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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 29th April 2000
Issue No 177

Sounds of the Stone Age

Chanting and drumming in primitive Scottish burial or fertility rituals over four millennia ago could have provoked mind bending responses from Stone Age participants, according to the latest research.

An archaeologist, who specialises in the Neolithic or New Stone Age period, teamed up with an expert in acoustics to conduct the experiments inside two of the most impressive Scottish 'chambered cairns' of that era in Caithness and Orkney. The scientific tests revealed that the modern day researchers and their volunteer helpers experiences strange 'unworldly' feelings when they exposed themselves to the sounds reverbating around the stone lined inner burial chambers inside the massive cairns, which are at least 4,000 years old. The researchers believe that when burials of tribal elders or other rituals were conducted in these inner chambers beneath the great stone covered mounds the participants would have experienced eerie unfamiliar sounds that defy easy explanation. The noises could well have been construed as coming from another realm, one steeped in the mysteries of the supernatural. Archaeologist Aaron Watson, of Reading University in Berkshire, teamed up with sound expert David Keating, who formerly worked at the same institution, to conduct experiments. He said: "I found that many of the Neolithic monuments possess unusual acoustic properties that give sounds strange, otherworldly aspects. "We cannot know for certain if these acoustic properties were exploited thousands of years ago, but it seems highly likely. We know that these sites were visited repeatedly for generations. Even today, reproductions of the sounds of the monuments are stirring - and vaguely disturbing." The detailed studies, which aimed to offer modern scientific explanations for the phenomena, initially involved two of the most magnificent surviving Stone Age megaliths in Scotland, Camster Round Cairn in Caithness and Maes Howe in Orkney. Both have long, dark, narrow passages leading into the inner burial chambers where the amazing sound sensations were detected.

"Never on a Sunday" to Change

A large majority of people on the strongly Presbyterian islands of Lewis and Harris now want ferries and planes services on Sundays, according to a poll. Yet islanders still seem to regard Sunday as a special day of rest with an equally large majority against local shops in Stornoway opening on the Sabbath. Ferry company Caledonian Macbrayne said recently it would put on Sunday services now if asked by the islands' transportation committee. Although there are likely to be calls for a further referendum before any change is made, all previous polls carried out up to 10 years ago had always shown a strong majority against Sunday travel to and from the two islands. Councillor Donald John Macsween, who has been a minority voice on the islands council campaign for Sunday ferries said: "I'm delighted with the poll result. "It marks a sea change in opinion about transport links with the mainland. "It was a very high poll and is bound to be an accurate reflection of opinion."

Wildcat on the Prowl.

One of Britain's rarest and most elusive creatures has been captured on film at the RSPB's Abernethy Nature Reserve. Six Trail Master cameras triggered by infra red beams have caught good pictures of a wildcat at night near Nethy Bridge in Strathspey. It is part of a wider study to discover more about the numbers and range of wildcats in their northern and central Scotland homelands. Ron Summers, research biologist for RSPB Scotland, said: "Wildcats are wonderful creatures. It is reported that they became extinct at Abernethy at the end of the 19th century and probably returned to the area in the mid 20th century. Because they are rare, very wary of man and nocturnal, they can be difficult to see, far less photograph. "So we have used technology to give us a helping hand." It is estimated there are only between 3,000 and 4,000 wildcats in Scotland. They were persecuted to the brink of extinction in the late 19th century, but populations have since recovered with the decline in numbers of gamekeepers.

Black Watch Tribute to Queen Mother

Members of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, based at Fort George, Inverness-shire, will help play a key role in this year's celebrations to mark the 100th birthday of their regimental colonel-in-chief, the Queen Mother. The Scottish infantry regiment is taking part in birthday tributes, both north and south of the border later this year. And it is hoped that either an official or private visit to the regiment might be pencilled in the Queen Mother's diary before the 1st Battalion is posted to Germany in August. The showpiece celebration, north of the border, will be a royal tribute on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade on July 27, when 17 different pipes and drums will be massed in a spectacular musical tribute to the Queen Mother who celebrates her birthday on August 4. The Queen Mother's association with the Black Watch stretches back to 1937. Lt Col Bradford of the regiment said: "For 63 years she has visited us regularly on departure for war and operational tasks, on return home and during more peaceful times."

