Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 329

Issue # 329                                                 Week ending 2nd January 2016

Glut of These Oranges Could Mean Sore Heads Until Easter by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

It takes me quite a while to wake up properly after Christmas so I was still quite dosy at the shops on Monday. One checkout lass asked if I wanted cashback. “Of course,” I said, getting very excited. “My favourites were I Walk The Line and Folsom Prison Blues. Is he coming here?”

Poor Johnny is no longer with us. I knew that, of course. My brain was just slow probably because I just love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food. We had an alternative Christmas dinner. Yep, being a very modern family, we decided we were not going to tuck into turkey and sprouts. Nah, we opted instead for a very big family-size festive pizza. It was deep-pan, crisp and even.

As I do not now expect to get my brain working properly until halfway through the first week in January, I have instead been passing the time thinking about those Christmassy things that we have all enjoyed in the past, apart from The Man in Black. Like confectionery. Yeah, goodies.

Supermarkets got carried away ordering sweets this year - particularly certain orange-flavoured chocolate items. For decades, the Chocolate Orange has been part a vital part of our celebrations. Not only are they yummy but are excellent for passing around too. Crack them on someone’s head to separate the segments and ... bingo. Even grannies with no teeth can suck away happily on them and be part of the festive fun. Just don’t wallop them on grannies’ heads. They don’t like that much.

Maybe it is because we are all becoming so health conscious but there were confections left over after the big day this year. In the Co-op earlier this week, they had piles of Chocolate Oranges at the corners of the aisles. Before you ask, no, I have resolutions to keep. These are resolutions from last New Year but I thought I’d better make an effort in the last week.

The head office of one of the big shops has just told me they were selling more real fruit, like oranges, and less of the chocolates shaped like oranges and they said that was because of their customers making more of an effort to be healthy.

That’s amazing. It is all coming full circle. When I was young, I was lucky if I got a lucky bag, a Dinky toy and a real orange or two nestling in the toes of that huge darned stocking I had hung from the mantelpiece on Christmas Eve. That was not because my parents were trying to be healthy. We were just very poor. Aw.

One of our neighbours is notorious for his sweet tooth and he can’t stop once he starts. Late on Sunday, he gave in and ripped open a present he had got of a box of Cadbury’s Roses. He was proud of himself for having resisted them for a few hours but he finally cracked. One, two, three went down the hatch then ... crack. He realised he had bitten one with a particularly hard nut inside.

It wasn’t the nut that had cracked. It was his dentures. As he sat there, looking like a granny contemplating a Chocolate Orange, he should have known there was little point in phoning the dental centre at 20 minutes to midnight. He bleated to the answering machine: “I broke my falf teef on a Brafil Nut. If there a dentift on duty? Call me back, pleaf.” He’f still waiting - sorry, he’s still waiting.

After the 15th slice of pizza, it was time to pull some crackers. The jokes are not getting any better. Why does Santa Claus go down the chimney on Christmas Eve? Because it soots him. That is from the 1960s. I did find one or two worth a giggle. How did Mary and Joseph know that Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born? They had a weigh in a manger.

There were one or two which were almost up-to-date although I was fed up of so many saying Miley Cyrus’s dinner was twerkey. I did like one asking why were Jeremy Clarkson's colleagues excited to try his mulled wine? Because they’d been floored by his punch.

Jokes aside, this is also the time of year when we go all maudlin and wallow in self-pity. We cannot help but think of happy times long ago. The telly is full of reminiscences about prominent people that are no longer with us. Twenty years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don’t let Kevin Bacon die.

