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Caithness News Bulletins February 2009

Caithness Countryside Volunteers

Bird Watching


Biodiversity Section

Caithness Community Awards 2007/8

Good neighbour Award – Eric Farquhar

Presented by Willie Watt – Subsea 7

This gentleman is one of the unsung heroes of the county in general and of Wick in particular.  He is involved in a wide variety of voluntary activities – care homes and charities are tirelessly supported, he works with the local primary schools, supports the work of Dunbeath and Wick heritage centres, is a leading member of Wick players,  Pulteneytown Peoples Project and regularly guides visitors and students around Caithness.  However, it is for being a caring neighbour that he has been nominated for this award.  As good neighbours go he is described as being “beyond praise” – he takes care of simple everyday tasks for his neighbours such as grass cutting, looking after wheeliebins, inviting lonely pensioners for dinner, and visiting care homes and hospitals, never forgetting his old friends and neighbours.  He is totally committed to his family, friends and the wider community.  He is a ”neighbour in a million”. 


Achievement in the Arts – James Ross Presented by Pat Gallagher, Rolls-Royce Vulcan

This award goes to a young lad who has left the county and gained national recognition within the field of music.  He is a hugely talented pianist and composer at the beginning of his music career and has produced pieces for the Caithness Orchestra, the Blas Festival and Celtic Connections, to name but a few.  His music is strongly influenced by his Caithness roots and the local landscape and he maintains strong links with the county.  He was recently shortlisted for composer of the year in the Scottish Traditional Music Awards and his most recent work, “Chasing the Sun” was performed in the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, on 26 January.  He was initially taught by Addie Harper and Emma Bruce (both of whom were recognised at the previous Community Awards) and is a quiet, unassuming young man who is an inspiration to other young musicians.  James Ross, Caithness is very proud of you and recognise your achievement.


Young Achiever in the Arts – Erica Sinclair Presented by George Bruce, OBE  Caithness Partnership  

This young lady, also at the beginning of what we hope will be a glittering musical career, was a high ranking finalist at the Highland Young Musician of the Year competition in 2008 where she represented Thurso High School.  Aged just 17 she is a promising young clarinet player, and has appeared at many musical events throughout the county and on a number of occasions with the Caithness Orchestra and at Thurso High School events.


Outstanding support to the Arts – William Wilson Presented by David Brookfield, Pentland Community Enterprises

This gentleman has worked tirelessly  for the arts in Caithness for more than thirty years.  He is the mainstay of the Lyth Arts Centre and as well as bringing quality music, theatre and exhibitions to the county he has made the centre available for workshops for local people to realise their potential and push out the boundaries of their abilities.  He has consistently encouraged people to participate in the arts in Caithness and has encouraged and exhibited the work of many local artist including paintings, sculpture, photography and jewellery.  He is, of course, William Wilson,.  Unfortunately William can’t be here today as he is currently in London working on next season’s programme of events in Lyth but his colleague Freyja King-Macgregor will receive the award on is behalf.  William has sent this message thanks:

"It is with sincere thanks that I welcome this award and I’m grateful to all the sponsors who have made this award scheme possible. Although promoting the arts in Caithness is far from an easy task, the rewards it brings include the privilege of meeting some of the most talented people of our age and sharing with my fellow Caithnessians the joy of experiencing that talent at first hand.This is a time when Lyth Arts Centre is facing a very uncertain future and this award gives us the encouragement we need to believe in the importance of the Centre's work and to strive to see it continue into the future.” undefined 

Achievement in Sport Award – Caithness Small Bore Rifle Teams 2007 & 2008 Presented by Sheona Campbell, North of Scotland Newspapers 

In 2007 this team of sharpshooters made history by being the first Scottish team to win the BSA Cup since it was presented in 1921.  The trophy is open to all counties, districts and states of not just Great Britain, but the Commonwealth.  In 2007, 88 teams from Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada competed for this trophy with the Caithness winning team beating the previous year’s winners, Auckland, by 88 points.


Each competitor is required to shoot two targets, giving a maximum score of 2400.  The Caithness team score was 2362, which was not only the highest score, but also a new British record.

As well as winning the BSA Trophy, Caithness won the Alexander Challenge Trophy for being the highest scoring Scottish team in the competition.


