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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 24th June 2000
Issue No 185

Highland Clearances Campaign

Easter Ross author and historian Rob Gibson has called on civic dignitaries in Golspie to erect an interpretation board at the foot of Ben Bhraggie with details of the Highland Clearances and of the first Duke of Sutherland, whose statue atop the hill dominates the village.

His plea follows the official opening of a new footpath leading from Golspie to the monument. He said members of the Book of Ben Bhraggie, the campaigning organisation set up four years ago to topple the Duke's statue, welcomed the footpath. Mr Gibson remarked: "We are surprised that organisations such as Golspie Community Council and Golspie Gala Week Committee have not considered some unbiased information source such as an interpretation board, of the kind one of their funders SNH has erected at other sites. "The increased number of visitors who are being urged to use the much improved footpath deserve nothing less." Former SNP land use spokesman Mr Gibson said that, although Sutherland county planning committee rejected an outline planning application to remove the Duke's statue from Ben Bhraggie and re-erect in the grounds of Dunrobin Castle, it approved plans in the name of SNP stalwart Sandy Lindsay for a viewpoint and interpretive facilities. "We believe the time is ripe for the community to offer accurate information. A little leaflet on the matter is factually incorrect. Visitors may wish to know for example the subscriptions demanded of Sutherland Estates' tenants to build the statue, lists of thousands of Gaels removed by the Duke's policies and indeed facts about the sculptors, builders and the time it took to complete the Murderer's Monument as many called it. It took four years to build, and was completed in 1838. The community council owes it to visitors to tell them what they are seeing." Former community council chairman Kenny MacLean remarked: "When Sandy Lindsay wanted to provide an interpretation board, we were quite happy, provided he paid and we had a say in what was going to go up. "That's still my view, and I imagine it's still the community council view, but I don't interfere in its deliberations now."

Clan Feud is Over

For over 700 years, they have been sworn enemies in a feud which often ended in slaughter and bloody mayhem. But now, for the first time since the 1300s, two warring clans have decided to bury the hatchet. And the Mackenzies have invited the Munros to join a torchlight procession at their clan gathering at Strathpeffer, Ross-shire, in August, to mark the truce. Clan chiefs aren't sure how the feud started - but they believe it was probably over land, livestock or the affections of a woman. In any event, it led to centuries of hostility centred on the town of Dingwall. Countless people were butchered or burned alive and the bloodiest episode came at the Battle of Druim a Chait in 1501 when the Mackenzies routed a raiding party of 900 Munros. The clans were on opposing sides in the 1745 Jacobite uprising when the Mackenzies backed Bonnie Prince Charlie in his bid to restore the Stuart monarchy while the Munros' sided with the Hanovers. Current clan chief Hector Munro said: "Hopefully the parade will show old enemies can become the best of friends.

Land Ownership Rules Change

A bill that will revolutionise land sales in Scotland was presented to the Scottish Parliament recently. Under the Bill it will be compulsory for every land sale to be officially recorded on the Land Register. The new legislation will also make it illegal for companies to buy land without registering the names and addresses of the people behind the company. It would also be illegal for foreign nationals to buy land and hide their identity by registering the land in the name of an offshore company. The bill, jointly sponsored by SNP MSPs Christine Grahame and Fergus Ewing, is expected to be given wide support. Christine Grahame said: "The Bill seeks to put in place a requirement for compulsory land registration. It will bring about radical changes to public knowledge of land ownership in Scotland. "Before we can tackle the much wider issue of how land is managed we must know who owns it. "Under the Bill we will have a system which is mandatory, informative and transparent. The register will name names so the public knows who owns what. Landowners in the past have been nameless."

Fund Sought for Castle Ruin Revival

.About 500,000 is being sought to fund the restoration of a 15th century ruined Highland castle. Duntulm Castle, which sits on the edge of a cliff top in north Skye, already attracts about 40,000 visitors a year. But those enthusiastic visitors and the ravages of the weather mean its condition has deteriorated considerably. Now moves to prevent further decay and the eventual establishment of a visitors centre to turn it into a major tourism and historical site have taken a step forward, with a new company formed to support the initiative. The Duthchas Project, which promotes sustainable development, has brought together different agencies to aid the project. Iain MacDonald, its area co-ordinator, said: "This company will work with Highland Council, who actually own the castle, and the site at the moment." A feasibility study last summer put the cost at 500,000. "It would be phased, I would imagine, over five years. The first stage would be to make the structure sound with some archaeological work thrown in." The castle consists of a ruined 15th century keep with the remains of 17th century ranges around the courtyard. Rubble covers a number of rooms which if excavated, could yield such artefacts as coins or metal objects. "It needs to be well interpreted and there's lots of information about it," Mr MacDonald said. He hoped that a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding could be made. Applications must be in by the end of this month. The Duthchas Project operates in Uist and Sutherland as well as Trotternish. A two year pilot project, it is due to finish at the end of this year unless more funding is forthcoming.

