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Caithness News Bulletins March 2004

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On Tuesday 29 March 2004 another man working for a sub-contractor in the Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay, was admitted to hospital with probable meningitis, though the type has yet to be confirmed.   Dr Ken Oates, Consultant in Public Health Medicine for NHS Highland said “On the basis that there is a strong possibility that this is a further case of meningococcal meningitis it has been decided to extend the offer of antibiotics to include all those who work on a regular basis in the Prototype Fast Reactor. Further advice and an update on the situation was given to all members of the workforce at Dounreay On Wednesday 30 March.”

30 March 04
Thurso Pipe Band have done all their final preparations for their journey to New York to participate in the well known Tartan Day Parade on Saturday 3rd April 2004.  The Band’s final preparations included their last practice, and a TV interview with North Tonight which will be shown before the band leaves on Wednesday, and the unveiling of a banner, which Band President Billy Gunn will be displaying when he marches at the head of the band at Saturday’s Parade in New York.

Caithness Castles and other fortified buildings
A history and guide to the strongholds and lairds houses of Caithness by Michael J. Gunn

This book, the culmination of more than forty years of research by the author, recounts the histories and family connections of more than one hundred Caithness strongholds. It documents the growth and development of all types of fortified buildings in Caithness commencing with the Iron and Bronze Age hill forts and brochs, through the Viking and Norse strongholds, to the medieval castles and towers and the later lairds houses.  We have seem the draft version of this book and it is likely to become one of the most sought after books on Caithness and with only 1000 copies in the first run may be out of print fast.  So if you would like to ensure you get a copy place and order with Michael Gunn now.

New regulations affecting the disposal of animal by-products will come into effect in the Highlands on Thursday (1 April). Over the past few months, representatives of The Highland Council's Technical, Environment and Community Services have been contacting affected businesses to explain the impact of the regulations and offer advice as to alternative means of disposal.  The regulations target concerns about possible sources of diseases such as BSE, CJD, Salmonella, and Foot and Mouth Disease and aim to protect public health and animal health by controlling the treatment and disposal of animal by-products.  A wide range of businesses are affected by the Regulations including farms, slaughterhouses, rendering plants, knackers' yards, food manufacturers, catering outlets, butchers, fish processors/mongers and food retailers.

SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands Rob Gibson has lodged a motion in Parliament calling for the Scottish Executive to undertake a strategic assessment of the Rail link between Inverness, Thurso and Wick.  MR Gibson lodged his motion after Highlands and Islands Enterprise published a report showing an increase in the amount of people using the railways in the Highlands. He sees this report a an excellent opportunity to construct a Dornoch Rail Bridge which would cut 45 minutes off the time that it takes to travel from Inverness to the far North.....

21 March 04
Huge Crowds Turn Out To Support Maternity Rally In Wick
he crowds turned out in huge numbers with estimates of over 2000 in support of the North Actions Group's call to support consultant led maternity services in Caithness.  From 2.20pm onwards the crowds lined up and eventually encircled the Caithness General Hospital before moving off down the Cliff and long Bridge Street and into Market Square

North Action Group Delivered Mothers Day Card To Maternity Unit
Members and supporters of the North Action Group delivered a large Mothers Day card to the staff at the maternity unit before the march to the rally began at Caithness General Hospital.   Many members of the committee of of North Action Group have been themselves or had relatives in the maternity unit.  they wish to ensure that future services are retained for the community in the future.

George Bruce Chairman Of North Action Group Overwhelmed By Support
George Bruce reiterated the north Action Groups intentions to fight all the way for maternity services in Caithness.  He thanked everyone for turning out in such large numbers and with few comparisons in recent years declared this the biggest show of felling the government has yet seen.  With other groups all over the country fighting to for other units there was little doubt that this was a force the MSP's in Edinburgh must take note of.

Rob Gibson MSP Calls For Cross Party Unity On Maternity Issue
SNP MSP for the Highlands and Islands has called for cross Party co-operation over the threatened Maternity Unit at Caithness General Hospital. Mr. Gibson was speaking at the protest and he said..."This is a chance for all shades of political opinion to get together to come up with constructive solutions to the problem of centralisation of the Health Service. What we need is a unity of purpose where we all speak with a clear voice."  "Ultimately the health minister cannot leave Caithness and north Sutherland in no-man's land."  Mr Gibson also called for health board members to be made accountable and face the ballot box.

