North Action Group Says Thanks To All The Donors To Maternity Campaign in 2004
George Bruce on behalf of North Action Group said thanks to everyone who has donated to the maternity campaign in 2004.  Next year will be make or break time for the future of the unit at Caithness General Hospital.  George on behalf of the north Action Group sends thanks to all the staff in the unit for all their work in 2004 and vowed that NAG will continue to fight for retention of a consultant led service for the future.  Although talks will commence with a new group looking at the issue the future of the unit is by no means certain yet.  North Action Group will continue to fight in 2005 to ensure that services at Caithness General are maintained.

The Biggest Hogmanay Party In The North Starts at 10.30pm At Market Square, Wick
The line up includes bands Revolution and Communique with the Liz Mackenzie Ceilidh Band providing traditional tunes.  Wick Pipe Band will be there for the bells and the longest Strip the Willow Dance starts at 12.25am.  Last song will be Auld Lang Syne around 1.30am.  Tea and coffee on offer along with traditional fare of mince pies and shortbread etc.  A collection is taken to help with next years party.  this year in addition the Happy committee are taking donations at their stall towards the Asian Tsunami Disaster Appeal.  If the weather stays fine and the technology works we hope the web cam in the Market Square will beam pictures to you all around the world.

Does Someone Think The Wick New Year Street Party Will Be Noisy? - Probably
An addition to the Wick town sign at the entrance could be by someone who thinks Wick's Street Party tonight is going to be big.



Caithness Shops Busy Today Before New Year Holiday
Shoppers were out in big numbers at shops in the county stocking up for the holiday weekend.   Car parks at supermarkets were almost full at times.


Wick's New Year Party Committee To Make Special Tsunami Disaster Collection At Street Party
The committee responsible for the Hogmanay Street Party will have special collection bucket at their stall in the market square to collect donations for the Tsunami disaster appeal.  Other street parties around Scotland including Edinburgh are doing likewise.

NHS Highland Health Board Staff To Donate A Days Pay To Tsunami Disaster
NHS Highland has also joined the appeal and on Friday launched a voluntary scheme where staff can donate a day's pay.  The idea came from staff themselves and the board hope other employers will join in and that it can rolled out nationally, or even internationally. Chief Executive Roger Gibbins said: "For those of us who are looking for a way to contribute the 'Give Your Pay for a Day' idea is really catching people's imagination.  "There has been an enthusiastic response from many staff already and we haven't even got the forms out yet."

Scottish Public Donations To Main Disaster Fund Has Passed £6million

Tsunami Disaster
Wick Pipe Band Donates Christmas Show Money To Disaster Appeal
Wick Pipe Band has donated the proceeds of its Scottish Variety Show held on Thursday night (30 December 2004) in the Pipe Band Hall to the Tsunami Disaster Appeal.   Before the show the band members decided that all the proceeds should go to the disaster relief fund for the survivors of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. We felt that those poor souls were more in need of the money than the Pipe Band.  The show raised £276.50 which was paid into the disaster relief fund account today at the Bank of Scotland.  The British public has donated £32 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee's Tsunami Earthquake appeal since it started on Tuesday.  Overnight, the figure has increased by over £7 million to a staggering £32 million. The DEC received over 300,000 calls last night alone.    Latest at 18.10 UK time This figure is changing by the minute - Latest stories show the figure has passed £45m from the public in the UK but many millions are piling up in collections all over the country with disaster fund saying that almost a £1million per hour is being donated on the UK emergency phone lines from the public alone.  Football clubs and every type of business and organisation are joining the flood of bigger donations.

Caithness Folk Donating In Big Numbers To Disaster Appeals
Shops all over Caithness have been running collections for the Asian Disaster.   In Wick Somerfields had already collected over £400 from a bucket in the shop.  Staff at the store had a collection amongst themselves and collected £320 at their break this morning.  Banks in Caithness have had unprecedented numbers of their customers asking to pay funds directly into special accounts set up for the disaster appeal.  Tellers at the banks say they have never seen anything like the numbers of customers donating in any emergency appeal.  The collections are everywhere.  Co-op staff in Wick and Thurso had collection buckets at checkouts and cash was still to be counted and looked as if significant sums would be collected on one of the busiest shopping days before the New Year holiday.  Three taxi firms in Caithness are donating ten pence from every fare collected to the appeal and expects to make a donation of several hundred pounds in the next few days. 

Get Your Hogmanay Message Read Out On Caithness FM Live
Our friends over at Caithness FM will be broadcasting their Hogmanay show from 10.00pm on 31 December right up till 2.30am with a selection of presenters and music. If you would like a request or dedication for relatives or friends in Caithness call/fax on 01847 890000 or email Caithness FM at   So say "happy new year" to friends and relatives in Caithness from anywhere in the world.

North Pier Wick  - Work Still Progressing
The work to ensure that the North Pier at Wick will be safe for many years to come is still ongoing.  The renewal of the area will continue in 2005 with work due to start on shore road that has been battered by rocks thrown up in bad weather and damaging the sea walls.   This will improve the frontage on that side of the harbour and with work due on the Black Stairs and the old salt cellars and a push by Wick Harbour Trust to begin to look at new business ideas there may well be a long awaited upturn on the way.

Max & Harley's Wick Vacation - Two Stray Cats Made Good
Max and Harley both came from a rescue home near Glasgow and were adopted by Elaine Fernie and live with her in Balloch, Cumbernauld.  They have visited the web site in Wick before.  They are fast becoming accomplished travellers and settled down incredibly quickly this time round.  Max the black cat (male) is only 18 months old and full mischief.  Harley (female) is a much older cat and was two years in the cat home and extremely timid when Elaine took her.  Harley treats Max like a naughty son and licks his face from time to time.   Would Like To Give A Home To A Cat?

So You Want To Be An Actor? Producer, Director or Theatre Technician?
Young People Check Here

Scottish young folk who think they might have talent of want career in the theatre have a chance to find out in February.  Scottish Youth Theatre's 2005 Summer Festival is inviting auditions across Scotland.  Closing Date for application forms is 4 February 2005.  "To be or not to be........................hmm"  Better not give up the day job but some of you might dare to have a go if you are under 25.

