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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 9th September 2000
Issue No196

The Blind Piper of Gairloch

Moves are afoot to commemorate and promote the music of one of Scotland's greatest pipe composers, Iain Dall Mackay, the Blind Piper of Gairloch, who lived from 1656-1754.

Local historical and piping enthusiasts are seeking to organise a weekend festival next summer in honour of Iain Dall, who succeeded his father as piper to the Mackenzie lairds of Gairloch. They envisage it would include a senior piping competition for an Iain Dall Trophy and a junior competition for a Mackenzie Trophy, along with ceilidh and piobaireachd recitations. They also hope to erect a permanent memorial to Iain Dall, who studied pipe composition at the legendary Piping College at Boreraig, Skye, from 1678-85, under the most famous piper of all time, Padruig Og MacCrimmon. As part of the celebration, organisers hope to invite fitter folk to walk across part of North west Sutherland and sail from Scourie to Gairloch, a trip undertaken by Iain Dall 300 years ago. Gairloch Heritage Museum curator Janette French said: "We're hoping to find enough interest to form a committee to organise these events, but we'll certainly hold an exhibition on Iain Dall in the museum, which will possibly also include other local bards." Among enthusiasts is Alastair Pearson, mine host at the Old Inn, Gairloch, who has already persuaded a brewery to create a new beer, known as Blind Piper, in memory of the piping legend. Hotel manager Melody Chapman said: "Mr Pearson is very interested and he's even done a walk along with two pipers across part of Sutherland in the footsteps of Iain Dall." Bridget Mackenzie, of Dornoch, author of Piping Traditions of the North of Scotland, and an authority on Iain Dall said the blind piper's father, Rory, was probably born at Tongue, and was almost certainly piper to the chiefs of Mackay, before being forced to flee his home territory in 1609. Rory Mackay was married to an illegitimate daughter of the first Lord Reay, thus making Iain Dall a grandson of the Mackay chief. According to tradition, Rory cut the hand off a gentleman's servant in a tussle for the use of a boat. The Mackenzie chieftain of Gairloch was present and invited the piper to come to work for him, rather than face punishment. In exchange, Mackenzie sent Lord Reay a shepherd, whose descendants were living at Halladale, Sutherland, until recently. Iain Dall himself was born at Talladale, Loch Maree. Like his father, he did not marry until in his 60s, but subsequently fathered two sons and a daughter. His older son John, emigrated to Nova Scotia, to be followed by most of Iain Dall's Gairloch descendants in 1805. His younger son, Angus, followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps as piper to the Mackenzies of Gairloch. There are still descendants of the great piper in Nova Scotia, one family of which owns a chanter said to be his. Mrs Mackenzie said: "Iain Dall was a great composer, who composed between 24 and 30 pibrochs. A dozen still survive, the best known of which is the Lament for Padruig Og MacCrimmon. He also learned the art of Gaelic bardachd (poetry) from Padruig Og. Not much survives, but what remains is excellent." John Mackenzie of Gairloch, present chieftain of the Gairloch branch of the clan said: "He was a terrific piper, and lived in Flowerdale Glen. I'm very much in favour of his music."

New Centre Opens

A new genealogical research and exhibition centre at Northton in Harris was opened recently by Deputy Minister for Tourism and Western Isles MSP Alasdair Morrison. Opening Seallam (Let Me Show You) Heritage Centre, Mr Morrison said tourist facilities that appealed to specialised or niche markets were the way ahead for the Scottish tourist industry. Seallam Heritage Centre will house the genealogical research business, Co Leis Thu?, and a main exhibition area that will focus on the story of the Western Isles and Harris, as well as occasional themed events. Mr Morrison said Northton would never have happened if it had not been for the genealogical pioneering work by Bill Lawson and his wife Chris over the years. He added: "Genealogy has been identified as one of the main niche tourism markets by the Scottish Executive Tourism Review. "It motivates tens of thousands of people because they want to discover their roots and their heritage. I myself have been in touch with Morrisons on a visit to Washington recently. "To have a resource in Harris like this is fantastic and it is also in a splendid situation." The centre will provide three jobs at present. Finlay Macrae from Scalpay is the manager. Along with him will be Norman Morrison from Seilebost, the research assistant who has worked with Co Leis Thu? for five years and Marina Macleod from Rodel, the receptionist.

Politician's Papers Auctioned

Documents collected by an 18th century Inverness-shire born politician went under the hammer recently at Sotheby's in London and fetched 97,750. The boxes of documents, which included letters from leading thinkers of the time, were sold as one lot to an English collection. It had been estimated the six boxes of papers would fetch between 60,000 and 80,000. Sir James Mackintosh regarded himself as a failure who never succeeded in maximising his great potential. However, the Aldourie born writer who lived between 1765 and 1832 was in touch with some of the most influential men of his time, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the opium addicted playwright, and T.R. Malthus, the economist. Born on the shores of Loch Ness and initially educated at Fortrose, Sir James became MP for Nairn and in a diverse lifetime had an influence on philosophy, law and journalism. The present archive sold by a descendant of Sir James, includes correspondence from Coleridge in which the playwright discussed one of his works in progress.

