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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 20th May 2000
Issue No 180

Spirit With an Ear for Music

Balnain House in Inverness, the home of Highland music, has had an unexpected guest.

And the visitor left down to earth administrator Jane McMath as white as a sheet. For the woman she met in the ladies toilets entered the room without opening a door and left through the wall. Jane, who has only been in the job since January and never believed in the supernatural said: "I know what I saw, there was definitely somebody in the room with me." Jane had been on her morning coffee break in the Cellar Bar, in Balnain House's basement, when she stopped to powder her nose on the way back upstairs. She said: "I actually had a spot on my nose and was looking into the mirror when I saw a young girl standing very close behind me. I felt a cold draught below my knees as if the door was opening but I didn't see it move nor hear any sound." She added: "I glanced again and the girl was small and appeared to be in black and white. "I didn't pay much attention because I was concentrating on squeezing the spot on my nose but when I looked back she had gone." Only then did she discover that the girl, who was dressed in old fashioned clothing, must have been a ghost. Jane said: "I wasn't frightened but when I came out of the toilets and the girls I work with confirmed that nobody had gone in or come out, did I get goosebumps. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before and I was always sceptical of such stories but I definitely saw a woman right behind me." After the Battle of Culloden in 1746 Balnain House was used as a hospital for the Duke of Cumberland's men. And the cellar, which is where the ladies toilets are now, was a morgue for the dead soldiers. Jane said: "Looking back, the girl seemed to be just passing through as if she was searching for her sweetheart." Balnain House has a history of ghostly goings on with tales of a green lady appearing around the building. Jane said: "A former resident of the flats which existed here before the building was converted, was so terrified that she wouldn't go into the cellar alone. She said she'd rather freeze than go down by herself for coal." Built in 1726 originally as an estate house for the Duffs of Drumuir it was later divided into flats. But by 1970 the building was almost derelict. After plans to knock it down, the property was saved by Inverness Civic Trust. It opened as a traditional music centre in 1993 and is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Jane hasn't been spooked by her encounter with "the other side" but now calls out "good morning" when visiting the ladies' loos prior to lunch.

One of the Best

The former home of a notorious participant in the Highland Clearances is one of only two Scottish establishments to qualify for the latest edition of The Good Bed and Breakfast Guide. The ghost of Evander MacIver, who died nearly a century ago aged 90 after spending over 60 years as factor of Scourie Estate for the Dukes of Sutherland, is reputed to haunt Scourie Lodge, in north west Sutherland. The lodge was built by the first duke as a wedding present for his wife, the Countess of Sutherland in her own right, who apparently did not like Scourie and never lived in the building. It was instead tenanted by Lewis born lawyer MacIver, whose reputation for hounding the crofters of the area in his master's service remains part of local folk lore. "MacIver's ghost is supposed to be here, but I've never seen him," said Penny Walker, who has run the lodge for five years. "But his great great grandson and great great great grandson in direct line, who live in South Africa, have visited the house." Only 20 bed and breakfast establishments nationally are included in the guide.

Games Disappointment

The plug has been pulled on a Highland Games extravaganza planned to be held in Ross-shire this summer. The Highland Games Association has had to scrub the proposed international event because of lack of sponsorship. Planned for the Black Isle showground in Muir of Ord in August, the Millennium World Highland Games were expected to draw world class athletes and 24,000 spectators. It had been given a major financial shot-in-the-arm with a large grant from the National Lottery Fund. Pledges of support were also received from Highland Council, Ross and Cromarty Enterprise and the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board. But the association was unable to attract sufficient outside support to cover the costs of staging the event. Association president Charlie Simpson said: "It's very disappointing after all the preparation work which has been done. "It is perhaps a bad time as there seems so many other people just now chasing sponsors." It had been hoped it would be the first of regular world championships and raise the profile and prestige of Highland Games.