Kirkwall Airport Resumes Normal Services After Lighting Strike
Normal Services Resume at Kirkwall Airport Full airport operations at Kirkwall have resumed following a lightning strike on 28 December that affected systems at the Orkney Islands' passenger hub. The lightning strike which occurred during a storm at 11am on 28 December, disrupted airport systems including airfield lighting, navigational aids and telecommunications. Airport operations were restricted to daylight hours while engineers worked to restore full services.

Wick Heritage Centre Opens For Two Days 3rd And 4th January
For anyone back home with some time to spare or if you have never had time to get around Wick Heritage Centre the society are opening their doors for two days.  The photograph albums alone would take several hours to look through after you have visited the many rooms that show much of Caithness history.  Recently added was a collection of Caithness Glass donated after the factory closed down.  The centre will be open from 10.00am - 4.00pm.  In the evenings on the same days at 7.00pm there will be special showings of film including footage around the harbour.

Christmas Day In Caithness Like The Christmas Cards
These scenes from Sibster near Wick and Lybster show what it was like on Christmas day all over the county.  since then a mixture of snow, sleat and rain with most of the snow disappearing very quickly in the day or so after Christmas.


Most Scots want to choose health board members  - Evening Times
87% of Scots want health board members to be elected according to a poll in the Evening Times.  We wonder if it would be even higher in some areas where hospitals have had their services under threat or where people find it almost impossible to find a dentist.   Could elected health boards do any worse - answers to the Message Board

Braal Castle Site From The Air
Braal Castle is barely noticeable unless you go looking for it - the ancient keep being hidden amongst mature trees close to the River Thurso and standing remarkably complete adjacent to a former mansion house in the lovely town of Halkirk. Most Castles in Caithness occupy dramatic, high profile sites with impressive natural defences but Braal is hidden snugly away - the River Thurso providing its only natural protection.  Braal Castle Index   Main Caithness Castles Section

Caithness Hogmanay Web Cam Will Be Here
Although last year did now work out due to the bad weather the HAPPY committee are all set for a party in the Market Square, Wick.   The entertainment includes local bands, Scottish Band, Pipe Band and the Big Strip The Willow dance.  The fun starts at 10.30pm on 31 December.  More Links

Wick High 1966 Reunion Pictures
Apologies for the length of time take to get these pictures on to the site.  We are happy to add any others sent in now the gallery is set up.



Moray Firth Partnership Community Grants - Your Group Could Get Up To £1000
Moray Firth Partnership Community Grants Scheme The 2005 grant scheme has now been launched.  MFP member organisations are welcome to apply for a grant of up to £1,000 for a community project beneficial to the sea or coast of the Moray Firth.  Membership of the Moray Firth Partnership is free to all groups.  For the purposes of this grant Moray Firth stretches from John O'Groats, Caithness to Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire.  The project must be linked in some way to coastal improvement  - See The Guidance Notes
Download an Application   Download an Application To Join the PartnershipDeadline 24 January 2005

UKAEA has instructed its contractor, RWE Nukem, to resume monitoring of Sandside Beach for radioactive particles.  It follows notification from the land-owner that agreement to access the beach, which was terminated by the land-owner with effect from April 30, 2004, has been reinstated.  Vehicular monitoring resumed from Thursday, 23 December 2004 in accordance with criteria laid down by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

Private Property Leasing Scheme - Do You Have Property To Let? - Consider Leasing To Council
Highland Council's Housing Service has been greatly encouraged by its public appeal earlier this month to private property owners to consider leasing their properties to the Council.  Members and officials have welcomed the response from 24 people from throughout the Highlands who have contacted Housing staff to enquire about the Council's private leasing scheme.  From the 6th December, the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) (Scotland) Order 2004 made it illegal for local authorities to accommodate families and pregnant women in bed and breakfast accommodation unless in emergency situations up to a maximum of fourteen days. To try to meet this legislation the Council put out an appeal via the media to the public highlighting the private leasing scheme.

Thurso High 1960 Reunion
9 April 2005 Weigh Inn, Thurso
This group have set up their own web site for the reunion.  Get in touch with the organisers if you want to attend.  A link to the web site is now in place in the reunion page if you are looking for it later.

Let's Look Around Keiss Using Old Fashioned Horse Power

Catching Up With Santa Claus In Caithness
Charlie Simpson famed in the Highland Games circuit as a judge and formerly competitor has for many years played Santa Claus at many local events in Caithness.  Some years he has attended as many as 35 events at churches, children's parties and visited old folks homes on Christmas Day.  Now aged 72 Charlie cut back on his demanding schedule and has roped in a few others to take over some of his dates.  He deserves a huge vote of thanks for his tireless efforts for the many groups he has assisted over the years.  Cheers Charlie.

Christmas Eve Surf In Caithness Tempted A Few Folk Into The Water

Web Site Out Of Action Due To Server Problems
Due to problems out of our control the server we use was out of action for the past couple of days.  Hopefully the problems are now fixed it will be business as usual

Dunbeath And The Strath Before Christmas
A final look at Dunbeath as Christmas approaches and perhaps the snow.



Don't Drink and Drive This Christmas Or New Year - Use A Taxi
Your License Is Your Transport, Your Job And More - Don't Lose It
Another taxi firm has started up and we have added Bob's Taxis to our listing in the Business Pages.  Many people keep a copy of our listing beside the phone of in their purse or wallet.  Why not print a copy of it now with the new taxi number and use them this year and don't join those who end up in court next year for one or two drinks.  Fines are harsh these days and you will lose your license for at least a year.  Insurance premiums may rocket after you return to driving costing you many hundreds of pounds more.

Wick Kids Raise Funds For Hospice In Blackpool where their Uncle Is A Patient
Matthew Thain (10) and his cousin Rona Plowman (10) went from the Market Square to Newton Community Forest as part of a fundraising effort which they themselves organised. As you can see from the photo they themselves managed to raise £138.00 for the Trinity Hospice. This is a hospice in Blackpool which is run by donations and where their uncle is a patient.


Carols By Candlelight At Pulteneytown Parish Church
Pulteneytown Parish Church is extending an invitation once again to everyone to join them for a carol service in their beautifully refurbished church.  The candlelit service starts at 11.30pm to see in Christmas.  Included this year will be a medley of Christmas tunes played by Grant Golding on trumpet and Elaine Fernie on piano.  Both are music teachers near Glasgow and Grant often plays with the Scottish National Orchestra and the BBC orchestra in Glasgow.  And yes Elaine Fernie is Bill's daughter and Niall's sister.

