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Caithness News Bulletins August 2004

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Presentation of the North Baths Medals
At Wick Swimming Pool
Patty Coghill from the friends of the North Baths came along to the swimming Club this Tuesday to present medals to all the children who took part in the swimming exhibition for the re-opening of the North Baths.

New SNH Officer Appointed For Caithness
Scottish Natural Heritage has appointed a new area officer for Caithness.
Working from the organisation's office in Golspie, Sally Ward will be developing links with land managers, other agencies, community groups, rangers and individuals across Caithness to help deliver the SNH remit of working with Scotland's people to care for the area's natural heritage.  Originally from Strathy and a former pupil of Strathy and Melvich primary schools and Thurso High school, Sally graduated from St Andrew's University in 1987 with a degree in Environmental Biology.

Work By Local Artist Julian Smith On Show National Wildlife Exhibition
Two pieces by local artist Julian Smith have been chosen from over 400 entries to be  exhibited at the Annual Exhibition of The Society of Wildlife Artists at the Mall Galleries in Central London.


The Continental Market is coming to Market Square, Wick, Caithness for a 3 day event starting on Friday 27 August. Traders will be selling food from various different countries including olives, tomatoes, fruit, chocolate, cheese and bread, not forgetting wine and cider. There will also be handbags, pottery and jewellery. Various musical entertainment will be played for the 3 days.  There will be about 30 stalls selling chocolate, cheese, garlic, fruit, veg, waffles, wine, cider,  olives,  sweets, biscuits, bread, honey, mustard, herbs & spices, soap, handbags, clothing, cookware, jewellery, table decorations, leather goods and plants.

The traditional music scene in Scotland this week received the excellent news of Gordon Gunn turning professional. From Wick in Caithness, Gordon is held in high regard internationally as a fiddle maestro. From early beginnings in the traditional fiddle competition scene, Gordon then played with Scottish dance band legend Addie Harper. He later played country style with the Ruby Rendall band, and was influenced by the brilliant American player Mark O’ Connor at summer schools.

The Highland Council's Caithness Area is encouraging more cruise ship passengers docking at Scrabster harbour to visit Thurso for shopping and entertainment in the town. This Caithness welcome to cruise ship passengers follows on from the success of an earlier visit this summer (3rd June) by the Black Prince cruise ship chartered by the National Trust for Scotland which called at Scrabster on the NTS annual cruise around Scotland.  Two more cruise ships are expected to dock at Scrabster: the "Funchual" with Morrison Tours on Thursday 26th August and the "Minerva" with Denholm Shipping on Monday 6th September.  Many of the ships passengers will be going on pre-arranged day or half day excursions to see visitor attractions and sites of interest in Caithness, however the remainder who do not wish to go on these trips are being enticed to visit Thurso on a shuttle bus which has been organised by The Highland Council.

Bedspread To Return To Halkirk From New Zealand
An historic bedspread, embroidered with 986 names, will soon be returned to its Scottish town of origin.   It was a gift to Sir John Ross and his wife, Margaret, well-known Dunedin benefactors notable for their gifts to Knox College, St Margarets College and Ross Home. Born in Caithness, Scotland in 1834, John Ross arrived in Dunedin in 1861 and went into partnership to establish the importing and wholesalers firm Ross and Glendining. Sir John travelled widely for his business, which grew to encompass the Roslyn Woollen Mill, sheep stations, and branches throughout New Zealand, in Melbourne and in London. He crossed the equator 23 times. In 1911, he gave money for an educational and social institute to be built on the site of his old school in the village of Halkirk, Caithness. The residents of the small village held a two-day bazaar to raise further funds for a clock tower they added to the building. In gratitude for the Ross's generosity, a ladies' work party made them a bedspread and people could have their names embroidered on it for the subscription of one shilling.  In September descendants will be in Caithness to hand over the bedspread to the Halkirk Village Council.

Time to Open our Eyes to Domestic Abuse
The first in a series of three posters designed by Zero Tolerance Charitable Trust for the Wellbeing Alliance went on display today for the first time in Highland.  The poster aims to bring the problem of domestic abuse into the public domain and for individuals and agencies to question their attitudes towards it.  Zero Tolerance is a high profile organisation that has conducted hard hitting media campaigns across Scotland on the issue of male violence against women and children.

An agreement that aims to provide people who require care in the community (hospital, residential or home care) with a better and faster service, less duplication and better use of resources has been agreed between The Highland Council and NHS Highland.  The Highland Community Care Partnership Extended Local Partnership Agreement reflects ministerial encouragement for the two agencies to deliver real outcomes for the public.  

Caithness will host two exciting workshops  at the end of August (Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th August 2004) focusing on some of the smaller Caithness mammals; 'Bats', and also some of the largest mammals; 'Cetaceans' (whales, dolphins & porpoise). A common theme of "eco-location" will run through the workshops as both animals depend on similar methods to navigate and capture prey.  The workshops have been organised by Rangers in The Highland Council's Planning and Development Service in an attempt to raise general awareness and to improve identification skills of the various species of bats and cetaceans which can be viewed around the county.

Caithness Minister Bill Wallace Hits Out At Current Shambles Over Maternity
“NHS Highland prompt action in dismissing unsatisfactory staff is to be welcomed. However,the current shambles over the Maternity services shouldn’t be allowed to be an excuse for down-grading the Unit at Caithness General. The public are clear about the type of Health Service they want. The Government, to their credit, have invested much new money into the NHS.  In the light of that it is unthinkable that the service for the future should be less than in previous years.

