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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 29th July 2000
Issue No 190

Clan Chief Makes Cuillins Offer

The clan chief who wants to sell the Cuillins has offered to call off the sale - if the Government stumps up for repairs to his castle.

John MacLeod of MacLeod put the Skye mountains up for sale for 10 million to raise cash to repair Dunvegan Castle. But earlier this month, MacLeod, who built the castleinto a major tourist attraction since inheriting it in 1965, said that if money was provided from another source, he would drop the sale. He said: "If the Government showed themselves seriously interested in doing something in that respect, or anybody else for that matter, I would be happy. "I would love not to sell the Cuillins at all, but it's a question of the bottom line. "The bottom line is Dunvegan Castle. That's what I put as my priority, higher than even retaining ownership of the Cuillins." But MacLeod's offer to cancel the sale was not well received by MSPs and the Scottish Executive. A source said: "No, we are not going to repair the castle for Mr MacLeod. "The Cuillins are not going anywhere. It's not as if some foreign businessman can transport them overseas, and the Land Reform Bill will ensure everyone has access to them. We will not be held to ransom by MacLeod." SNP business manager Mike Russell MSP said: "If anyone else tried to balckmail the government into mending the roof of their house they would be told where to go. "If MacLeod wants to give his house to the state, then I'm sure the repairs will be carried out. "But if he wants to have his cake and eat it , he should forget it. This is an example of someone who doesn't realise their time has gone." Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan said: "Instead of repairing Mr MacLeod's castle roof, we should all have a whip round for a new tent, then allow him to pitch it on the Cuillins inside the nature reserve which these mountains should become. "He should be happy to pitch his tent there, never mind being allowed to sell off one of Scotland's best natural beauties. "If he thinks the Scottish public is going to shell out for repairs to his castle, he's in cloud cuckoo land." MacLeod came under fire from various quarters after putting the Cuillins up for sale. Some critics claimed that the asking price is too high, while questions were raised over ownership rights. Earlier this month, an investigation by the Crown Estate, which looks after Crown properties, concluded that there was no basis for a legal challenge over the ownership. A historical consultant claimed that the Dunvegan Charter of 1611, which returned land ownership from the Crown to clan chiefs, did not include the Cuillins. But the inquiry found no evidence of that. MacLeod said the investigation outcome had been a "huge relief". A number of groups have insisted they will continue the fight against the sale. Ian McColl, spokesman for the Ramblers Association, said: "What the Crown Estate is saying is that it could not challenge the MacLeod ownership in court. "This still leaves the question of public interest. And while it might be hard to challenge this on a purely legal basis, it still raises a political question and perhaps some more pressure can be applied. "We must ensure the future of the area lies in the hands of the community." Skye Independent councillor Allan Beaton said: "The Cuillins are pretty well safeguarded with all sorts of restrictions. "Anyone buying them would be hard pushed to do anything other than what the MacLeods have done for generations - leave them be for the people to roam."

Toast to the Bards

The accolade of a memorial supper should be extended to other major Scots poets besides national bard Robert Burns, according to an enthusiast here in the Highlands. Winemaker, hostel owner and writer Kit Fraser, from Moniack Castle, is organising a MacCaig Supper along the lines of a Burns Supper, in the dining room of his Ho-Ho Hostel in Inverness. The event, in honour of poet Norman MacCaig 1910-1996 is intended as the first of similar annual events over the next 10 years, each to commemorate a different Scottish poet. Gaelic scholar Dr John MacInnes of the School of Scottish Studies, will give the equivalent of the Immortal Memory, by speaking on the life and works of MacCaig. Mr Fraser, himself a kinsman of Lord Lovat, and Inverness writer Hamish MacDonald will give readings of MacCaig's poetry. "The three course meal will demonstrate how far Scottish cuisine has developed since the haggis and neeps of Burns' day," said Mr Fraser. "This is an opportunity for us to listen to poetry in civilised surroundings."

Spotlight on Castle Street

Local history enthusiasts from Inverness recently celebrated a thousand years of what experts believe to be the town's oldest street, Castle Street. Inverness Local History Forum organised an exhibition, which included two stagings, of an original play entitled 1,000 Years of Castle Street, in the town's Spectrum Centre. The play featured young local drama students, acting out historical highlights in the street's history. The event included workshops on local archaeology, archive material,old maps and film footage by early local cine camera buffs. History forum chairwoman Sheila Mackay said the event was the forum's contribution to Inverness Millennium celebrations. It followed in the footsteps of a similar, smaller event held in the Town House last year. "We highlighted Castle Street, because it was possibly the first populated area of the town," said Mrs Mackay."Many people remember the families who lived there in the 20th Century, the shops on both sides of the street and its importance to the infrastructure of Inverness. "Unfortunately, many local people, especially young folk, know very little of their own town. How many, for example know that Bruce recaptured Inverness Castle in 1307."