Council Preparing To Put More Money Into Wick From January
Three contracts, valued at a total of £375,000, have been awarded by Highland Council to local contractors for work in Wick commencing early in the new year.
1) Wick recycling centre, awarded to Gunns, commencing 10 January.
2) Shore Lane, Wick, road widening, awarded to A & W Sinclair
3) Reconstruction of the Black Stairs, Wick, awarded to A & W Sinclair.

L S Lowrie's painting of the Blackstairs


Christies 99Pence Stores Reopen  In Former More Store Shops In Wick and Thurso
The shops that closed recently have been taken over and have reopened faster than most people imagined possible.  The two stores in Wick and Thurso opened a few days ago in time for the Christmas rush and appeared to be doing well.

Christmas Comes To Wick With Potential  For Up To 100 Jobs Boost
Wick may soon have its new shopping complex beside the Lidl Store.  A property company Ediston Properties has purchased land and delivered by courier today from Edinburgh a planning application for a £6.5 million development that could see Wick have 7 new shops.  The venture comes from a leading developer who is also involved in the huge development near Edinburgh airport.  The Wick development may include Homebase with a garden centre and Argos.  Five other units have yet to find tenants.  The application requires planning permission from the area committee of Highland Council.  It would seem that big business sees that Wick may be about to have a turn around in its fortunes and wants to be in on it.

Nuclear Development Agency Brings More Jobs To Caithness
The Nuclear Development Agency (NDA) that will have overall responsibility for the nuclear industry in the Uk from April 2005 is to open an office in Caithness.  the new office will be based at the New Park Business Park at Forss.   The number of jobs is likely to be around 12 to start with but the office has capacity for up to 20.  New Park are delighted to have been able to supply high quality accommodation to the NDA and now have a cluster of nuclear related firms at the business park.

Caithness General Hospital Loses Out On Scanner Cash
The hotel trust that had offered up to £350,000 to the Caithness General Hospital has informed them that a change of policy now means they will no longer fund scanners.  The long delay in taking up the offer means that the cash will no longer be available.  The money had been on offer for over a year but with no sign of the hospital taking up the offer and a change of trustees with different goals it would appear to put paid to the chance of Caithness General having its own scanner.

Delays Likely On A9 road North Of Kessock From 10 January
Starting on Monday 10 January and continuing for 24 weeks.
Highland Quality Construction Ltd have been awarded a contract by County Properties Ltd, Edinburgh, to construct an underpass, which will allow right turning vehicles exiting North Kessock to travel under the A9 and to enter the trunk road by means of a slip road. This work is being carried out as part of a planning consent for additional housing at North Kessock.  The contractor's programme involves the introduction on 10 January of a contraflow at the area of works which will remain in place for the duration of the contract. This means that the existing dual carriageway will be narrowed down to a single carriageway through the length of the works ie one lane in both directions. This is likely to lead to excessive queuing, particularly in the morning and evening peaks of ommuter traffic.  The public information service is being managed by Highland Quality Construction, who will be making announcements through press and radio as the project progresses.

Technical Problems Hold Up
A few problems have prevented us from updating the web site but everything is now back in action again.  sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunrise And Snow At Halkirk

Caspian Shellfish Expansion
A Sutherland shellfish company who partially moved from creel fishing to mussel farming in 2003 have been so encouraged by the potential of their new venture that they are now turning their full attention to mussel farming. Caspian Shellfish, owned by Charles and Annette Mackay and Graeme Gunn,

Emergency Helplines For Highland Roads and Services
We hope you don't need them over the Christmas New Year Holiday but just in case we are highlighting the list of telephone numbers and links to roads, electric, gas water, flooding and many more in case you have an emergency.  The page is linked in various places in the community index, help lines etc but to make it easier over the next few months a link is now in the left hand column on this page.

Christmas Fun Day Brings Costa Rica Trek Closer
The Fun Day went quite well, and we made about £215 after expenses, which wasn't too bad. The bottle stall was most popular! We'd like to say a special thank you to our pals Fiona and Sheila, who have been there to support us in everything so far - also Susan and Terri for helping out on the day, and Grace and Heidi for their donations. We couldn't do this, if it wasn't for the support of our friends.
Mandy and Anne are planning a ten day trek in Costa Rica to raise funds for the SSPCA.  Watch out for their next fund-raisers.

South School, Wick - December Newsletter
All the latest information for parents at South School - Holidays, Sales, Safer Routes To School and more...

New Phase For Domestic Abuse Campaign
New radio adverts which highlight the emotional impact of domestic abuse were unveiled today.  One depicts the personal trauma of a woman's abusive relationship and the other is from the perspective of a domestic abuse helpline worker waiting to answer a call.  These new adverts will complement the Behind Closed Doors television adverts which will re-run from Boxing Day until February. Adverts will also appear in national and local press.  The main message of the campaign remains the same: help and support is available if you are suffering domestic abuse.   Caithness & Sutherland Women's Aid

Robert Goes Up In The World
Caithness man Robert Miller has moved up in the world, starting his own business, RWM Training, providing on-site training and testing on fork lift trucks, telescopic handlers and cherry pickers. Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE) has assisted Robert to set up RWM Training with a business start-up grant...


MSP Rob Gibson Calls For Fines and Convictions Over Skye Bridge To Be Quashed
Rob Gibson SNP MSP for Highlands and Islands added his voice to congratulate the people of Skye and the Outer Isles for being liberated from Skye Bridge tolls.  Rob was one of many SKAT protesters who was arrested and fined for non-payment in 1997.  He said..." I am delighted the islanders and all visitors to Skye and the Outer Isles have been rid of the draconian toll regime, but the fact that the tolls existed for 9 years is nothing short of scandalous and deplorable when you consider the vast personal cost incurred by people who had to pay to use the bridge especially those who lived in the in Skye and Lochalsh." Takes A Look In On Glasgow At Christmas

The shopping mecca in Scotland is still Glasgow with its numerous shopping malls old and new.  George Square is lit up and the shopping centres compete to have the best decorations.  Many of the streets around the centre are covered in lights and the ice skating in the square gets more popular each year with an even bigger rink set up for the holiday period this year.