Sport in Caithness is to set to receive a £7500 cash injection.  RWE NUKEM, a major contractor working at Dounreay, has made a 5 year commitment to the Caithness Sports Council to provide financial assistance to support volunteers who provide coaching in Caithness.  The primary aim will be to provide individuals with financial support to gain sports coach qualifications, and to assist in the development and revalidation of existing coaches.  Steve Burness, the Senior Manager for RWE NUKEM at Dounreay commented “good coaching is important at all levels of sport, be it recreational or competitive, young or old.  We are all too aware of the increasing costs faced by volunteers to obtain the correct qualifications or maintain their qualifications through coach development or revalidation.

Lybster FC Narrowly Defeated in Highland Amateur Quarter Final Thriller
Lybster FC were narrowly beaten 4-3 by Back FC from the Western Isles in the quarter final of the Highland Amateur Cup on 31st July at neutral Ullapool.  The bald statistics, however, don't tell the true story of what turned out to be an epic game for excitement and goalmouth action. Back raced away to an early commanding lead of three goals to nil after just twenty minutes and, had by the half hour mark, missed a few other chances and grazed the ball against the face of the bar. The first goal was a stunning strike low into the corner of the net from around twenty yards out, the second was another good strike which took a wicked bounce as the Lybster keeper was getting down to make the cover save, the ball bouncing over the diving keeper. At two nil down, Lybster then had two efforts cleared off the Back line as they strove to get quickly into the game. Unfortunately another goal was conceded due to defensive frailties.

The Highland Council has welcomed to the Scottish Executive’s announcement made today by Minister for Finance and Public Services Andy Kerr, that local authorities will be given discretion to reduce the current 50 per cent discount on council tax on second homes and long-term empty properties.  The Council has been at the forefront of the campaign to persuade the Executive to remove the discount on second and holiday homes and also to allow local councils to retain the additional income gained for investing back into important local services.  Second and holiday homes account for over 6% of the housing stock in Highland, but in some areas it is as high as 30% or higher such as in the Ardnmurchan peninsula where they can account for 90% of the housing stock in smaller townships.

Award Winning Caithness Photographer John Baikie
Goes Full Time

Award winning Caithness photographer John Baikie has taken the decision to develop his hobby into a full time business.  John along with his wife Michelle, will run Caithness Photographic from their home in Castletown.  In recognition of his work, John was named as the Highlands and Islands Photographer of the Year at the 2003 Highland Media Awards.  According to John, who was previously employed as a technician with Rolls Royce at Vulcan: "It was a big step, finally deciding to give up my job and the security of a regular wage, but it's something I've always wanted to do, and now seemed like the right time to do it.  I've found that I have been in more demand recently, particularly since I won the Highlands and Islands Photographer of the Year award.

K P Technology In Wick
A New Company With A Great Future

KP Technology was set up by Prof. Iain Baikie to market surface analysis technologies, including the Kelvin probe which he has developed during his research career. This instrument can detect minute changes in the composition of the top layers of materials and has application in a diverse range of manufacturing and research activities including semiconductor wafer manufacture, solar cells, fuel cells, gas and optical sensors, and development of nano-engineered materials.  A visit was organised by CASE for Deputy enterprise Minister Lewis Macdonald to show him the potential of this highly innovative company at the cutting edge of a new industry

4 August 2004
Royal Opening of Loch Calder Water Treatment Works
His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, will officially open Loch Calder Water Treatment works, at Hoy, near Halkirk in Caithness on Monday 2 August 2004. The Royal Visit comes nearly 50 years after his grandmother, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, opened the original works in 1955. The brand new treatment works forms part of Scottish Water’s North Coast Regional Scheme – the biggest single investment in the water supply for the Highlands.  The £28 million scheme substantially improves the water quality supplied to around 30,000 customers in 13 communities in Caithness and along the north coast of Sutherland. The scheme serves an area of over 70kms from John O’Groats in the east to Tongue in the west.

North Action Group Joined By Politicians To Hear Board Consultation Proposals
North Action Group members once again made the over 200 mile round trip to Inverness from Caithness to hear the board discussions on the public consultation to begin on 9 August and run for three months. The North Action Group were joined by Caithness area convenor David Flear and three Highland MSP’s – Jamie Stone, Mary Scanlon and Rob Gibson. In addition Highland Council convenor Alison Magee who is also a Sutherland councillor added her voice to the proceedings.

SSP Letter Challenges Health Board Members Ahead Of Public Consultation Announcements
Luke Ivory the SSP spokesman for Caithness & Sutherland has challenged Health Board members in a letter   Mr Ivory challenges the centralisation mentality and appeals directly to Health Board members to reject the proposals being put forward in the consultation paper.  Mr Ivory claims  "SSP members have been dismayed by the level of misinformation emanating from your own officials, false statistics and pressure on employees to remain silent."

2 August 04
Closure of Wick Maternity Unit Would Be ‘tip of iceberg’ Claims Caithness Presbytery
‘All rural hospitals would be under threat.’

Members of Caithness Presbytery, the largest membership organisation in Caithness, are extremely concerned about the future of maternity services at Caithness General Hospital.  A report written by the Reverend Bill Wallace,  Minister of Pulteneytown and Thrumster Church, Wick says that the so called public ‘consultations’ held by successive Health Service management groups have one thing in common. They have shown that there is, in fact, no need to consult the public – there is a near unanimous view in the community that the retention of a Consultant led maternity service is the only acceptable option.

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