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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 15th July 2000
Issue No 188

Balmoral Castle's Secret

A remarkable find of 19th century letters has revealed how Queen Victoria bought the Balmoral estate after being left a vast fortune by a miser.

The Queen was left the 500,000 inheritance in 1852 - the equivalent of 24 million today - by John Camden Nield, an eccentric recluse who was besotted with her. Although the young 33 year old Queen neither knew nor met Nield, the old bachelor left her his entire fortune because he said she would use the money wisely. The only hint Victoria ever gave of her huge secret windfall was in her personal diary. In her 1852 journal she wrote: "A very handsome fortune had inexplicably been bequeathed to me by a Mr John Camden Nield. He knew I would not squander it." But even when writing in her personal diaries she never revealed how much he had left her or how she spent the money. In his will Nield made only one condition, which the young Queen complied with - that she look after his staff and give them employment after his death. The 150 year old secret has come to light in a bundle of 31 documents and legal papers which were auctioned recently. The confidential letters and documents, some on Balmoral notepaper, were written to Charles Morton - the Queen's solicitor in Edinburgh - who secretly negotiated the purchase of the Highland estate. Nield was the son of James Nield, a 19th century philanthropist, prison reformer and jeweller. When his father died, John inherited the family wealth and went on to make another fortune himself, but in the process became an eccentric recluse and the more money he made the more he wanted. He died in London in 1852 aged 72. Four years before, Victoria and Albert rented Balmoral Castle from the Duke of Fife and liked it. So, after receiving her secret windfall on the death of Nield, Victoria instructed her Edinburgh lawyer to buy Balmoral. In fact, she was so determined to buy the property she made the duke such a good offer he could not refuse. Negotiations took place for three months and on June 22, 1852, Queen Victoria paid 31,300 from her private inheritance and became the new owner of the 17,500 acre estate. It has subsequently provided the private Highland holiday retreat for five British monarchs. Once the deal was signed Prince Albert, with the help of architect Thomas Cubitt and Aberdeen builder William Smith, spent 15 months drawing up plans for a new castle. The old whitewashed castle was completely razed to the ground and the foundation stone for the young Queen's new fairytale castle was laid on September 28, 1853. David Park of auctioneers Bonhams said: "We have no idea how these 31 letters, many still in their envelopes with Penny Red stamps, came to be in the public domain but they are most interesting. We assumed letters like these would be in the royal archives."

Church Historical Find

An old iron anchor which has been recovered from Loch Sunart is thought to have played an important part in West Highland history. It is believed to be the anchor which held the famous floating church which the people of Strontian used to reach by rowing boat in the mid 1800s. Father and son Gordon and Peter Blakeway, who run the Kilcamb Lodge Hotel at Strontian, discovered the relic while out walking on the loch shore. And they commissioned divers to retrieve the one and a half tonne hook, which is almost six feet long. Peter Blakeway said he and his father had seen only a small part of the anchor jutting out of the water. He said: "We first saw it in an extremely low tide. We just saw the top two inches sticking out of the water. It was half buried in the sand and it was impossible for us to lift it, so we sent the divers in." The floating church was created because in 1843 the disagreement within the Church of Scotland over the right of congregations to choose their own ministers resulted in the Disruption. That led to the then laird of Strontian refusing to give the Free Church anywhere to build a place of worship. In 1846, local people got round the problem by having a floating church built in Port Glasgow and towed to Loch Sunart.

Safeguard for Birds Hope

A massive tree planting operation near Inverness could help stem the alarming decline of the capercaillie. Around 65,000 trees have been planted at the Corriemony Nature Reserve near Cannich as part of an ambitious project to extend the Affric and Cannich native Caledonian pine forest. The first phase has been developed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds with support from the Forestry Commission's Woodland Grants Scheme and backing from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Bank fo Scotland. The trees, which include pine, birch and juniper were grown from Glen Affric seed. Explained RSPB warden, David O'Hara: "We have been working closely with the Forestry Commission and Scottish Natural Heritage to develop a scheme which will significantly change the look of the reserve over the next 10 to 20 year's. "The aim is to extend the existing native woodland and in the process provide a habitat which will benefit the black grouse and, in the longer term, capercaillie."

Midge Misery Over?

