish history preserved by the General Register Office. Among the material available will be a number of statutory registers of births and deaths for Scotland, Scottish census returns from the 19th century and records of baptisms held between 1553 and 1854. The site, which will be update through the year, includes a number of free features, including a surname search and data on well known figures from Scottish history. Dr Richard Callison of Scotland Online said that by the end of 2003, Scotland will probably have the most complete online genealogical information source for any country in the world.

Community Council Celebrates

One of Inverness's oldest community councils celebrated a quarter of a century of service recently - and paid tribute to two of its longest serving members. Since its inception in 1977, Merkinch Community Council has seen many changes in the north west part of the city - and members marked the occasion with a social gathering in Merkinch community centre. Current chairman Ally MacLean said: "It's just a wee get together for the community council and guests to celebrate the 25 years since we were formed. "We want to celebrate the fact that we're one of the oldest community councils in Inverness. "We've had hard times, but we're still together." Mr MacLean added that he was proud of the achievements of the community council, highlighting activity to keep Merkinch school open in the early 1980s and innovations in South Kessock in particular. He claimed the community council's success was based on the members' willingness to work with Highland Council. Former chairwoman Dell McClurg and Anne McCreadie - who has been the secretary since the community council started - were honoured in a presentation.

World Record Whisky

A bottle of whisky from Ross-shire sold recently for a world record breaking 25,877 at auction in Glasgow. The Dalmore 62 year old single malt was one of only 12 bottles made at the company's distillery in Alness. The spirit was sold to an anonymous bidder for 25,877.50 when it went under the hammer at McTear's auction, beating the record achieved by the Macallan 1926 earlier this year. Each of the 12 bottles has been individually named after famous events and characters in the distillery's history. Over the years, the spirit has been racked several times, ending up in an Oloroso Matusalem sherry butt from Gonzalez Byass of Spain. The bottle sold at auction - which had a reserve price of 12,000 - is named Kildermorie, after the loch which supplies the distillery with its water. The Dalmore Distillery plans to keep just one bottle and sell the remaining batch to investors. Richard Paterson, Dalmore's master distiller, said: "Whisky collecting has become a fashionable investment, with the market growing over the past decade, faster than many of the world's leading stock exchanges." He said the whisky was one of the "finest and oldest" in the world. Each bottle has individually signed labels on handmade bottles.

End of An Era

The final chapter in the history of Rosemarkie Library was written recently when it closed its doors permanently. The library has been based in a small room in Gordon Memorial Hall for almost 35 years but, with the opening of the new library in the recently completed extension at Fortrose Academy, the Rosemarkie branch is considered redundant. Librarian Linda Roberstson, who has transferred to Fortrose after nine years at Rosemarkie, said it was the end of an era. The new library is part of a new school and community building at Fortrose Academy and is open to the entire community, staff and pupils at the school and everyone living or working on the Black Isle. The complex also includes a theatre and an open distance learning suite which will be furnished with computers for use by the public and school. The library holds a stock of more than 9000 books plus board books for tiny tots, talking books, videos, newspapers and magazines, a Careers Library and Reference collection. Access is also available on request to the total lending stock of almost 340,000 books and other items held by Highland Libraries.

Charity Event

A group of Inverness fruitsellers went bananas recently to raise money for Children 1st. The four strong team from the Williamson Group managed to stay afloat long enough to win the recent Great River Ness Raft Race as "Bananas in Pyjamas". They beat a record number of entrants to win the Fred Kelly Rosebowl and they again donned their pyjamas to hand over a cheque for 565 to Katie Gibb, the charity's corporate manager.

Political Roundup

MSP Presses for NHS 24

A call for the Scottish Executive to roll out NHS 24 to the Highlands and Islands as soon as possible was made recently by MSP John Farquhar Munro. Currently the 24 hour health telephone service is only available in Grampian. Speaking during Question Time in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Munro quizzed Health Minister Malcolm Chisholm on the timescale for bringing NHS 24 online for the rest of Scotland, and in particular, its introduction in the Highlands and other remote rural areas where the benefits of the service would be most appreciated.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Variable cloud, dry with some clear spells. Winds light/mod SE'ly. Temperature 2c to 6c.
Saturday Night
Rain spreading NE'ly, heavy at times. Windy in exposed parts. Winds mod SE'ly. Temperature 0c to 7c.
Thick cloud and widespread rain spreading E'ly. Brighter/ showery in S later.
Overcast with widespread rain. Fresh to strong SE'ly winds easing later in the night.

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