Tolls Abolished On The Skye Bridge From Today
It has taken a few years but the campaigners finally got their way and tolls on the Skye Bridge have been abolished.  The Scottish Executive have paid £27million to take the bridge into public ownership.  After nine years of tolls since the bridge was opened you can now drive across for free.  Campaigners will fight on to have fines of protestors quashed.  The most famous one being Robbie The Pict

Another Photo Of The Contrail Viewed From Thurso
John McPhee has sent in this picture of the contrail that set a few folk wondering on 11 December.  John took his picture from his house near Thurso High school and as in the earlier Scrabster pictures shows the spectacular sky that morning to good effect.  There is no doubt that the unusual effect was the contrail from a passing plane as folk saw the plane earlier.  We will add more pictures of this event if anyone else has any to send in.  This time of year often brings spectacular skies in Caithness so if anyone is out at sunrise send some in.

Hit Rate New Record But Will Visitor Rate Break Another Record
November Visitors -112,395  Hits - 6,914,572
11 months to end November Hits - 72,076,296  Visitors - 1,236,671
November stats just added up and show the 2004 hit rate already way ahead of 2003.  With only days to go till the end of 2004 it is touch and go as to whether or not the visitor rate will set a new annual record on  Visitor rates are well ahead of the average daily rate to break the 2003 record but we wait to see if this will blow away last years record.

UKAEA Children's Christmas Parties
Some three hundred children of UKAEA staff were recently entertained, in three separate age groups, in the Pentland Hotel, Thurso. The event was organised and supervised by Kirsten Johnson and a group of volunteers drawn from her colleagues at Dounreay. The cost of the events was met from the site director’s fund.  Each event featured the usual games, followed by loads of food. At the end, Santa took time out of his hectic seasonal schedule to pay a visit and handed over a gift to each child. A disco was an added attraction for the older age group.

Northern Nashville Country Music Club Christmas Parties
The Northern Nashville Country Music Club held their annual Christmas bash at Thurso's Royal British Legion on both Friday and Saturday night's. Both events were as normal, a huge success. A surprise visit from Santa helped add festive spirit to the delight of the crowd. The well known local band Kate Bain and Candy played to rapturous applause before the James Quinn Band took centre stage.  James, who is the son of the ever popular Brendan Quinn played blistering sets including material from his new cd called "Beautiful Day". This is his first album of what is sure to be many more and features fourteen tracks. James, also accompanied by Brendan went down a treat, he's certainly not an act to miss and is bound to be back in the near future.

Lybster Pensioners Christmas Party
Around 130 folks sat down to an excellent meal on the evening and were entertained by a variety of artistes who gave freely of their time. Dance music was supplied by John Dunbar, songs sung by Ceilia MacDougall, dances came from Leona MacNab and Shirley Eyers provided the pipe music. Fancy dresser Andy Macrae was a hit when he went dancing with Gerry Henderson! A certain Mr S. Claus also appeared on the evening and distributed presents to all.

Taxi Increases To Take Effect From 10 January 2005
A 5% increase in taxi fares throughout the Highlands will come into force from Monday 10 January 2005. The Highland Council has been able to confirm the increase following rejection of an appeal to Richard Hamilton McFarlane, Deputy Traffic Commissioner in the Scottish Traffic Area,

Wick Goes For Alternative Energy With First Of Several New Projects
MSP Maureen MacMillan Launches Wick's Photovoltaic Roof Project
Wick took a step into the future with its first alternative energy scheme launched yesterday.  The photo voltaic roof installed at the Fish Market is the most northerly photo energy scheme in Scotland and will produce enough power for 6 average homes.  The cells depend on light for the power production and even in the dull conditions yesterday were averaging 12,000 watts of output.  Maximum output is expected to be around 22,000 watts  The harbour Trust expects to reduce its own electric bills considerably  even to zero and be paid for the excess power fed into the national grid.  In addition the scheme will create ROCS (Renewable Obligation Certificates) which have a market value.  Elizabeth Marshall the Highland council economic development officer was praised by everyone for her part in bringing the scheme to fruition.  But this is just the start with plans for other schemes well advanced in the alternative energy field.   A more ambitious scheme is now being looked at for a hangar at Wick airport which is 20 times bigger than the harbour roof and would supply up to 500 homes equivalent power.  The Wick Heat and Power scheme is also making great strides with £3.5 million committed to the project from the DTI and Highland Council in an ambitious move by the council to reduce heating costs for Wick homes and ultimately across the towns and villages of Caithness.  A new company has been set up to be known as Caithness Heat And Power.  Plans are also moving forward for another project within the Fish Market itself creating more energy from waste vegetable material.  The ambitious experiment will place Wick at the forefront of alternative energy schemes in Scotland.  An LED display will shortly be installed at the harbour to show the power output being supplied at any given moment.

Caithness FM Toys Annual Appeal - Another Successful Year
This year's Caithness FM (our local radio station) toy appeal has been a tremendous success. CFM would like to thank all thier listeners who contributed and a special thanks to BT Global Services fundraisers who raised £600 which was split between 5 local charities, the toy appeal being one of them.  A special thanks also to the Dounreay charities Fund for once again contributing a great many toys to the appeal.  The toys will be delivered to the social work department in WIck by local contractors, G&A Barnie and the social workers will ensure that the toys are distributed in time for Christmas.  Caithness FM are delighted with this years response and hope that we will be able to organise more local collection points for next year to make it easier for listeners to make their donation.

Mother and Toddler Christmas Party - Baptist Church, Wick

Wick Traditional Music Workshops - WORKSHOPS and Recital/Q&A Session - Book Now

Saturday, 5th February 2005 - Ross Institute, Halkirk Charlie McKerron Fiddle  Carol-Anne Mackay  Accordion

Council Welcomes Membership Of Community Ownership Programme
Acceptance into the Scottish Executive's Community Ownership Programme has been welcomed by The Highland Council, whose membership promises funding of an extra £50 million over the next five years to deliver an extra 1,000 affordable houses for rent and low cost home ownership.  In addition the Council's current housing debt of £175million (one of the highest debt levels in Scotland) will be written off if tenants vote in favour of transfer. Currently 47 pence of every pound of rent collected is used to pay off historic debt. This will allow a significant increase in the proportion of rent which can be spend on house maintenance and investment.  Membership will require the Council to develop proposals for the transfer of ownership and management of its stock of 15,500 Council houses to a new Highland landlord.  Bill Fernie councillor for Wick West and Caithness area chairman of Housing and Social Work welcomed the announcement as a shot in the arm for Highland.  Bill said: "This is one of the most significant moves toward addressing the housing shortage for many years and it will have an impact for those looking for homes and in job creation as the money begins to be spent.  In my view the removal of the housing debt from Highland will prove to be a significant factor in boosting not just housing but future investment in the area as more people will be able to find homes here."