Haggis Was Brought to Scotland by Vikings, Says Expert
Scotland’s famous national dish is an “imposter” and has been faking it as native for centuries, says an award-winning butcher who has traced haggis and its recipe back to Viking invaders. Joe Callaghan, of Callaghans of Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, has been researching the savoury dish for three years and claims the evidence is clear – haggis should be made with deer, not sheep.He also claims it was not invented by the Scots, but was instead left behind by marauding Norsemen as they plundered the Scottish coastline during the ninth century.  Mr Callaghan, 50, learned his trade in his dad’s butchers from the age of 10, and insists on calling his dish ‘staggis’, in homage to the wild Highlands red deer. Haggis is commonly known as a sausage made from a sheep’s stomach stuffed with diced sheep’s liver, lungs and heart, oatmeal, onion, suet and seasoning. Varying claims about the origins of haggis have been offered over the years. However, Mr Callaghan is convinced the authentic recipe is venison, creating a “meatier and richer” flavour in an interpretation of the dish which also contains port, juniper, balsamic vinegar, redcurrants and spices.  He said. “The Vikings brought haggis to Scotland, we are sure of this. My recipe is based on the original Viking recipe, made with venison plucks, which I have tweaked a bit, so it’s unique to me. Scotland’s national dish, as it is widely known, is an imposter. The real national dish is staggis, and always has been.”  Though deer are indigenous to Scotland, there is evidence that sheep such as the Soay breed - named for the tiny Scottish island, near Skye, they were originally discovered on - have been native to Scotland for around 4,000 years.  The first written reference to haggis is recorded in the cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum dating from around 1430 in Lancashire, which refers to ‘hagws of a schepe’ and uses sheep’s offal as the core ingredient.  Mr Callaghan is not alone in claiming Scotland’s national dish has Scandinavian origins. Several noted food writers, such as celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson Wright, have backed the claim.

Pope Appoints Priest From Socially Deprived Parish As Scotland's Newest Bishop
Pope Francis has appointed a 50-year-old parish priest from one of Scotland's most socially deprived areas as the latest Catholic bishop in Scotland.  Monsignor Brian McGee becomes the new Bishop of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles which has been vacant for over 18 months. He is the latest appointment to the Catholic hierarchy born in the 1960s and marks a generational change within the Bishops' Conference of Scotland, its main decision-making body in the country.  One senior church figure said the Bishops' Conference would "benefit from his fresh perspective and thoughtful discernment".  Mgr. McGee is currently parish priest of Holy Family Parish in Port Glasgow, as well as Vicar General of the Diocese of Paisley, which sees him charged with overseeing the diocesan administration.  Bishop-Elect McGee said: “It was very humbling, and indeed frightening, to be informed by the Papal Nuncio that Pope Francis had nominated me to be the new bishop of the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles. However, after reflection and prayer I now face this mission with quiet but definite confidence.  I am excited about coming to the diocese. It has an ancient and proud heritage whose roots stretch back almost one and a half thousand years preceding even its spiritual father, Saint Columba.  I cannot deny that it is a wrench for me to leave the Diocese of Paisley. This was where I wanted to minister from my youth and I have always been very happy there.  I grew up in Greenock daily enjoying beautiful views of the Cowal Peninsula, Bute and Arran and I still savour them from my parish in Port Glasgow today. I have holidayed and trekked throughout the diocesan boundaries from my earliest childhood to the present day. I have made several pilgrimages to Iona. I already look forward to living within what will be my new diocese and I sure that I will naturally come to love its people.” Born in Greenock in 1965 to parents from Donegal and Belfast, Mgr McGee attended school in the Inverclyde town before attending seminary at St Patrick’s College in Thurles, County Tipperary.  He was ordained priest for the Diocese of Paisley in 1989, also spending a decade as parish priest in Clarkston, East Renfrewshire, as well as two years as spiritual director of Scotland's national seminary.  Bishop John Keenan of Paisley said: “Many congratulations to Bishop Elect Brian on his appointment by Pope Francis to the See of Argyll and the Isles. I am not at all surprised that he has been chosen for this important office.  He is loved and respected dearly by his own parishioners in Holy Family, Port Glasgow, who will miss him, and his elevation leaves big shoes to fill in the diocese of Paisley.  I can assure the clergy and people of Argyll and the Isles that they are getting a pastor who will give his all to serving them with justice and who will lead them with energy and vision. He will be a valued member of the Bishop’s Conference which will benefit from his fresh perspective and thoughtful discernment.”