Path Network Now Open

A network of Nairn pathways was officially opened recently by TV personality Magnus Magnusson. The 30 kilometres of paths have been created and signposted by the Paths for All Partnership which has also produced a leaflet guide. The paths range from short, level ones to more arduous affairs and there is also a new off-road cycle route linking Nairn with Culbin Forest. The project is envisaged to help tourism in the area as well as improve the health of locals. Project officer Kenny Steele said: "Statistics show that more people come to Scotland to walk, ride and cycle than to play golf and ski. Market research also shows that most people want to enjoy countryside access in lowland areas, with only a relatively small percentage wanting access to hills and mountains. "Evidence from other areas with promoted path networks, such as Dunkeld and Birnam, shows that well promoted paths can add significantly to the local economy, with more visitors staying longer and spending more money." Mr Steele added: "As well as boosting the local economy it is hoped that by promoting this welcoming path network to local people it will also give a boost to the health of the population. Walking has been shown to be the ideal exercise for maintaining good health and it costs nothing." The path network has been developed by the Nairn Tourism Management Programme, Highland Council, Cawdor Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage and Inverness and Nairn Enterprise.

Island Games

Shetland looks set to become the venue for the inter-island games in five years, after their only rivals pulled out of the running. As the deadline for bids closed recently, the Isle of Wight announced it was not going to apply to host the games in 2005. In July, Faroe also pulled out of the race, as a diplomatic gesture to its island neighbours during a recent goodwill visit. A disappointed spokesman for the Isle of Wight's games association said the local council had refused to support it in its desire to hold the games for the second time. In contrast, Shetland Islands Council's charitable trust voted to spend 130,000 on a study into the best way of setting up the islands for the event. The council has already agreed to underwrite the costs of hosting the event, which will bring 2,500 athletes to Shetland for a week. A council funded feasibility study into the games has outlined a need for an improved athletics track at Clickimin, a synthetic turf pitch in Lerwick, new squash courts, an improved golf club house at Dales Voe, and a new clay pigeon shooting range. The authority hopes commercial sponsors will help to meet the expense, and believe the whole proceedings could actually net the isles 7 million.

Glen Tribute

A plaque commemorating the grave of one of the heroes of the Jacobite rebellion in the Highlands was unveiled recently. The memorial in Glen Moriston is at the grave-side of Roderick MacKenzie of Glenmoriston. Mr MacKenzie, the son of an Edinburgh jeweller, was a member of Prince Charles Edward Stuart's party when the prince was fleeing the Duke of Cumberland's troops in July 1746, three months after the battle of Culloden. As he closely resembled the prince in age, stature and colouring, he allowed himself to be mistaken for the prince and, thus acting as a decoy, was killed by a redcoat patrol who believed him to be the prince. Mr MacKenzie's head was carried first to Fort Augustus, then to London for verification, by which time Bonnie Prince Charlie had made good his escape. Local clansfolk secretly buried Mr MacKenzie's body by the River Moriston where he fell. Recently the newly formed Fort Augustus detachment of 1st Battalion The Highlanders moved a two ton obelisk of rock from the forest above Fort Augustus to the grave side. The stone was lifted on to a military vehicle at Fort Augustus and then taken to the site at Glenmoriston, was positioned using only manpower, with the aid of rollers, ropes, pulleys and levers. The cadets carried out the project with the help of the local community, the Forestry Commission and the Clan MacKenzie Society of Scotland and the UK. A plaque for the stone was made by Nellie Leitch, a descendant of Mr MacKenzie. She attended the ceremony, along with clan society members, including the Clan Chief, Peadair MacKenzie, who unveiled the plaque at a ceremony.

Day Trips Galore

A programme of day trips from Inverness linking rail, bus and ferry services, has been put together by a transport group. The Highlands and Islands Public Transport Forum, a body formed from the region's main transport companies, councils and tourist boards, has put together the series of trips which end at the ens of September. They include a Highland grand tour from Inverness to Skye via Kyleakin, Armadale, Mallaig and Fort William; the Eilean Donan and Kyleakin tour; the Aviemore, Cairngorm and Strathspey explorer and the Far North Line and John O'Groats tour. Scotrail head of marketing Don Roberts said the package offered visitors a programme of days out from Inverness to the farthest corners of the Highlands. "At a time when there is concern about the impact of petrol prices on tourism, we are delighted that the Highlands and Islands Public Transport Forum has been able to put together such a diverse range of inexpensive trips to interesting destinations." The forum has produced a leaflet giving details of the trips which is available from rail and bus stations and tourist information centres.

Charity Event

Some of the volunteers who help to keep an Inverness based charity running smoothly have been recognised at a special ceremony. Highland Hospice relies on the endeavors of 400 volunteers working in the Inverness care facility, its eight charity shops across the Highlands and as fundraisers. The latest ceremony was held in the Netley Centre of Highland Hospice and saw Inverness Provost Bill Smith hand out badges to the latest volunteers.

Political Roundup

Crown Estates Profits Blasted

John Farquhar Munro has reacted angrily to the news that the Crown Estate profits for the year ending March 31 rose by 5.6 per cent on the previous year with profits from the marine estate rising by 119 percent. Te Liberal MSP said: "This is a reminder of the greed of the Crown Estate who view the seabed as a milk cow. "Our fish farmers, working to create jobs in remote West Coast communities are faced by a production tax over and above business rates and other terrestrial taxes. Meanwhile the Crown Estate, in their Westminster offices, could not be bothered to challenge MacLeod of MacLeod's ownership to the Cuillins, in the name of the Scottish people. "It took a great deal of arm twisting from the Scottish Parliament to coerce them to look into ownership. It looks to me as if they are happy to take our money but are not quick to represent Scottish interests."

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloudy/rain in the N. Showers mainly in W. Sunny spells. Winds fresh SW, becoming mod W. Temperature 12c to 18c.
Saturday Night
Cloudy with spells of rain in W. Drier in E. Winds mod W. Temperature 3c to 6c.
A mainly dry and sunny day. Cloudier later p.m. with outbreaks of light rain/drizzle.
Cloud and rain or drizzle in W will move E during day, followed by broken cloud and scattered showers.


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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