Disabled Riding Club - Christmas Party At Halkirk Centre

Riders were in good form at the Christmas Party in Halkirk today.  Santa turned up to hand out the presents and everyone enjoyed the mulled wine and Christmas food.  The headmasters from Wick and Thurso High schools were there with their pupils and were persuaded to have a go on the horses.  More pictures to come later...........

Three New Directors For CASE
The chairman of Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE), Pat Buchanan, long with chief executive Carroll Buxton, welcomed three new directors to the local enterprise company's board yesterday (Tuesday 14th December).  The three new members are David Halpin, who lives in Dornoch; Willie Calder from Thurso and Nick Gorton, based in Lochinver. Between them they have a wealth of experience across a variety of sectors.

CAVE ART CELEBRATED 20TH CENTURY STYLE - Something Unusual On Friday Night
New Dynamics, Sutherland - Durness Studio
A new media event mixing Highland art with sounds from London DJs will take place this Friday 17th December (7pm till late), in the very unusual ancient setting of Smoo Cave at Durness in Sutherland.


Wind Farm Protestors Might Soon Have More Chance To Appeal Applications
Chisholm to back green lobby over planning appeals
This item from yesterday's Scotsman may well give hope to groups protesting about wind farms that they will have more rights to appeal against sites proposed for wind farms.  A new community right of appeal may be introduced to the planning system.  the big question is whether the planning system will be able to cope as it is already struggling in some parts of Scotland.  Caithness has one of the busiest planning departments in Highland (perhaps showing that the economy is not as black as many people think).  In fact for quite some time the application levels have been so high that many have to be dealt with by the planners in Inverness to relieve local staff.  With several wind farms being mooted for Caithness more pressure on the system may well lead to an increase in the time taken for all panning applications.

That Contrail Again Viewed From Thrumster
Another view of the contrail on Saturday.  This picture was taken by Andrew Atkins "I saw the spectacular photo of the contrail, I also saw the cloud formation and took a photo, see attached, it was taken from my living room window, I live at Thrumster overlooking the loch. I can't remember what time it was, it was definitely early.  The silhouette is one of my neighbours sheds with a buzzard on the roof." is glad to see a few folk in the county were up early enough to take these pictures.  Anyone got another view of this particular event from another angle?  If so we will add more pictures to the section.  Maybe we should all check this coming Saturday!!

Santa At Play Box Play Group, Wick

Send in your Santa photos for the Christmas Pages

North Airports Record Strong November Performance
The latest passenger figures from Highlands and Islands Airports Limited show that almost 77,000 people flew via the company’s 10 airports in November, a 7.5% increase on the same month last year.  This brings the running total for HIAL’s 10 airports in the current operating year to 728,975, an increase of almost 11% on the same eight months in 2003/04.

Pulteneytown Townscape Heritage Initiative Web Site Launched
A new web site to give information about the Pulteneytown Townscape Heritage Initiative is now up and running.  The site carries details about the projects, house building and business opportunities available and will be updated from time to time as new information is available.

Red Sky In The Morning - Last Saturday - Viewed From Scrabster
Last Saturday Lorraine Munro looked out of her window and saw an unusual site.  An unusual funnell in the red sky.  Can any weather experts tells us more about this phenomena.?
From George Brims Out there in California "It's the con trail of an aircraft, probably a bit higher in the sky than the thin cloud layer making the extreme red sunrise, so that it's yellow rather than red. Here in California we see the same effect a lot (busiest airspace in the world!).  .......Thanks George
Tuesday 14 Dec - Lorraine is uncertain if this was a con trail due to the formation looking like something coming up from the ground.  Bill has done a little digging and come up with the Contrail Fact Sheet (Pdf file)  Bill speculates that it might be the distance that makes it look as if it is coming up from the ground but that in fact it is all up in the sky and not going up or down  - merely the earth's curvature shown on the very clear morning against this brilliant sky.  Perhaps someone might take this up on the Message Board with more info details etc.
Tuesday 14 Dec 8.00pm Eye Witness Report From Hamish McAllan
I saw the aircraft about half an hour before sunrise on Saturday from Staxigoe, well out over the north sea heading east. There was no wind (at sea level) and as i drove to Thurso the strange shape developed. I wouldn't have believed it either but your friend from the states was correct."

Is Your Credit Card Heating Up?  Should You Really Do Christmas On Plastic?
If house prices start to fall or interest rates take a hike upwards will you still be able to pay the bills.  The UK is seeing record levels of debt and many people will be paying for this Christmas long after next Christmas.  If you are in doubt about your ability to repay do not pile on the misery for next year.
Here is a link to get you started thinking about reduction rather than spending.

Fathoms Dive Into Training
A sub sea services company specialising in the offshore and onshore monitoring and removal of radiological contamination is training two of its key staff in health physics with assistance from Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise (CASE). Fathoms Ltd, which operates from Wick harbour, has received ...

Pulteneytown Academy School, Wick - Newsletter 13 December
The latest newsletter from Pulteneytown Academy School, Wick stresses yet again the problems of traffic congestion around the school at the start and end of the day.  Everyone should think about walking a little further when heading for schools to avoid this problem.  On a lighter not the school concert has tickets still available and anyone who has been to one in the last year or so will know the high standards they reach with the professional sound and lighting systems the school acquired - great.

Just complete the submission form and we do the rest.