Caledonian Challenge is Scotland's Oldest Endurance Event
It is Scotland's longest-endurance challenge which pits its participants against some of the most rugged and stunning terrain in the country.  But the roots of the Caledonian Challenge, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, stretch beyond Scotland and can be found in far-off Hong Kong where the event's founder Angus MacDonald first conceived the idea.  Since then, 17,000 people have followed in his footsteps, raising over £13 million for Foundation Scotland, the country's busiest grantmaker.  And organisers are hoping that many more will take on the challenge in the years ahead as they gear up to celebrate the milestone of reaching two decades in business.  Mr MacDondald, 53, has undertaken the challenge on eight different occasions, but is now happy to let others tread the arduous route.  He said: "The Caledonian Challenge is based on a walk that takes place in Honk Kong through the Kowloon Mountains called 'Trailwalkers', which was for Ghurkas in Nepal.  It was hugely popular with the ex-pat community and I took part when I was based out there. That led me to thinking that we could do something similar through the Munros in Scotland, bagging as many as we could in four days."  This became the first attempt at a Caledonian Challenge, with 25 people setting out in different teams to conquer Scotland's peaks.  But a rethink was needed to make the course more accessible and the following year the Challenge was set along the West Highland Way, a route which is still used to this day, with minor alterations.  The annual hike takes place in June each year with 1,000 hardy souls tackling the West Highland way in 12-hour or 24-hour sections.  The 54-mile route starts at Gairlochy, on the Great Glen Way walk north of Fort William, and ends at Strathfillan Wigams near Tyndrum. The 24-mile version starts in Glen Nevis, ending at the Glencoe Ski centre. On both challenges, participants have to climb out of Glen Nevis, head along the Lairigmor - the great pass - to an old military road and then down into Kinlochleven.  The Blair Atholl-based businessman said: Because of the amount of time the first one took and the level of fitness you had to have, that wasn't something we continued with.  So we changed it and marketed it very actively and treated it like a business. By year four there were 1,500 people taking part and it's grown since then.  At first the people who run the West Highland Way were reluctant to have so many people doing the challenge at once, but we give them a sizeable donation to make sure that any wear and tear is repaired and that everything is as we found it."  Over the years the event has been run without fail, even when it was threatened by floods during one particularly wet summer. Mr MacDonald said it remains a challenge for even experienced hikers, but is something anyone could do with the right training.  He said: "When I was actually doing the challenge and it got into the last few miles, I doubt there was a more miserable person in Scotland. But it feels fantastic to finish.  Training for it for four months got me into shape and I'd lose about a stone in weight and feel fit and healthy. It's hugely rewarding and something that everyone should try."

Tributes Paid to Silly Wizard Folk Legend Andy M Stewart
Andy M Stewart, the singer and songwriter whose deep understanding of the Scottish tradition played a huge part in the success of trail-blazing folk group Silly Wizard, has died after a long illness.  Born in Alyth, near Blairgowrie in Perthshire, Stewart emerged as a passionate singer and upholder of traditional songs as a teenager when he formed the group Puddock’s Well with singer, songwriter and fiddle Dougie Maclean and bassist Martin Hadden. Invited in the mid-1970s to join Silly Wizard, who needed a Scottish singer to lend weight to their fiery instrumental sound, Stewart became known across Europe and particularly in the US with the band as an authoritative singer and an entertaining raconteur.  His original songs including The Queen of Argyll and the Valley of Strathmore became staples of the band’s live concerts and he toured with them until they broke up in 1988.  Stewart then formed successful, internationally acclaimed duos with guitarist-bouzouki player Manus Lunny, of Capercaillie, recording the classic At It Again album, and with guitarist Gerry O'Beirne before ill-health forced him to retire from music-making. Following failed spinal surgery, earlier this year he was left paralysed from the chest down and a fund-raising campaign was launched to provide wheelchair-friendly accommodation and daily nursing care.  He was inducted into the Scots Trad Music Hall of Fame with Silly Wizard in 2012.

Gold for Pulteney Distillery in Global Awards
Pulteney Distillery and visitor centre in Wick has been given a gold medal in a new international drinks industry competition for its high standard in consumer experience.  The Global Distillery Masters 2016 was created to recognise the world’s finest distilleries and the growing importance of tourism, creativity and technical merit in the spirit industry.  Entrants were assessed on their customer experience, production innovation, digital and social media and environmental initiatives.  Pulteney’s visitor centre attracts thousands of UK and international visitors every year. It was refurbished in 2013 and showcases not only how Old Pulteney single malt Scotch whisky is produced, but also Wick’s rich seafaring heritage.  Inver House Distillers, the owner of Pulteney Distillery, scooped an impressive haul of awards in the competition with its other distilleries too.  Karen Walker, marketing director at Inver House Distillers, said: “The medals serve to highlight the great lengths our staff go to in ensuring that each and every aspect of how we run our distilleries – from product innovation to the customer experience – is carried out in the best possible way, helping to create brands of real distinction.”