Maureen Macmillan MSP Delighted At Support For Caithness Maternity Unit
MSP Maureen MacMillan stated her full support for the people of the north and their fight to retain consultant led services



Jamie Stone MSP Says "Only God Almighty Can Change Geography"
Jamie Stone MSP was he said amazed by the huge support at the biggest demonstration of its kind he had ever seen in the north of Scotland.  Outlining the reasons why the Health board and the Scottish Executive had to think again and referring to weaknesses in the Calder report he was given enthusiastic responses from the crowd for committing himself to do everything in his power to save services in Caithness General Hospital

Area Convenor David Flear Declares Highland Council & Councillors Support The Campaign
David Flear was firm in his statements that not only was highland council firmly on the side of the campaigners fighting to save consultant led services but they were asking that no decisions were taken until the results of the Council and HIE Impact Study was completed to show the social and economic consequences of running down maternity services on the north of Scotland.

Luke Ivory For Scottish Socialist Party Supporting Fight For Caithness Maternity Services  
Luke Ivory for the Scottish Socialist Party made a stirring speech in support of the people fighting to save maternity services.  He also added his party's voice to the growing demand to remove un-elected health board quangoes.  He said it was time to remove the un-elected "Placemen" of the Scottish Executive.  The suggestion found favour with the assembled crowd and he was cheered and clapped.

Aelex Bain Vice Chair Of North Action Group Vows To Fight Campaign With Everything
Thanking everyone for speaking and the crowds for coming Aelex Bain pledged that North Action Group members would be  carrying on the campaign with everything they could think of.  Aelex Bain has two children and has her own personal story of how without consultants being on hand in Caithness she would have suffered serious consequences.  Her story is echoed by others on the north Action Committee as well as many other women who have come forward to tell there own stories. 

Global Funds Begin To Come In From Caithness Connected Folk Everywhere
North Action Group are beginning top receive offers of financial support from round the globe as the Scots everywhere and particularly those with northern connections rally to the cause of retaining consultant led maternity services in the north of Scotland.  what began as a small campaign is turning out be a rallying call to the Scottish diaspora.  Donations To the fight To Save Consultant Led Maternity services in Caithness can be sent to Treasurer - Councillor Tom Jackson, 15 Upper Burnside Avenue, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7XA

Caithness Pipe Bands Join The Fight For Maternity Services
The spontaneous offers from three different pipe bands in Caithness brought together a big sound to lead the demonstrators at Caithness General Hospital and to lead the march along Bridge Street and into Market Square to hear from North Action Group and the assembled politicians.  The rousing sound hammered along Bridge Street and resounding in the Market Square urged folk to say "There is no way we can lose now and we will not give up" 

Call Goes Up To Scrap Unelected Health Board Quangoes
MSP Rob Gibson SNP and Luke Ivory SSP both called for an end to unelected Health Boards and that elections should be brought in to make the individuals accountable to the electorate.  In what may turn out to be an unexpected wake up call the crowds greeted the idea enthusiastically cheering and clapping each time the idea was suggested.  Calls to ensure that all the individuals are made known to everyone as soon as they take office after 1 April were in place.  NHS highland Health Board members will no longer be allowed to be faceless as the previous board were.   North Action Group members are to take every step possible to highlight who is on the new board.

North Action Group Calls On People To Attend Health Board Meetings From Now On.
All Health Boar meetings are open to the public but few people if any ever avail themselves of the opportunity to see them in action.  north Action Group hopes to change all that and have people attending every meeting until the maternity issue is settled.   the next meeting in on 6 April in Inverness and NAG is organising for people to attend and anyone without transport can contact NAG to arrange for a lift.  Depending on numbers a bus may be organised although this expensive.

Thurso Pipe Band All Set For Tartan Day In New York
The Thurso Pipe band are in their final preparations to travel over to  America to take part in the Tartan Day Parade in New York on the 3rd of April 2004. There will be in the region of 2000 individuals, including pipers, drummers and Scottish groups from around the World taking part in the cities 6th annual tartan Day Parade. The parade marches down 6th Avenue from 44th Street to 58th Street at Central Park. as well as the tartan Day parade the band will be playing at several other functions. The band departs for America on the 31st of March

Gaelic Student Wins Wallace Broadsword Prize In Gaelic Community Radio Competition
Jaqui Yuill, winner of The Highland Council's Gaelic Community Radio Competition receives the Wallace broadsword prize from Councillor Neil Clark.  The Highland Council's Gaelic Community Radio Competition is supported by the Gaelic Media Service and Burn Stewart Distillers PLC, makers of the Wallace Liqueur.  The aim of the competition is to encourage radio groups to develop Gaelic programming within their broadcast schedules and encourage Gaelic speakers to participate in Community Radio.