An aromatherapist is claiming to have created an effective natural deterrent for the common midge. Marina Heasman, who moved to midge ridden Borgie on Sutherland's north coast with her husband eight years ago, explained her motive for seeking a remedy arose from severe personal experience of insect bites. It was only after her experiments began to show success that she realised the commercial potential of her potions. She said: "The healing powers of natural oils are well documented, and the only damaging effect of this treatment is to the midge." Mrs Heasman's husband said: "I have used chemical antimidge preparations before I met Marina, but this is more user friendly and kinder to the skin." At Mackay's Shop, Durness, John MacKenzie said: "It sells well, and though I haven't tried it myself I think it definitely works, because tourists keep coming back for more and some locals are also buying it." Janet Cordiner, who works at Durness camp site, is an enthusiastic convert. "I suffer very badly from midge bites and it certainly works for me. It's great, and it smells nice as well," she said.

No Mod Cons

A long gone way of Highland life has been revived - with the first shieling to be built in some 200 years. But the shieling on the heights of Abriachan will not be lived in through this summer by young people herding cattle and making cheese of old. It will help today's recreational visitors imagine and understand how life was lived on these uplands when the clans still lived in the glens. Walkers will be able to use it as a rain shelter. In fine weather, this high ground offers stunning views of Loch Ness and the Moray Firth. Suzann Barr, of Abriachan Forest Trust said: "This is a work of art, really quite a deluxe shieling compared with the crude structures they would throw up each year in the old days. "They would put the children or older folk on the hill over the summer months to keep the cattle off the grain growing on the lower ground, and to make cheese with milk." The builder of the year 200 structure was Ullapool based drystane dyker and thatcher Brian Wilson, along with a small team. He said: "The shieling was the Highland equivalent off an igloo, in having a quite similar domeshape. "There have been no shielings standing for a very long time. They had mostly disappeared by the mid 18th century."

New Bridge

An extra dimension has been added to a popular walk at Flowerdale Glen, near Gairloch with the construction of a new bridge above the glen's picturesque waterfalls. Until recently, the thousands of walkers who use the footpath every year came to the end of the road at the waterfall, preventing them from completing the route as a circular walk. The project that also included the clearing of windblown trees around the falls and the construction of additional footpaths in the area has been driven by the local Gairloch and Conan Estate with funding also being provided by various partners. Estate manager Roger McDonald said: "This has provided walkers with a circular route which is more enjoyable than walking out to the falls and returning the same way."

World Wide Green Contact

A big hello was sent from the Highlands by pupils at Teanassie primary school when they showed off their personalised greeting cards recently, which were sent to welcome delegates to a major children's conference. The pupils had been working on a school project focusing on the Third World and were encouraged to get involved with the United Nations conference by visiting a workshop tutor. Held in Eastbourne, the UN's Millennium International Children's Conference on the Environment invited 1000 child delegates from around the world to present their projects on the environment to an audience. The nature workshop tutor who visits Teanassie, Marian Logie, approached the class about sending some of their project work to the conference. She said: " I thought about taking a pupil from Teanassie as a delegate but it would not have been fair for just one to go so we thought about taking their project work instead. "They decided on the idea of sending greeting cards with their individual photographs and addresses in them so they can strike up a correspondence with some of the other children. When I come back I will have direct feedback on the pupils' work from the delegates there."

Charity Event

A total of 600 was given to two Highland charities by the Culcabock and District WRI recently. Highland branches of Leukemia Research and Crossroads Care were each awarded 300. The cash was raised through a popular bingo evening and a bring and buy sale which included efforts of WRI member Cath Cascarino. Cath raised over 100 by making two dolls which were raffled off to the person who chose the correct birthday date of the "twin" dolls. An excess of 30 from the doll venture was also given to Highland Hospice.

Political Roundup

Road Closures Denial

"Doomsday" plans to reduce modern roads in rural Scotland to single track may be under consideration by some councils an MSP has claimed. But the suggestion from SNP transport spokesman Kenny MacAskill was roundly rubbished by local councillors. Mr MacAskill, a member of the Scottish Parliament's transport and environment committee, also claimed road closures were being considered by councils trying to balance scarce resources with crumbling infrastructure. The Lothians MSP refused to name a roads and transportation official on a rural council whom he claimed had told him that reducing two lane highways to single track was an option. The same official had suggested road closures, he said.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Occasional showers in the N. Broken cloud. Sunny periods. Winds light/mod N. Temperature 12c to 16c.
Saturday Night
Isolated showers. Clearing periods. Winds light/mod N. Temperature 6c to 9c.
Mist/fog soon clearing to a fine day of bright sunshine. Light/variable winds. Odd showers by night.
A few showers in the N. Mainly dry with broken cloud and some sunshine in most places. Light N winds.

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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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