Scottish Government Slams Scotland Office's Rise in Spending on Communications Staff
The Scotland Office is spending four times as much on communications staff as it did in 2010, according to figures from the Scottish Government, who described its role as a "marketing campaign for the Union".  The Scotland Office, part of the UK Government, will spend a projected £474,000 on nine staff in 2015-16, according to figures obtained by the SG through freedom of information requests.  This compares to two staff at a cost of £108,439 in 2010-11. MSP James Dornan said that with only one Conservative MP in Scotland, the Chancellor should remove the budget ring fence for the "pointless" department. Mr Dornan said: "As the UK government are implementing massive cuts to spending on public services and slashing the incomes of the poorest through welfare cuts, people will be shocked that they are spending over 430% more on press officers for David Mundell.  David Mundell is Scotland's sole Tory MP and represents a party that received its worst election result in Scotland since 1865 in this year's general election. Scotland did not choose a Tory government, yet it is now paying hundreds of thousands to promote Tory policies.  It is absurd that George Osborne has also chosen to protect the Scotland Office's budget - he should remove the budget ring fence for this pointless department."  A Scotland Office spokesman said: "The UK Government has a duty to inform the public about its policy and work."

75,000 Hogmanay Revellers to Fly Into Edinburgh Airport
A record-breaking 75,000 passengers are expected to fly into Edinburgh Airport ahead of the capital's world-famous Hogmanay celebrations.  The airport said it was expecting its busiest ever new year as revellers flock to the city from around 70 countries.  The figure trumps last year when 70,966 passengers flew into Edinburgh between Christmas Day and December 31. The 2013 figure was 66,708.  Chief executive of Edinburgh Airport Gordon Dewar said: "Last year's arriving passenger figures in the run-up to New Year smashed all records of Scottish Airports, so to go one better this year is a great achievement.  People want to visit us - and at this time of year they want to party with us."  The celebrations start with the torchlight procession on December 30, when 10,000 torchbearers will travel from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill for the fireworks finale.  This year for the first time, Edinburgh's Hogmanay will link up with the Mayor of London's New Year celebrations to support Unicef's New Year's Resolution for Children. Edinburgh Castle, the Camera Obscura, Jenners department store and the statue of Queen Victoria on the roof of the Royal Scottish Academy will be illuminated blue along with the Shard, the London Eye, the National Theatre and the Golden Jubilee Walkways in London. Both cities will hold a minute of blue fireworks.  The children's charity will receive a 5% donation from every torch sold for the torchlight procession and partygoers at the Street Party, Concert in the Gardens and Old Town Ceilidh will be encouraged to support Unicef via a special screen message.  All donations by revellers in Edinburgh and London will be matched by the UK Government.  Pete Irvine, director of Edinburgh's Hogmanay, said: "While Hogmanay is a time for celebration it's also a chance to look forward and a moment to reflect on the lives of others less fortunate. Unicef needs to raise vital funds for children caught in the war in Syria, and we encourage revellers across all the Edinburgh's Hogmanay and London events to put their money where their mouth is and support the Unicef New Year's Resolution for Children."