Stroma Houses - Number 12
Another Stroma House viewed from a variety of angles.  Number 12 relates to the numbers on the map inside and the house is at the northern end of Stroma.  According to the map Hugh Simpson was the last resident.
Stroma Main Index
Bigger version of the Stroma House Map (117k)

Freswick Castle From The Air - The Vikings Never Saw It Like This
Michael Gunn said in his article "Also known as the fortalice of Burnside at Freswick, Freswick Tower and, latterly as Freswick House, the name is derived from the Norse Thrasvík, meaning the 'bay of fresh water', probably after the Gill or Freswick Burn which runs into the sea at Freswick Bay. It must not be confused with Buchollie's Castle (qv) which is at Kingansgeo three-quarters of a mile to the south, nor with the fortress of Lambaborg"

More Stores In Wick and Thurso To Reopen  Shortly As Christies 99p Stores
The stores in Wick and Thurso recently have been taken over by Christies and will shortly be reopening.  Many of the staff who lost their jobs may be re-employed by the new company.  Despite the gloom that some people have read into a number of closures the overall unemployment rate in the county has not gone up.  The closure of Caithness Glass did not affect the numbers and many of the former employees found jobs.  The Staff from the Alliance and Leicester Bank that closed a few weeks ago never even signed on for one day as unemployed as they were all experienced bank staff and were immediately snapped up by the four remaining banks in Wick.

Wick Harbour Trust Will Begin To Look At New Ideas for The Harbour In January
At their monthly meeting members of Wick Harbour Trust agreed to a suggestion by Councillor Bill Fernie that they should begin to discuss some new ideas for the future of the harbour.  Although a business plan from a consultant has been awaited for some time it was greed that it was time to get on and look for ideas that might be built into the plan when the consultant eventually delivers it.  The Wick Harbour Trust will shortly be relaunched under a new Executive Order which will be ratified by the Scottish Parliament.  The new order has taken a lot of effort by the Trust and its legal advisers to reach a final draft.  This was part of a necessary set of changes to let the Trust begin to tackle its difficult economic circumstances.  That process is almost complete and the Trust is looking forward to 2005 being the start of a new period of growth after along decline.

Wind Farm At Dunbeath Drop-in  Information Day Friday 17 December 2004 2.00 - 7.00pm
RDC Scotland will be at Dunbeath Community Centre to answer questions about their plans for a wind farm.

Argyle Square, Wick - Christmas Fun Day

If you are running a Christmas event why not send in a few pictures to show everyone.  Just email them to us and we will add them to the Christmas Photo Galleries.

Latheron Castle Site From The Air
A short piece of wall 7 feet thick on a bank of the Latheron burn, quite near the main road is all that is left of the castle. The castle ruins were apparently much larger in 1726. The New Caithness Book by Donald Omand says that there is very little information about the castle. He refers to "a legend the King William (the Lion) stayed there early in the 13th century when he cam north with a large army to deal with Earl Harold who was in open rebellion" More About Latheron Castle   Caithness Castles Section

Grant Street Care Home, Wick Refurbishment Now Underway
A few months ago the Caithness area committee of Highland council agreed to support the refurbishment of the Care Home at Grant Street, Wick.  Work commenced this week with G M R Henderson Building Contractor, Wick in charge of the works.  The refurbishment has been welcomed by members of the local community and local councillors are happy to be able to ensure a longer term future in comforts for people in need of care within Wick.   Caithness area convenor David Flear and Caithness Social Work chairman Bill Fernie were particularly pleased that negotiations over a period of months with local people and council staff had resulted in moving things forward to a satisfactory conclusion.  Work will be completed over the next few weeks.

Update On Wick Harbour's Solar Roof
The panels on the new solar roof at Wick Harbour are almost all in place in this picture.  The work has gone ahead amazingly quickly and the new set up is due to be officially launched next Friday 17 December.  A digital readout is to be set up so anyone can see the amount of power being produced


Cats Protection Caithness Need More Volunteers
Cats Protection Caithness are struggling at the moment, with hardly any volunteers and many cats/kittens to rehome.  In particular, they have one poor cat who has been in our care for some time now, and they are desperate to rehome him to a safe and loving home - he really deserves to be homed with someone, so he can have more attention.  If you can offer a home to a cat or a kitten get in touch with the group.  Or if you can offer a little time each week to look after, feed or offer other services then get in touch with them.

Lets All Help The Caithness FM Toy Appeal
Caithness FM  - our local radio station is once again launching their Christmas Toy Appeal.   Caithness FM are looking for new unwrapped toys suitable for children of all ages. (Gift tokens would be welcomed for older children).  All toys received will be distributed to children within Caithness who otherwise may receive very little on Christmas Day.  Gifts should be brought to the Caithness FM Studio at Neill Gunn Drive, Thurso, any evening between 7 pm and 12 midnight and on Saturday between 2 pm and 4 pm.

Wick Swimming Club 2004 Gala
Wick Swimming Club recently held its annual gala.  for many more photos head over to the Wick Swimming Club Web site



Launching The Second Community Plan For Highland 2004 - 2007
For Highland to remain a successful and attractive region in the coming 10-20 years, key local agencies, working with community groups, need to counter the worst effects of demographic change, tackle disadvantage and upgrade infrastructure.  This is the message from the community planning partners of the Highland Wellbeing Alliance, who launched their second Community Plan with a promise to work together to develop the economy; encourage learning and support communities to have a say in the services affecting them; improve health; increase the housing supply; improve transport; enhance culture and the environment; and develop safe, strong and attractive Highland communities.

'Significant' North Sea find a boost for oil giant - Scotsman
ChevronTexaco today said it was looking ahead to continued growth in the North Sea after claiming a "significant" oil and gas find.  The company gave no indication of the size of the potential reserves, but some estimates have put it at about 500 million barrels. The find, at the Rosebank/Lochnagar well, about 80 miles offshore in the channel between Shetland and the Faroe Islands in the area known as the Atlantic Margin.

Stan Stands Down
Stan Fraser, the popular foreman in D2001, retired from UKAEA at the end of November. Stan, a native of Wick and a joiner to trade, had two stints at Dounreay, firstly in 1969 when he joined UKAEA Constabulary from the RAF. Four years later he returned to his original trade, rejoining UKAEA in 1981. He was posted to D2001 and remained there until he retired. At a presentation ceremony, Dick Stewart, head of process plants decommissioning, spoke warmly of Stan’s commitment and energy, and the support he always gave to his staff.

Coffee And Cake Raises £1500 for MacMillan Cancer Relief
The Human Resources department of UKAEA recently raised £1500 for MacMillan Cancer Relief. Staff provided a variety of baking and other tasty treats to accompany their coffee, as well as a separate baking sales table. Whilst sampling the gastronomic delights, patrons had the chance to guess the aggregate age of the department staff, twenty-nine in number. The winner was PC Norman Barrowman who was nearest to the correct total of 1040. Norman’s prize was a cake baked by Rory Paterson, D1200 labs.

