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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 28th December 2002
Issue No 312

Celebrations For Black Isles Most Famous Son

A world premiere recently marked the start of celebrations of Hugh Miller's bicentenary celebrations in his home village.

Miller, a crusading writer, geologist and leading religious thinker, was born in the Black Isle village of Cromarty in 1802. Two centuries on, the entire roll of the local primary school is celebrating the anniversary of his birth with a new opera. One hundred pupils, some 34,000 and a handful of professional performers have produced Hugh Miller: the Cromarty Years, a 45 minute multi location opera based on the early life of the village's famous son. Ross Stenhouse, who wrote the piece and also plays old Hugh and the minister, said: "Hugh Miller wrote so much and thereis so much information about him, I really had to pare it down. "I want to focus on his Cromarty years, but also to try to bring out the fact that he was a man full of contradictions - he was one of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland, yet he was a voice for Catholic emancipation; he was a self taught geologist and naturalist, yet he didn't believe in evolution. These were the contradictions that tore him apart in the end." Glasgow based Mr Stenhouse was in the Highlands as part of GMG Productions, along with composer David Munro and professional costumers. Instead of parents looking out an outfit that would "do" for each diminutive actor and actress, all costumes were professionally fitted and made for the cast. It was also hoped that the Scottish Arts Council funded opera, while celebrating the achievements of the man who shot himself in Edinburgh on Christmas Eve 1856, would also have an effect on the children involved. Cromarty Arts Society chairwoman Jenny Gunn said: "I have a strong belief that investment in the arts is an essential part of children's education. For us, it's by far the biggest thing we've ever done and the children have been involved in evry part of it. "For most of the children, this was a lifetime memory - but for a handful of them, it may possibly be lifechanging."

A Taste of the Highlands

Transatlantic travel to the Highlands was targeted recently as a delegation of US tour operators visited Culloden Battlefield. The 14 strong group, from all over the US, spent two nights sampling Highland hospitality to take back to their companies in America. It is hoped the visit, in parallel with similar tours in other parts of the UK, will attract operators who until now have concentrated on domestic packages. The battle to gain trade to replace that lost after the tragic events of September last year began at Culloden with a lunch and tour for the guests. VisitScotland Trade Promotions executive for the US Lesley Forrest said: "This visit is for small to medium sized business operators who, so far, have dealt with domestic niche tours but are now beginning to look outside America. "The exercise has been an introduction for the US based National Tour Association to the UK as a destination." Andrew Bernstein, of Signature Tours, was one of the first to be persuaded of the Scottish holiday experience. He said: "I loved it - it's a beautiful country, small enough to get around with a lot of variety in the scenery. We didn't do Scotland at all until now but we've decided we're going to do it from 2004." The group also visited the Cairngorm mountain railway, cruised on Loch Ness and took a look round Cawdor Castle from its Nairn base.

New Clan Chief After 230 Wait

An 88 year old man has completed his quest to become the first chief of the Clan Arthur in 230 years. James Edward Moir MacArthur was honoured with the appointment after a genealogist confirmed his lineage in a petition to the Lord Lyon King of Arms, who has the power to recognise titles in Scotland. The last holder, Charles MacArthur, died in the 1780s leaving no heir, but Mr MacArthur, a former coal board worker living in Edinburgh, now heads one of the oldest clans in Argyll. The Clan Arthur traces its roots back centuries to the Loch Awe area. Mr MacArthur had been clan commander for 10 years but having proved his genealogical claim to the chieftainship he now gains the hereditary title; James Edward Moir MacArthur of that Ilk, finally ennobling the Clan Arthur. Mr MacArthur was only eight when he first learned of his family's link to the title. Speaking from his home, he said: "It has been a long slog but at last we have been fully recognised. Looking to the future I think it would be fitting if the clan could once again return to its original lands on Loch Awe side. There are now clan societies in New Zealand, Australia, Southern Africa and America and if we co-operate perhaps we can accomplish a clan centre."