New Website

A new website detailing the wealth of historical material to be found in Scotland's archives has been unveiled. The public screening of a test version of the site took place at Orkney College during a visit recently to the islands of Alan Borthwick from the Scottish Archive Network Project. He said the site should go fully on line on St Andrew's Day. Mr Borthwick was in Orkney to provide summaries for the site of the contents of 47 archives across Scotland. Mr Borthwick said there could be as many as 25,000 separate collections of material in the archives. Once on line, the website will answer many of the questions archivists get asked.

Ancient Monastery

A team of archaeologists arrived at the tiny Easter Ross village of Portmahomack last month. Its mission this year is to prove beyond dispute that Tarbat, on the edge of the present village, was once the site of a Pictish monastery, and to establish the economic and political importance of the former settlement in the long vanished kingdom of Pictland. This is the archaeologists' fifth summer season. Members are again directed by leading archaeologist Professor Martin Carver from the University of York. They will work as before on the area surrounding Tarbat Old Parish Church, now splendidly restored as the base for Tarbat Discovery Centre, which displays a selection of the best local archaeological finds to date. In his programme for the season and for research to follow this year's dig, Prof Carver says: "The overall objective is to determine the ecology, economy and ideology of the Tarbat site and its role in the politics of Pictland." This summer's dig started last month and ends on September 1. It heralds the end to initial excavation phase, as the team will not return next year.

Guns Ablaze

A dramatic exchange of fire between Fort George and a meticulously re-created 18th century sailing ship set the scene recently for a special rendezvous outside Inverness. The appearance by the Grand Turk at Muirtown basin coincided with another major nautical event which took place along the length of the Caledonian Canal. The Grand Turk arrived in the Highlands as part of a high profile voyage to promote conservation work being undertaken around the country's coasts by the National Trust for Scotland. Costumed interpreters on board lead visitors on a trip back in time and show off the rigging and canons as well as the captain's quarters. The ship, which has been turning heads everywhere it has gone, did so in dramatic fashion when it made a trip to Fort George for a spectacular exchange of fire. Its appearance coincided with the inaugural Great Glen Raid, a major nautical event celebrating traditionally built craft.

Looking for the Best

Students from across the North have been invited to take part in a competition to mark the wartime alliance between Britain and the United States. The US Embassy and the UK Department of Education and Employment have launched a national essay contest for all pupils aged between 14 and 16 to celebrate the pact between the two countries during World War II. Inverness East, Nairn and Lochaber MP David Stewart has written to schools in his constituency, inviting them to take part in the contest. The competition asks pupils to write an essay recording the wartime experiences of close family members. They will be asked to recall how the wartime alliance between Britain and the US affected their families, their communities and life in the UK generally. Mr Stewart said: "It is important that we all recognise the sacrifices that were made during wartime and pay tribute to those who fought to secure our freedom."

Charity Event

Making a rare summer appearance for a special boy, Santa joined 9 year old Paul Smith from Inverness to launch a Christmas Carol competition for a child's cancer charity. Paul, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year and is now in remission, was asked to launch the event after he raised over 1300 for the Sargent Cancer Care for Children charity from a sponsored swim.

Political Roundup

Run Out of Steam

SNP leader Alex Salmond has claimed the Labour dominated Scottish Executive has "run out of steam" and that it was time for SNP rule. Mr Salmond said: "Recent times in the Scottish Parliament has shown the administration in a state of drift, with nothing to offer beyond recycled announcements and a London led agenda. "It is the SNP that now has the political initiative. After just a year in office, this shambolic government has run out of steam in Scotland. "A year into the parliament - and a year before the next Westminster election - it is the SNP that is the strong force in Scotland's new democracy, with our clear vision of independence and a better Scotland."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Heavy thundery showers. Bright spells. Localised fog. Winds light/variable. Temperature 13c to 19c.
Saturday Night
Isolated showers. Clear spellls. Mist/fog near coast. Winds light/variable. Temperature 8c to 11c.
Early mist clearing to scattered cloud and sunny spells. Risk of odd showers pm. Light winds.
Early mist/fog clearing. Mainly sunny with a few showers inland. Showers dying out later. Light winds.

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