Chessmen Return Home

The world famous Lewis chessmen arrived home recently to the Scottish island on which they were found nearly 170 years ago. The British Museum had loaned the 16 chessmen, three bone gaming pieces and an ivory belt buckle, which were all part of the same hoard found in a sandbank at Uig on the west of the island in 1831, for an exhibition on Viking connections with the Hebrides. The four inch high pieces, thought to have been made by the Vikings around the 12th century, were on display at the new museum in the community hall above Uig Bay where the ancient chess set was allegedly dislodged by a cow in a crumbling sandbank where Cnip cemetery now is. The legendary chess pieces are made of walrus ivory and are now insured at more than 3 million.

Highland Brewing

Highland brewing traditions are being revived with the launch of a new ale called Thornbush Porter. It is a type of "roasted" ale, or porter, made for generations at the Cromarty Brewery, while the name Thornbush celebrates the brewery of that name, whose building still stands on the South Kessock quayside. Ingredients of the new bottled beer are Scottish sourced roasted barley malt, and two varieties of hops for "bittering" - Challenger and Brewling Cross. Porter is dark as stout, but bitter rather than sweet, a type of beer which has long been out of fashion, and overdue for a revival, says recipe designer David Gladwin, of the Black Isle Brewery. He is launching the product at a "tasting" hosted by an Edinburgh supermarket, and it will shortly be on sale locally. He is also about to open a shop at the brewery, two miles from the Tore roundabout, selling top quality local produce, like Anta pottery, and of course his own beers. He said: "I hope the porter and my other brews will find good markets, because times are tough for small breweries like mine, what with rocketing water rates."

Dunrobin Castle

Golspie Community Council is bidding to attract some of the 60,000 visitors to nearby Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland by installing an information board in a corridor of the castle. David Murray, the council chairman said: "The castle is a major historical and cultural attraction in the North and this information point emphasises the many links to Golspie. "It will encourage more tourists to spend time in the village and sample its many attractions." The innovative eye-catching design work and project management was carried out by Golspie based commercial artist Jane Bregazzi, who used Sutherland craftsmen to produce the finished article, featuring Pictish and Gaelic connections, along with attractive pointers to walks, other activities and recreation. Lord Strathnaver, who acted as host at the recent unveiling, said: "This information point will go a long way to showing visitors that it would be worth while their stopping over in Golspie on their way north or south."

A Bottle a Year for Rent

The only surviving medieval castle in the Western Isles has been handed over to the State on a 1,000 year lease for an annual rent of 1 and a bottle of whisky. Kisimul Castle on Barra, the ancestral seat of the Macneil clan, will be conserved by Historic Scotland and could now become a major tourist draw. Historic Scotland has signed an agreement with the castle's hereditary owners, The Macneil and Mrs Macneil of Barra, to take over responsibility for the property in Castlebay. The Macneils have striven to preserve the castle over the years but they have now decided to hand it over to Historic Scotland so proper conservation work can be done. Historic Scotland will open the castle to visitors in June and a conservation programme will be prepared with detailed survey work a first priority. Robert Lister Macneil of Barra, the present chief's father, restored the castle between 1956-70 with support from clan members. Substantial additional funds still held on behalf of clan members will be made available to assist Historic Scotland in it conservation work.

Charity Event

Two Highland Charities - Highland Vision Services and the Sunshine Holiday Fund - have received cash boosts totalling almost 5000 thanks to an award-winning safety scheme being run by an oil fabrication company. In recognition of achieving stringent safety targets each month, Barmac was able to donate the sum through the Texaco Captain Safety Incentive Scheme which is jointly funded by the Highland firm and oil giant Texaco.

Political Roundup

Digital Future

Highland Councillors are aiming to put the area at the forefront of the digital revolution by exploiting the opportunities presented by Information and Communications Technology(ITC). Digital Highland is a programme which will use ITC to support economic regeneration, lifelong learning, improved public services and greater participation in the democratic process. The council's policy and resources committee has agreed to allocate 50,000 a year for two years toward crating an inter-agency project office to develop the initiative.

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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