Dounreay Apprentices Stepped Out For Local Charities
In early autumn, the Dounreay apprentices undertook a sponsored walk from Dounreay to Thurso to raise money for local worthy causes. Recently, representatives from three such groups visited site where a group of the apprentices presented them with cheques, each in the sum of £447.17.


Health Board Agrees Substitute Plan For Maternity Unit - The Herald

Subsea Yard At Wester  Wins New Pipeline Contract Bringing 55 Jobs Plus Contracting Work
Good News Was announced to today following the announcement that a  contract for a new pipeline for the Farragon Oil Field in the North Sea has been signed.  55 jobs will be involved in the new work to create a 15 mile pipe.  The Farragon oil field will add 20,000 barrels of oil a day to Scotland's oil production.  The news is a great Christmas present for Caithness and especially for Wick where announcements have been a bit on the black side in recent months.   Details on the oil field   The Wester Yard has a number of spin offs an benefits for the area including Wellheads landing at Wick Harbour.   After a number of months without work at the yard this new pipeline will be welcomed by everyone.  Area Convenor David Flear commented today said, "I am extremely pleased to hear of the announcement bringing additional work to the area and taking advantage of the highly skilled labour in the area." See Pipes At Wester

New Solar Roof Nearing Completion At Wick Harbour

Wick is almost ready to take its first step into the alternative energy world as the new solar roof is nearly completed.  The new photovoltaic panels will supply power to the lights around the harbour area and feed excess energy to the national grid.  Over the next year or two wick could be one of the county's leading places in alternative energy.  The roof project has been brought into being by the work of Caithness Economic Development office.  The same office under the direction of Elizabeth Marshall is in the process of creating a new company - Caithness Heat And Power - to install new cheaper heating systems for up to 500 houses and other buildings in Wick using wood chip.  The heating costs will be much lower than all conventional heating currently being used.  Once established it is hoped to roll out the scheme to the whole of Wick and then to Thurso.  If that was not enough a further experimental power system may be installed in the Fish Market building itself in a partnership with the Environmental Research Institute, Thurso.  Could a new title for Wick  - Alternative Energy Capital Of The North.  At a recent meeting of officials and Wick councillors the details for the new company were agreed.
Bill's Earlier item on Alternative Energy Possibilities For Caithness

Wick High School Pupils Get First Hand View Of Dounreay
17 senior Wick High School pupils studying National Certificate modules in electronics and 2 teachers recently made a visit to Dounreay to give them an insight into how electronics is dealt with in the real world. The group were advised that decommissioning a site such as Dounreay is not just simply demolishing buildings, lots of highly technical installation and maintenance is still required. The group were welcomed to site by Norman Harrison, Dounreay Director followed by a tour of the site and tours of the instrument workshop, which allowed them to see actual electronic equipment on the bench for maintenance and repair, and WRACS (Waste Receipt Assay Characterisation and Supercompaction facility) which allowed them to connect electronics to a real process.

Will Maternity Question In Caithness Follow The Migdale Example ?
The Migdale Hospital at Bona Bridge, Sutherland has been a burning issue in the area with the threat of closure hanging over it for the past few years.  Despite over five years of meetings and discussions the local community feel they are no further forward with the board of NHS Highland.  The latest meeting takes place on Friday.  If it takes over five years in which the people of Sutherland have no final answer to the threat to the hospital that takes care of elderly people then can we expect any faster answers to the Maternity question in Caithness?  After more than five years of threat the talk now is of a five year plan.  Take look for yourself.  It is chillingly familiar.  The Maternity question has now been ongoing for well over a year.  Are we any further forward in real terms?  Yesterday the board agreed to pass the whole question over to the North Highland Community Health Partnership - a body that is not even fully formed as yet.  That body will in turn set up a sub group to include local councillors, voluntary groups, North Action Group etc.  The Health Board will retain the final say.  The Migdale group will update their web page with the latest developments asap after the meeting on Friday.

Biggest Hogmanay Party In The North - Wick - 31 December 2004
The Wick H.A.P.P.Y. committee finalised arrangements for the big New Year Party in Market Square.  After last years cancellation due to bad weather fingers are crossed that it will all work out this time.  This will be the third big hogmanay street party the group have organised the first being at the millennium and then in 2002.

Rockmanay - At Viewfirth, Thurso  - 30 December
Come along to an evening dedicated to Rock music, and Rock music only. DJs playing rock all night and a live set from Caithness' very own guitar demon Stevie Taylor. If you like Rock music, this is well worth the £3 admission.

At its AGM in Beauly recently, members of the rail users' group, Friends of the Far North Line, heard a call for a "sea change" to be made in railway investments on the Highland lines.  Chairman, Richard Ardern, reviewed the past year in which his committee had published a comprehensive policy document detailing ways to improve the passenger and freight services on the Far North and its feeder lines through Inverness. These would include the reintroduction of a fourth daytime train between Wick and Inverness in both directions providing connections through Thurso to the retimed Orkney ferry, and the construction of the Georgemas Curve to save the five minutes "wasted" while the train reverses at Georgemas Junction.

Lybster Lights Up This Christmas

Northlands Creative Glass, Lybster Awarded £30,000 by Scottish Arts Council
Northlands Creative Glass has gained a growing reputation for its excellence in glass creation bringing some of the world's best artists and students together.  The Scottish Arts Council awarded the group £30,000 to further their work.  The award was one of several announced as part of over £1 million of grants.  the cash will be used to support community initiatives and artists.

North Action Group Attended Another NHS Highland Board Meeting In Inverness
A small group from North Action Group made the trip once again to another NHS highland Board meeting where Caithness Maternity was once again on the agenda.  Reports were made from the various Forums and other consultations held over the past three months.  Loud and clear in these was the lack of trust in NHS highland by the Caithness population.  This has been recognised and the way forward suggested by the chairman Gary Coutts was that the newly created North Highland Community Health Partnership would now tackle the task of building the new solution beginning to emerge.  chairman of NAG George Bruce suggested he would like to see an independent chair person for the new sub group that will be set up to pursue all the issues.  there is a long way still to go before the Caithness maternity issue is settled.  The North Action Group committee  has a meeting on Wednesday 15 December in the Assembly Rooms to discuss today's reports to the board.