A Full Head of Steam

As the seasonal steam excursions on the West Highland Line came to an end recently, scores of railway enthusiasts grabbed the chance to get in the picture. The Jacobite Steam Train's locos and rolling stock were chartered for photographers to capture their favourite views along the scenic rail route. The steam special was able to make a number of stops not on the schedule, including a photocall at Corrour Summit which rises 1347ft from Rannoch Moor. Supporting the weekend was the Grog and Gruel Pub, Fort William, and manager Neil Dennison arranged for a special Branch Line Ale to be available to welcome the camera corps on their return each evening. The brew is called after Bob Branch, organiser of the weekend steam event. Bob said: "At our briefing session, the first question from some of the photographers was, 'Where's the beer, Bob?'."

Preserving Tradition Honour

Inverness fiddler Eric Allan has been honoured for helping maintain the Highlands' musical tradition with an award from the Saltire Society. Mr Allan was presented with his award by Saltire Society director Michael Hance, Highland branch chairman Alastair Scott-Brown and Inverness Provost Bill Smith. The presentation took place at Balnain House with which Mr Allan was closely involved. A musician, composer, arranger and tutor, Mr Allan is the third person to receive the award from the Highland branch, recognising their contribution to the understanding of Highland culture. A father of two and local solicitor, he ran guitar tuition and folk sessions in Inverness before joining the Inverness Fiddlers' Society in the late 1970s. As a director of Balnain House, he was involved in the restoration of the Georgian townhouse and its establishment as the home of Highland Music where he was curator of instruments as well as a tutor and performer. He was also involved in the publication of traditional and contemporary tunes by Balnain House. Mr Allan, who plays a fiddle he made himself, performs with the Inverness Fiddlers and the group Birl and, with his wife Helen, has founded the Highland Music Trust to promote knowledge of traditional music. Making the presentation, Dr Scott-Brown described Mr Allan as a remarkable man.

New Glencoe Footpath

A footpath which will improve pedestrian access along the busy A82 was opened recently. The walkway completes the 3 million investment in the glen by the National Trust for Scotland which opened its controversial visitor centre at Inverigan last May. Following a series of heated public meetings over two years, the trust agreed to construct a path to link the centre with Glencoe village. Opening the route to walkers, Ballachulish and Glencoe Community Council chairman Iain Brown said: "The footpath is the final link of the project and creates a permanent pedestrian access between the new centre and the local services in Glencoe." He added: "The community council and local residents were consulted over all issues and everyone thought it was logical to have a link between the centre and the village." The footpath runs past the site of the infamous 1692 Massacre of Glencoe.

Sign Allowed On Sacred Isle

Councillors have agreed in principle to allow Caledonian MacBrayne to display an illuminated information sign in a conservation area on the sacred isle of Iona. No objections have been raised over CalMac's planning application. However, members of Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee of Argyll and Bute Council have expressed their approval for the sign to be erected at the Iona ferry slip. Planning officials told the committee that, although the move would be a minor departure from the local development plan, there was an operational justification to erect the sign in the conservation area. A planning spokesman said: "Normally it would not be considered appropriate to have an electronic illuminated sign of modern materials sited within the conservation area. "It is considered however, that this electronic sign would provide an essential information service to passengers, which they currently do not have." Mull and Iona Councillor Alastair MacDougall said: "It's a badly needed facility. It's not so bad for people who live around the ferry slip, because they can see the ferry coming, but people who live further away have got to keep looking out for it." The intention is that the sign will only be illuminated during ferry operation times only.

Charity Event

Nairn summer ceilidhs raised 2000 this year for local charities. The events, supported by artistes and audiences from Inverness and Moray, are organised by the Nairn Ceilidh Group which has raised over 30,000 for local causes over the past 22 years.

Political Roundup

Key Executive Support

Highland MSP Rhoda Grant has been appointed a Ministerial Parliamentary Aide (MPA) to Education Minister and Deputy Labour leader Cathy Jamieson. MPSs are appointed by the First Minister and are unpaid positions. They support Ministers and liaise with backbenchers. Ms Grant was previously Parliamentary Aide to Social Justice Minister Margaret Curran. She said: "I am delighted to be given this opportunity to support the Education Minister in the key task of delivering excellent education to children and young people."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Mainly cloudy in the W with showers. Brighter in E. Winds mod W'ly. Temperature 7c to 10c.
Saturday Night
A few showers in the W. Cloud more broken in the E. Winds light variable. Temperature 2c to 6c.
Mainly dry for most of the day. Mist/fog patches clearing to some bright spells. Drizzle by evening.
A dull and misty day with rain a.m turning more drizzly in the afternoon.

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