On the Road

Edinburgh Castle provided an even more stirring backdrop than usual recently as 120 classic cars began the week-long 1400 mile Classic Malts Scottish Reliability Trial around Highland distilleries. Started in 1998, the event has this year attracted a record number of entries from 14 countries - with everything form 1928 Alvis and Bentleys, to Masseratis and Ferraris and classic Triumphs, MGBs and Jaguars taking part. The 350 participants stopped off at various "control points" en route, such as Scone Palace and Blair Castle where they were put through their paces in a series of tests. However, one vehicle ended up in a ditch early on in the rally in the Ochil Hills. Julie Eaglen, in the classic Malt Press Office said: "The car was a 1928 Racing Green Open Top being driven by David Myers, with two passengers. I'd say a car like that is worth anything between 90,000 and 100,000. It's now back on the road again."

Back Home Again

One of the Moray Firth's best known characters is back where it belongs after a year long disappearing act. Dolphin lovers feared they had lost Runny Paint forever when it suddenly took off last spring. But the beautiful creature - famed for its unusual white dorsal fin - has been spotted swimming off the shores of Findochty. The sighting was made recently by Peter MacDonald, chairman of the Friends of the Moray Firth Dolphins. It has delighted dolphin watchers, who have been scouring the seas for Runny Paint for the past 12 months. A few sightings were made of him last year in the water around St Andrews and it looked as though Runny Paint was on a permanent vacation. Local enthusiasts wondered why he had taken off after spending over 10 years in the firth. Boat survey officer with the Moray Firth Dolphin Trust Ellie Dickson said: "Dolphins do tend to group and then regroup, so that is what could have happened here. "It is worrying when a dolphin suddenly disappears and you do start to think that it may have died of natural causes or by other means. "Runny Paint was seen recently with a group of 15-20 dolphins including calves." Janie Archer, who helps run the Moray Firth Wildlife Centre at the river mouth said: "Runny Paint is one of the best known dolphins because of its dorsal fin. It looks as though someone has thrown a tin of paint over it. He - or she - is the only dolphin that can be recognised from the shore."

Secret from 1900

The historic Mercat Cross outside Inverness Town House is keeping guard on a secret treasure trove from a century ago. In May 1900 Inverness Town Council placed several coins and copies of local newspapers into the foundation stone holding the Mercat Cross and Clachnacuddin Stone. According to legend, if the Clachnacuddin Stone is removed from Inverness, the town could be destroyed and in 1900 the council - in response to the habit of Invernessians chipping off parts of the stone to keep as a reminder of the town when they move away - decided that it was in need of restoration. The refurbishment of the cross and stone, paid for by local MP and Solicitor General for England Sir Robert Finlay, was marked by Provost Macbean placing a number of items into a cavity in the foundation stone. As well as the coins and newspapers, these included a parchment marking the restoration of the cross. Modern day council officials admitted that they had not heard of the existence of the early time capsule, which remains in place outside the Town House. Highland Council archivist Bob Steward described the possibility of seeing what was inside the stone as fascinating, but admitted it could be a long time before anyone got their hands on the coins and newspapers. "I can't imagine when the stone would be moved," he said.

Charity Event

A Smithton fund-raising event held in memory of local man Steven Tennant, who died from a brain tumour, raised a total of 885.30. Of that 700 will be donated towards cancer research work with the remaining cash going to a local good cause.

Political Roundup

Scottish Executive Commitment

The launch of a new lifeline ferry for the Small Isles has re-affirmed the Scottish Executive's commitment to state owned operator, Caledonian MacBrayne. The assurance by transport minister Sarah Boyack came in the wake of a European Commission ruling that the public company's ferry routes must be put out to competitive tender. Ms Boyack said the investment demonstrated the executive's commitment to maintaining and improving the provision of high quality ferry services to the Highlands and Islands.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Bright/sunny spells. Occasional showers, mainly in N and NE. Winds mod/fresh N-NW. Temperature 11c to 14c.
Saturday Night
Showers on N and NE coasts. Clear periods inland. Winds light/mod N-NW. Temperature 04c to 08c.
High pressure giving mainly dry and sunny conditions though rather cool. Winds light.
Mainly dry and bright with sunshine at times. Some showers inland. Light and variable winds.

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