Wick Rally On Maternity Makes It On To BBC Highland Radio News
The BBC Radio Highland News gave coverage to the protest rally being organised by North Action Group on Sunday 21 March 2.30pm Mothers Day.  The item appeared at the end of the broadcast and can be heard by anyone with Real Player installed by following the link at the top of this item.

Murkle Man Gets Nine Months Jail for Cannabis Possession
41 year old Steven Morris was given a sentence of nine months imprisonment after having been caught with £1600 worth of the drug.  He had previous convictions.

Six Men Now In Hospital With Suspected Meningitis
The men all work at the Dounreay site and two were taken in yesterday with a further four today.  One man from yesterday is being treated at Raigmore.  Both of the two taken in yesterday are improving.  The other four have been taken into hospital in Wick as a precaution and do not show signs of the infection as yet.

Councillor Katrina MacNab Calls For Rally Support Over Hospital Issues On Mothers Day
Councillor Katrina MacNab who represents the Pulteneytown ward on Highland council and is also the manager of the Pulteneytown Peoples Project has added her voice urging people in the north to support the rally on Sunday 21 at 2.30pm Mothers Day.  Her letter which has also been published in the John O'Groat Journal today is to be found on the North Action Group web site.  Councillor MacNab has pointed out the link that many people are beginning to make in the danger to other hospital services including gynaecology, anaesthetics and so on if a domino effect was set in motion.

Halkirk 1983 Primary 1
Picture sent by Joanne Mackay and no doubt this one like many others will stir a few memories.  If anyone would like to add information to the picture please send in anything including any information on the one name Joanne has a question mark on.

Maternity Rally In Wick On Mothers Day Likely To Get huge North Support
At 2.30pm on Sunday - Mothers Day people fighting to save consultant led maternity services in the north are likely to see one of the largest public protests for many years.  After the large numbers who attended the protests during the day and later when Professor Calder came for his visit to look at the service many more are expected to come out on Sunday.  The fact that so many politicians have agreed to speak in the Market Square in Wick shows that the matter is a cross party issue and regarded with utmost importance.  Outwith an election seldom do so many agree to come so speak publicly on a single issue.  some folk are travelling a long way to Caithness to support the place where their children were born and can hardly believe that downgrading is being considered.  North Action Group accept that change will come but that change should include the retention of consultants in Caithness.

The Tomorrow's House Today Seminar which was originally due to be held on 30 January has now been rescheduled to Wednesday 14 April 2004, at Ackergill Tower, By Wick, Caithness from 09.00am until 16.30pm  The Local Economic forum for Caithness and Sutherland is organising this Seminar owing to a lack of available modern quality affordable housing which is seen as a major constraint to development. Sponsoring members of the forum include Ackergill Tower, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise and The Highland Council.  All interested parties, whether community housing association or groups, professional architects, builders or private developers as well as those with an interest in the latest low cost technologies for energy efficient housing for their own use, are invited to this Seminar with national and international speakers.

Caithness Guides Open A New Web Site
Caithness Guides and Brownies information can now be found on their new web site just launched.

Show Time At Pulteneytown Academy
The curtain came down after three shows in two days by the children of Pulteneytown Academy in Wick.  Wick players should not be short of talent for many years to come with some great performances and music coming via a state of the art sound system that showed off the singing to great effect.  The school has in recent years invested in modern stage, lighting and sound equipment and the kids really took advantage of it all in the performances.  Great show - well done everyone.

14 March 04
Getting Ready For "Wedding Belles"
By Wick Players On 1 April
The ladies were trying out the dresses at Wick Old Parish church as they prepared for "Wedding Belles" the latest production by Wick Players.  With many wedding dresses and bridesmaids outfits as well as other clothes for the production the wardrobe department is gearing up for a busy night.  The production will be performed in the church itself lending an appropriate backdrop for this fundraising production aimed at boosting the coffers and raise money for the new premises recently purchased by Wick Players.  Dresses have been loaned for the production and includes the wedding dress of the late Lady Jessamine Harmsworth.