Margaret Thatcher Archives: Scots Were 'Pampered' and A 'Juicy' Target for Cuts
A key adviser to Margaret Thatcher described Scotland and its people as pampered and a juicy target for public spending cuts in 1986, previously secret official files show.  David Willetts advised the Iron Lady that the Conservatives could win more votes in England if she was seen to be hammering the Scots.  Now a peer who served as a science minister in David Cameron’s government, Lord Willetts has recently defended the millions of pounds spent on the UK's involvement in manned space missions.  His comments are revealed in private cabinet papers released for the first time under the 30-year rule. Past papers have showed he had said the Scots had their "snouts in the trough" of public spending.  The SNP said that people would not be "surprised at secret Tory plots to slash Scotland's budget" revealed in the newly released papers. They also reveal how then Scottish Secretary Lord Younger even accused parts of his own government of being “prejudiced” against Scotland.  Colleagues were concerned that Lord Younger would resign amid the row.  In January 1986, Lord Willetts wrote a letter to Mrs Thatcher describing Scotland as the “only juicy” target left over from a previous round of public spending cuts.  He admitted that slashing the amount of cash given to Scotland could rebound disastrously on the Conservative party north of the Border.  However, he cited a poll which suggested the party’s position was already perhaps “so bad that it might not deteriorate any further”.  “The envious North of England might even welcome an attack on the pampered Scots over the Border,” he added.  In the same letter he warned that Sir George was “very emotional” over the issue and “could even threaten to resign”.  He suggested to the Prime Minister that she use the "threat” of a study into public finances across the UK, which many Tory MPs believed would recommend a large drop in the Scottish budget, to force Lord Younger to agree to tens of millions of pounds worth of cuts.  Lord Younger was replaced in a cabinet reshuffle on January 11 1986 by Malcolm Rifkind .  The new Scottish Secretary came out fighting in February in a letter warning of the worsening state of the economy north of the Border and threats to Ravenscraig which later shut.  Meanwhile, the Treasury was arguing for cuts to the Barnett Formula, which determines how much money is given to Scotland, when UK ministers announced extra public spending south of the Border.  When the Cabinet met to discuss the issue on February 20, 1986, ministers faced accusations they were influenced by “resentment” against Scotland.  Mrs Thatcher ordered a limited study, but its results were inconclusive.  In May Lord Willetts reluctantly advised against one, but told the Prime Minister the threat of a review could be used to squeeze concessions from the Scotland Office.  On May 22 1986 Mrs Thatcher asked Edinburgh to draw up plans for population-based cuts after a document revealed falls in the numbers of people living north of the Border.  An SNP spokesman said: "No one will be surprised at secret Tory plots to slash Scotland's budget - the Tory austerity agenda is one of choice not necessity and it has been going on for decades. They are doing the same under Cameron."

Spending per head is an oversimplified basis for any comparison.  To maintain Scotland and its population at a similar level of services and facilities to the rest of UK costs more in relation to the demographics involved.  Scotland has 8.4% of the UK population BUT 32% of UK land mass (increased transport and communication costs - roads, bridges, railways and more), 50% of UK coastline (increased shipping/ferry costs), population density of 67/ (UK 259) (increased logistical costs in delivering medical, social etc services and even parliamentary representation). If Westminster wants to keep Scotland in the UK it needs to accept these additional costs.  Actually, based on these figures, not only is Scotland under-financed by Westminster but also under-represented there.  This also applies to other areas of the UK.

Thousands Join Ranks of Shetland’s Up Hely Aa Vikings for Torchlight Procession
Thousands of people joined the mass ranks of Shetland’s Up Hely Aa Vikings for a torchlight procession that signals the start of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations.  Around 8,000 torchbearers created a river of fire through streets of the capital on Wednesday, winding their way from the George IV Bridge to Calton Hill.  The annual event has is usually free and unticketed, but due to its popularity Hogmanay organisers said that access to Calton Hill will be exclusively for torchbearers and their accompanying friends and family.

Maid of the Loch Bags Two Relics From its Past

The last major paddle steamer built in Britain has been presented with two items from its illustrious past to put on display.  Robert Cleary, a former purser on the Maid of the Loch, has donated leather money-bags once used to hold the day’s takings from the ship before they were banked locally in Balloch.  Both bags are at least 60 years old.  One bag bears the inscription “Superintendent Steward, Loch Lomond Steamers, Balloch Pier” and was used to hold the money from the catering department, while the other was used by the then purser for the fares collected. The Maid is currently moored at Balloch Pier, on Loch Lomond, as a static visitor attraction. The Heritage Lottery Fund has given the Maid's owners, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, funding worth £230,000 to employ the professional services needed to prepare a technical specification and develop a £5.5 million project to get the ship sailing again.  It has also promised £3.8m if the charity can raise the other £1.7m.  Mr Cleary, a retired teacher, used to work as a purser on board the Maid during the school holidays in summer.  He was recently clearing out his attic when he came across the bags, which he says he “kept” after the Maid's last sailing in August 1981.  John Beveridge, director of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, said yesterday: "The money collected in the bags would be deposited in a bank then transferred to the Caledonian Steam Packet Company/Caledonian MacBrayne account. This was apparently the system introduced in the 1930’s and was used right up until the Maid stopped sailing.  We're not sure about the actual date of the bags, but they certainly pre-date 1954 so are at least 60 years old. There were no such thing as credit cards then – everything seemed to be by cash."