Bid to Save 'Bonsai' Forests

A project in the Highlands got underway recently to restore one of Britain's rarest woodlands which was nearly wiped out by farming and forestry. There is currently less than 1,000 hectares left nationwide of undamaged bog woodland which resemble "bonsai" forests. The Wet Wood LIFE project aims to increase the habitat by 40% and has just completed a major piece of restoration at the RSPB 's Abernethy Nature Reserve in Strathspey. Bog woodlands, which are home of the rare capercaillie, osprey and dragonfly are also being repaired at Tore on the Black Isle, Pitmaduthy near Tain and Inshriach in Strathspey. "This is one of the most undervalued habitats that we have in the UK," said Neil Wilkie, the Wet Woods LIFE project manager. "It is extraordinarily beautiful and it has a most magic appeal. "There are trees growing on these bogs which are at least 200 years old but they have reached only a few feet in height. "Yet nearby in drier areas, there are huge pine trees of a similar age but appearing almost a different species." The project is restoring bog woodland sites which were decimated in the 1960s and 1970s when they were drained and ploughed largely for agriculture and commercial forestry.

New Role for Old School

The old Roman Catholic school in Beauly is to be turned into a centre to promote the culture and heritage of the area. The school, which is next to the 13th century Priory, has been bought by the Beauly Firth and Glens Trust, and is scheduled to be open for Easter. The Trust, which was formed in 1996, has shared space with Historic Scotland in a portable cabin in the school ground for the past two years. Historic Scotland manages the Priory, which is one of Beauly's main tourist attractions, and will be renting space from the Trust for a ticket office in the refurbished school. Trust chairwoman, Julie MacDonald said: Beauly is a lovely town and has lots of places of interest round about but does not have a focal point for visitors arriving." The centre, which will encompass an area from Beauly to Glen Affric, will provide information for visitors and locals on attractions, accommodation, walks and tours, shops and other facilities. And a planned clan association centre will feature Frasers and Chisholms, both local to the area.

Open Debate

People in the Highlands were invited recently to have there say on a new forestry strategy. They got a chance to grill Government officials at a public meeting in Dingwall about the new draft Forestry Strategy for Scotland which Forestry Minister John Home Robertson unveiled at the Scottish Parliament's Rural Affairs Committee. The draft strategy set out a vision of what forestry in Scotland should try to achieve and examines how the country's woodlands and forests should be managed during the 21st century and beyond to achieve those objectives. The draft was sent to everyone who took part in the year long public consultation process that led to the draft strategy and they and anyone else with an interest was invited to take part in the regional meetings.

Charity Event

Two Inverness men who got on their bikes to help a massive charity fund-raising event gave it a 300 boost recently after a gruelling run to Aviemore. Mark Wells made the run in atrocious conditions at the launch of the Moray Firth Radio charity trust's two day annual fundraiser last month. Meanwhile MFR newsman Jason Rose enjoyed near perfect conditions when he covered the same route from Inverness to Aviemore later the same week.

Political Roundup

Scottish Land Belongs to the People.

Scotland's land traditionally belongs to the people of the nation and the term "landowner" has no basis in its law, and MSP claimed recently. Robin Harper, Green MSP for Lothians, told the justice and home affairs committee of the Scottish Parliament that landowners only had the privilege to use their property but it did not innately belong to them. He was seeking to amend the Abolition of Feudal Tenure Bill, which sweeps away the remnants of the feudal system. Feudal superiorities will be abolished under the bill and vassals will own their land outright. But Mr Harper said the wording of the bill should be changed to replace "ownership" with "tenure".

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Some rain in the West a.m. Bright in the East. Locally heavy rain later. Wind light to moderate South Easterly. Temperature 12c to 16c.
Saturday Night
Locally heavy rain. Misty. Winds moderate to strong Easterly. Temperature 8c to 12c.
Bands of showers across the region. Bright with sunny spells. Moderate North Westerly winds. Fairly mild.
Mainly dry. Fairly cloudy with limited sunshine. Light Southerly breeze. Mild temperatures.

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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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