Plenty To Set Science Festival Alight At The Sunday Opening

Check out the programme for talks open to the public

12 March 04
Duke Of Edinburgh Award Show Trailer At Dounreay

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Show Trailer, which was generously supported by TNT recently visited the Dounreay site, with the aim to encourage young employees working with UKAEA and Contractors to take up the challenge of participating in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.   Brian Lavery, Award Officer, Highland Council and Diane Gibson, Development Officer for the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Highland Award Project were on hand to speak to staff about the award. Billy Husband has agreed to take on the job of Unit leader in an effort to persuade the UKAEA and contractors to use the Duke of Edinburgh's Award as a tool for their employees on the site.

11 March 04
Expanding Business Opportunities
In Decommissioning At Dounreay

Simon Cole-Hamilton, Chief Executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce and Carol Gunn of HIE Network Decommissioning Task Force based in Thurso recently visited Dounreay to explore ways in which more members of the business community in his area could become involved in Decommissioning at Dounreay.  They are pictured here with Robert Nicol of UKAEA (right) who gave them a presentation on the Business Opportunities at Dounreay, which was followed a by a tour of the site.

10 March 04
A Caithness based children's nature group, organised by The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service Rangers are the winners of the Scottish Wildlife Watch Group of the Year Competition for 2003.   The group, 'Caithness Critters', won the Scottish Wildlife Trust competition which celebrates the achievements of Watch Groups around the UK and encourages the groups to keep a diary or yearbook of their activities through out the year.  The 'Caithness Critters', organised through Highland Council’s Rangers is a club for children aged 8 - 14 with an interest in wildlife.  The group meets every month to explore the great outdoors and learn about the wonders of nature.  Events take many different forms and over the past year have included forest treasure hunts, rock pool rummages, bat walks, gold panning, bird cake making and mini beast safaris.

Craft Residencies in Caithness, Lochaber and Wester Ross
Three nationally acclaimed craft artists-in-residence start work this week at schools in Caithness, Lochaber and Wester Ross.  Each artist has been specially selected by pupils from local schools who also chose the craft they wished to study. Applications were received from craft makers from all over the country and pupils in each area selected three to interview before deciding on the successful applicant. 

Caithness Science Festival - Sunday 14 - Thursday 25 March
The Caithness Science Festival gets going with a week of events for school children with a few events open to the general public with hands on demonstrations and lectures by scientists.  The events open to the public are on 14, 16, 18, 23 March.  the festival kicks off with three thirty minute science shows at Wick High on the 14th with Black Holes, Electronics in Miniature and Electronic Musical Instruments being the topics of later lectures.

Thurso V Halkirk At Recreation Park, Halkirk
On Saturday 6 March
The BIG Caithness Derby match is on Saturday 6th of March 2004. It is in the Morris Newton Cup Second Round, to be played at Recreation Park in Halkirk with a 2.30 pm kick-off. Should be a good game of football. Hope the weather is better than the last time the two teams played before Christmas when Thurso won 1-0 with a goal from Allan Sutherland.

3 March 04
Designated Port Fish Landing Status For Wick
Four fishing ports will be added to the list of those designated for haddock landings.  Haddock can now be landed at Scottish ports of Whitehills, Wick, Arbroath and Macduff by vessels with special haddock permits under EU arrangements introduced earlier this year. The addition of these ports brings the total number of designated haddock landing ports to 23 and ensures the continuation of tradition within the four communities.


WEDNESDAY 10TH MARCH 2004    6.00pm – 8.30pm
Careers Scotland staff be on hand to provide expert careers advice, but also representatives from more than 50 organisations will be ready to give you up-to-date information on opportunities in learning training and employment.  The convention is the ideal opportunity to meet first hand with people from a range of career areas, universities, colleges, employers and training providers – all there under the one roof, ready to help you as an individual.  Whether you’re a school pupil planning for the future or a parent/carer wanting to help, whether you looking for work, returning to work, or in work but seeking new horizons… The Careers Convention has plenty to offer.

2 March 04

The success of a youth technology and innovation competition developed in the Highlands and Islands will see it become a major national contest next year.  The PICT ICT Youth Challenge encourages small teams of people under the age of 20 to develop innovative information and technology projects that have the potential to become commercially viable ventures.  PICT (Producing Information Communications Technology) Innovation Ltd takes innovative IT related ideas, supports and champions them in order to turn them into real businesses and jobs.  That popularity has led to the decision by the organisers and sponsors to extend the contest to young people throughout Scotland from next year.

1 March 04
Crossroads Prize Draw

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