In 2008, the team, spurred on by their captain, were determined to retain the BSA Trophy.  Again there was a high entry from Great Britain and the Commonwealth and the Caithness team was victorious for the second consecutive year, beating Auckland by a single point.  They also broke their own British record by a further 3 points.


In two years these teams have been the first Scottish Team in 86 years to win the competition, won and retained the BSA Cup, and made two British record scores.  I’m pleased to say they are not stopping there and are already preparing for the BSA 2009 competition, aiming to maintain their high standard and be champions again.   We are fortunate to have eight members from both the 2007 and 2008 Caithness Small Bore Rifle Teams, led by their captain, John Sinclair,


Young achiever in Sport Award – Rona Plowman Presented by Margaret, Viscountess Thurso 

This young lady has been making a name for herself for her achievements as a swimmer.  A member of both Wick and Thurso Swimming Clubs, she has represented Caithness at Highland level winning competitions at increasingly higher levels and is now swimming at junior Scottish level.  She travels long distances to attend competitions, and was  a star performer at a recent meet in Westhill, Aberdeen, where she broke 6 Thurso Swimming club records, one District record and created a new Scottish Age Group record time over 50 meters.  She is extremely dedicated to her training, so much so that arrangements have even been made for the swimming pool at Thurso to be opened early in the morning so that she can train before going to school every day.  She is in her third year at Wick High School, and although aged just 14, is considered as a potential candidate for the Commonwealth Games in 2014. 


Supporting others to achieve in Sport – Eileen Farquhar Presented by Jock Campbell, JGC Engineering 

This lady was a high achiever in sport in her own right and was a county champion badminton player in the 1970’s.  However, she is being honoured today because of her dedication to helping others to participate in the sport.  Over 25 years ago she started the Lybster Junior Badminton Club and still runs the club today.  The club runs every Wednesday in Lybster Primary School during the school terms and has two age groups – 7-11 years and 12- 16 years and this lady takes both classes herself.  She introduces children to the game of badminton and then goes on to develop their skills.  She organises and transports them to the annual Junior County Championships and has produced several Junior County Champions over the years.   She refers to them as “her bairns” and even the ones now in their 30’s are still referred to as “one of her bairns”.  All the children who have attended the badminton over the years, and there have been many, hold this lady in the highest esteem, as do all their parents. 


Supporting others to Achieve in Sport – Joan Manson Presented by William Calder, Scrabster Seafoods 

This lady has been the driving force behind the formation of the Wick Amateur Swimming Club.  The Club was only formed in 2003 but already it has over 100 members swimming in sessions six days a week, 52 weeks a year. 


As well as coaching the younger swimmers this lady is always keen to pass on her swimming experience to the less experienced poolside helpers.  She also arranges training for the officials of the Club and other activities which ensure that the Club will go on to become even more successful that it is now.  As we heard earlier, there are exceptional young swimmers in the county and the Club has already produced Scottish Age Group champions, but a strong local club is essential to support such talent.  It is felt that, without the contribution of this lady, the Club’s successes might not have been possible.


Lifetime Achievement in Sport – Jim Buchan Presented by John Sutherland, Caithness Stone Industries 

This gentleman is extremely enthusiastic about his sport and has been training junior golfers at Thurso Golf Club since 1972 and has given many local golfers the foundation to their skills.   He has done this entirely voluntarily and the training was always offered free to young golfers, taking on a new group of youngsters every year.  For the last six years he has been a members of “Clubgolf”, a Scottish programme set up to encourage young people into the sport and this means that golf is now being integrated into the school curriculum.  His voluntary contribution golf over many, many years is acknowledged not only at Thurso Golf Club but throughout the county by the many golfers, some of them now granddads themselves, who proudly class themselves as “Jim Buchan’s lads”. 


Outstanding Courage Award – Catherine Bremner Presented by Councillor the Lady Marion Thurso

This lady set up the Caithness Spina Bifida Sufferers Society over 20 years ago and has given enormous amounts of her time working tirelessly to raise funds to support families of spina bifida sufferers.  Her understanding and knowledge of how this condition can affect those closest to the sufferers comes from personal experience as her son Alan was born with spina bifida.  Sadly, Alan died 3 years ago aged only 23 years.  Despite the loss of her dear son, this lady has shown tremendous courage and continues to devote her time and energy to helping other families by raising funds to buy and maintain special equipment, provide welfare and provide spina bifida sufferers and their families with much needed breaks and holidays as well as personally providing the families with invaluable moral support. 