Pennyland School Sing Carols For Christmas On Saturday 11 December
If you hear the sound of carols on Saturday in Thurso it will be the Primary 1/2 class from Pennyland school.  the class will be singing in the Precinct between 1.45 and 2.45pm.  The class will be fund raising for Crossroads Care - Caithness so why not pop along and hear them

Christmas Campaigns  - Think About Them All
A flurry of emails shows that many groups and organisations are getting their message out using the Internet this year.  Here are just a few to remind you to think and ensure you have a Happy Christmas.
Northern Constabulary  - Warnings on the numbers of people killed last year in the run up to Christmas on the roads and the dire consequences if they catch you - special roads campaign now underway.
Drink and Drugs - Suggestions on not drinking too much to make sure you have a good time but are not out of control with life changing and threatening consequences for you and your family.
Credit Cards - Plenty of warnings not to fund Christmas on your credit card and end up paying for it for more than year.  Do not pile up debt to make a show.  Debt in the UK is now over £One Trillion.

Stroupster Wind Farm Proposal - Follow Up Public Exhibition
npower renewables was very pleased by the response to the proposed Stroupster Wind Farm public exhibition held on Wednesday 24th November 2004 at Auckengill Village Hall. The exhibition was a follow up to the initial public exhibition held on May 24th 2004 at the same venue. The events provided both a useful forum for people to find out about the proposal and for the developers to better understand local issues.

Volunteering Highland - Matching Volunteers With Opportunities
Catherine Paterson is based in the offices of Caithness Voluntary Group, Williamson Street, Wick.  So if you are looking for a volunteering opportunity or are a group or organisation looking for volunteers why not give her a call.  Latest call is for a few folk to help with the New Year Party in Wick.

Caithness Sea Angling Assoc. Annual Shore Championship Report
The competition held on Saturday 27th November 2004.  Next match is the Caithness SAA Annual Boat Championships on the 11th December out of Scrabster  - see page for entry details

£1Billion Forestry Project For The Highlands As Trees Reach Maturity
Ross and Cromarty Enterprise (RACE) has approved funding towards a study into the potential construction of a £1bn state-of-the-art integrated pulpmill, papermill, sawmill and renewable energy generation plant at Delny, Invergordon.  RACE, together with Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, will provide £200,000 towards the £500,000 cost of completing the feasibility phase of Forscot Ltd's large-scale timber processing plant.  If given the go-ahead, the project could create an estimated 500 full time jobs and over 3,000 jobs during the construction stage.

Thurso Branch Of Arthritis Care Dissolves As National Group Problems Deepen
An EGM on 2 December saw the Caithnesss Branch of Arthritis Care Dissolved following a year of probelms at a national level. The meeting in the Royal Hotel Thurso by Arthritis Care Thurso Branch was EGM preceded by a lunch for members.  Retiring chairperson Margaret Hammerton said "Following a year of disruption from the highest level of the organisation, it was with great sadness that Arthritis Care was yesterday dissolved after being in existence in Thurso for seventeen years."

ANOTHER PART OF DFR DEMOLISHED - Decommissioning Work At Dounreay
D1112, a former workshop and part of the DFR complex, was recently demolished.  Tucked into the bottom half of the world famous sphere, and built with steel and brick, it has one interesting feature, according to project supervisor, Donald Macaskill “It was butted directly on to the sphere, with one of its gables formed from the outer steel casing.  A steel flashing, welded to this casing, made the building watertight.”  A number of contractors were involved in the whole operation and included the removal of nitrogen pipework and the removal of NaK wetted pipework.  Final demolition was carried out by John Gunn and Son, Lybster.

An independent expert group is currently looking at the future of the NHS in Scotland and is holding a series of regional meetings with patients and medical professionals around the country. The group, chaired by Professor David Kerr will be taking views to help them draw up a national framework to guide future decisions on how the NHS is run.  The regional meetings have already taken place this month at Glasgow, Inverness, and Edinburgh, with meetings still to be held in Dundee on the 13th of December and in Aberdeen on the 15th. Some concern had been expressed that none of the venues were in rural areas.

Although now deemed to be socially unacceptable, Drink Driving is still a problem in the Highlands. the "Too Many for the Road" Drink Driving Campaign is being launched in a bid to combat this. The campaign centres on encouraging members of the public, particularly in rural areas of Highland, to report Drink Drivers to the police using the Crimestoppers number. This is a partnership campaign between Highland Drug and Alcohol Action Team, local Drug & Alcohol Forums, The Highland Council Road Safety Unit, Crimestoppers and Northern Constabulary covering Ross & Cromarty, Skye & Lochalsh, Caithness and Sutherland areas over the Festive period 2004. The campaign is a pilot, which may be extended to the rest of Highland next year.

The Highland Council is now able to provide a low cost home contents insurance scheme for all council tenants. The Tenants Insurance Scheme has been developed by the Council, in partnership with Jardine Lloyd Thompson Public Sector Risks, to provide peace of mind from as little as 7p per day.

Disabled Access Lybster Central Church
Recent legislation has meant that many public buildings, shops and other businesses have had to re-think their accessibility for the disabled. Lybster Central Church has tackled the problem with funds raised mainly by the congregation and with the greatly appreciated assistance of £150 from the Appeals & Donations Committee of UKAEA.  There is now a ramped access to all doors of the Kirk and this will be of great benefit to, not only members of the congregation, but the wider public as they attend weddings, funerals and other public events.  All work was undertaken by a local contractor, Mr D MacKay, a stone mason who has completed many stone masonry works throughout the county

Yarrows Heritage Trust - Come Along and Find Out The Latest News
Monday 6th December 7.00pm Thrumster Village Hall.
We are presenting the plans by the Yarrows Heritage Trust, to renovate the Old Station at Thrumster, to use it as a small unmanned info centre. Stand-alone green energy powered, and using the latest info on Yarrows, collected by the Royal Commission on the Historical & Ancient Monuments of Scotland.  Ken Crossan, nature photographer Presents a slide show from the many images he has taken of the area.

Umbrella Parade At Wick Christmas Fun Day

Knockinnon Castle From The Air   Brough Castle From The Air  Halberry Castle From The Air