Guest Speaker - Dr Peter Hughes, OBE: originally from Laws in Lanarkshire, Dr Hughes is Chief Executive of Scottish Engineering, the major sectoral support and lobbying organisation for the manufacturing engineering industry in Scotland.  

 Dr Hughes enjoys a very busy career, having represented various Scottish and UK bodies at national and international level, and he was a materials adviser for the DTI in London for many years.

He is a regular spokesman on Scottish affairs via television, radio and press, particularly regarding matters affecting the Scottish manufacturing engineering sector.  He has held a number of prestigious public appointments for both the Scottish and UK governments and has been awarded three honorary doctorates in science and engineering from Scottish Universities


Dr Hughes is a former Scottish Internationalist footballer at schoolboy and youth level, and scored the winning goal for Scotland against England for the Scotland Under-18 Youth Team, which won the British Youth International Championship 1964-65, with victories over all the home nations.  He is still a keen sportsman who enjoys tennis, golf and curling.


Peter is a keen musician with his own folk group “East Coast Haar” and plays a variety of instruments, which he uses during presentations at schools, colleges and universities around the country to promote engineering and the “Make it in Scotland” campaign. 



 Best Community Project – Laurandy Centre Presented by Dr Peter Hughes OBE, Scottish Engineering 

The Laurandy Centre in Wick provides day care services to over 60 older people each week. It provides a key role in helping people to be able to stay in their own homes and communities for longer that they might otherwise be able to. The centre works well with the local Community Care Team, the Care at Home Service and health service staff, supporting early discharge from hospital and preventing emergency hospital admission. Figures from 2007/08 indicate that it enabled nine patients to return safely to the community.  Although some core funding is provided by Highland Council it is a community-run project and much of the Centre’s activities can only take place because of local fundraising and its success in this respect is built on the support and loyalty the centre has generated among the local community. 

In the words of one of the users of the Laurandy centre, “This is a wonderful centre to go to.  Margaret the manager is always there for us.  She is always pleasant and smiling.  We get Christmas presents and birthday presents and it is an excellent service.  It has really changed my life.”

Mrs Margaret Allan, Laurandy Centre Manager, will accept the award.


Outstanding Voluntary Leadership – Tommy Bean Presented by Michael Dunnet, DSRL 

This gentleman has been nominated for his incredible record of voluntary activities within his home community of Wick and the wider Caithness community.  He has given of his time and experience to help the Wick Youth Club improve its facilities and has been a youth leader 3 nights a week for over 20 years.  He has worked unstintingly for the local branch of ENABLE, improving the quality of life and opportunities for young people in Caithness with learning disabilities and is always there for anyone who needs his help or support.  He was founding member of the Caithness Canine Club and his efforts there are much appreciated by his colleagues.  A relentless volunteer, he is an active member of Wick Town Improvements and Christmas Light Committee and when it looked as though the Wick Gala was in difficulties last year this gentleman knocked on doors and asked the people of Wick to lend their support and, thanks to his monumental effort, saved the tradition that is Wick Gala Week.  He is described as a fine, upstanding and modest man and one of those key people who make a group of people a community.


Outstanding Voluntary Leadership – Betty Sutherland

The Award was presented at Mrs Sutherland's home by Miss Anne Dunnett, Lord-Lieutenant of Caithness & Cllr. The Lady Marion Thurso


This lady has given selflessly for 50 years to the Thurso Town Improvements Association.  There is not really time to describe just how much she has achieved in those 50 years but, as both office bearer and as a member, she has clocked up uncountable voluntary hours just organising and attending meetings alone.  Over the years her role has been organising events, helping out no matter what tasks were needed, coming up with ideas and suggestions for improvement in the community, then seeing them through to completion.  During her time with the Thurso Town Improvements the group provided, and continue to add to, the spectacular Christmas lights in the town, the town’s boating pond, playingfields, and many other facilities and are currently raising money to build a youth shelter for young people to meet and socialise in the centre of town.  This lady not only gave her time helping to organise these things but donated baking, raffle prizes, and fundraised.  She also helps other good causes and with her good friend Lizzie Angus has raised thousands of pounds for cancer charities.  She is a huge inspiration to others and a tremendous example of the dedication and generosity of voluntary leadership.

Voluntary Leadership Certificate – Mike Potts

Presented by Cllr Katrina MacNab

This gentleman is another who works tirelessly for a number of organisations in the county including HomeAid, the Round Table and Thurso in Bloom without whom the floral displays that delight both the residents and visitors to the area and for which Thurso has become noted, would not have been possible.  He is well known for his dedication to the environment, he is a pioneer of recycling in the county, and is currently spearheading a scheme that is turning trash into cash, collecting cans for recycling and raising money for Thurso in Bloom.  He is also working with the Caithness schools using his expertise to encourage youngsters to understand and take an interest in gardening and learning how to grow things.


Young Volunteers Certificate – Robin Falconer Presented by Miss Anne Dunnett, Lord Lieutenant of Caithness 

This young man is just 17 years old and has already gained a strong track of voluntary activity in the community.  He has been a youth leader with the Scouts for a number of years, has been an active member of Youthbank and various holiday clubs for children and he has been instrumental in trying to establish a youth café.  He was a participant on the Highland Lottery awards panel and was elected onto the Wick High School pupil council.  He was recently elected as the chairperson of Highland Youth Voice.  He is described as friendly and popular with both his peers and adults and is always helpful and willing to help others. 


Young Volunteers Certificate –  Arlene Sutherland Presented by Miss Anne Dunnett, Lord Lieutenant of Caithness 

 Pupil of Thurso High School, this young lady is our youngest winner tonight, aged just 12, and since she was eight years old, she has been contributing to young peoples groups run by Ormlie Community Association in Thurso.  She has been lending a helping hand running sessions for 7-8 year olds and regularly volunteers her help with other activities and offers support to others when needed.  She takes a lead in fundraising activities and is also a good public speaker.  She is always encouraging, supportive and patient with the younger children and nothing is too much trouble for her and she is a great asset both to Ormlie Community Association and the wider community.


Lifetime Contribution to the Fishing Industry – Norrie Bremner Presented by Dr Peter Hughes, OBE, Scottish Engineering 

This gentleman has been involved with the fishing industry for more than 60 years.  He was a prolific skipper and was always ahead of the game with regards to new technologies, being one of the first skippers to install sonar equipment on his boats.  He owned and skippered vessels which on more than one occasion achieved the highest annual catch of the Scottish fishing fleet.  He represented the interests of the Scottish fishing industry to government and other organisations providing them with a knowledgeable person to turn to for information and advice and appears in Hansard, the publication of the UK Government, where he was described during a parliamentary debate as a pioneer within the industry. The Boy Andrew and the Opportune are well known to fishing communities throughout the north and his contribution to the Caithness economy as a businessman and employer has been invaluable.

 As a volunteer he served as a member of the Wick Harbour Trust for many years and as a skipper was involved with numerous sea rescues.


Sponsors Award for Outstanding Contribution to Caithness – George Bruce, OBE Presented by Councillor David Flear 

This award is out of the ordinary for the Caithness Community Awards. Normally, members of the Awards Committee are not entitled to receive an award through the scheme.  However, in the case of this individual, the sponsors felt it was justified to create a special award, the Sponsors Award, because one of the committee members was truly deserving of recognition for his contribution to the wellbeing of the Caithness community over many years.  This gentleman was elected to Wick Town Council in 1962 and has become well known throughout the county as a tireless campaigner for Caithness.  When it comes to getting the best for Caithness people he has never been afraid to stand up and be counted.  His vision, eloquence and dogged determination has ensured that on most occasion that he has taken up the cudgel on behalf of the county, the battle has been won.  Just a few years ago, as chairman of the North Action Group, he was central to a successful campaign to save maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.  His contribution to ensuring the best possible local health services go back many years. He was a member of the Health Board from 1997 to 2001, and chaired the Caithness & Sutherland Health Trust and the Caithness & Sutherland Health Council.   He has also contributed to the strength of the business community was an active member of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce serving as chairman, president and then, most recently, as secretary.  As well as being chair of Caithness Partnership for a number of years he works for the Caithness Mental Health Support Group giving many, many hours of his time helping that worthy organisation to provide support for vulnerable adults in our community.  He is, of course, Mr George Bruce.