Landslip Causes Disruption to Inverness-kyle Rail Service and Closes A835 Tore to Ullapool Road
A landslide at Garve is expected to cause disruption to rail and road journeys between Inverness and the west coast.  Rail services between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh have been cancelled after the landslip. It is understood that around 50 tonnes of earth were moved during the incident. The main A835 Tore to Ullapool road was also blocked in both directions by the same landslide. However, shortly after 9.30am Traffic Scotland announced that one land had reopened, with temporary traffic lights in place. They have warned motorists to be aware of slow moving vehicles.  In other news Scotrail added that it services had also been disrupted, with services terminating early. It is understood that rail journeys curtailed by the landslip may still run between Kyle of Lochalsh and Achnasheen, and between Inverness and Dingwall.  A general warning about disruption due to flooding has also been issued for the Highland mainline between Inverness and Perth.

Storm Frank to Cause Hogmanay Misery
Scotland was hit with severe flooding, torrential rain and numerous landslips as Storm Frank wreaked havoc across the country.  Aberdeenshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway bore the brunt of the extreme weather with thousands of homes were evacuated and left without power.Yesterday about 6,000 homes were still without electricity as repair efforts were hampered by rain and winds of up to 90mph.  In Ballater, where 1,500 homes lost their supply, engineers were unable to gain access to a substation because of flooding in the village.  Many properties are expected to remain cut off over Hogmanay and into the New Year.  Eight adults and two children, aged seven and five, were winched to safety by a rescue helicopter after a Stagecoach bus became trapped near Dailly, Ayrshire.  A further two adults were taken off the coach by officers from Police Scotland’s marine unit.  Shona Kirkwood, 49, described the drama as rising flood waters from the River Girvan lapped around the stranded bus with the passengers still inside. She said: “You could see the water was up to the windows so it must have been absolutely terrifying for the people on the bus.  A wall collapsed and that made it even worse, with water over the fields and in front -gardens.”  Floodwater also inundated Whitesands at Dumfries for the third time this winter and homes and families had to be evacuated at Newton Stewart.  In the Cree Valley more than 120mm of rain was recorded in a 12-hour period, and 11 coastal flood warnings for the Solway Firth were issued because of high tides and gales that reached 70mph along the coast.  The River Nith at Dumfries was around 4m higher than normal and a tidal surge in the early afternoon saw floodwater reach nearly 2m in places – the highest for many years. Key routes including the M8 and the M74 had lanes and junctions shut due to surface water. The A77 south of Girvan at Maybole in Ayrshire was closed due to surface water.  In East Ayrshire, travellers were asked to avoid New Cumnock and there were reports of cars stuck in water at Newark roundabout in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde.  A landslide forced the closure of the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful, while flooding shut the A85 at Crianlarich. Elsewhere, a kayaker had to be rescued after getting into difficulty in the River Findhorn.  The Scottish Government’s resilience committee met to assess the response to what environment minister Aileen McLeod described as a “very serious situation”.  Dumfries and Galloway Council deployed its major emergency response scheme for the second time this month and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) issued its highest flood alerts for Whitesands and Newton Stewart, where floodwaters raged into the town centre, knocking out telephones and flooding the police station. More than 2,000 homes and shops were left without power and a rest centre was set up at a school on the outskirts of the town.  New Galloway and Carsphairn in the Glenkens area of the Stewartry were also badly flooded, with all roads in and out closed by deep water.  More than 30 homes at Carsphairn had to be evacuated because of the rising waters and firefighters using boats managed to get families out of their homes.  Emergency services were called out to rescue 12 people who became stranded on a bus after it was engulfed in a massive flood in the Ayrshire village of Dailly.  Most of the country was on flood alert, with more than 100 warnings in force across Scotland. Sepa also issued two orange “danger to life” warnings of severe flooding for the rivers Nith in Dumfries and Galloway and the Tweed in the Borders.  Numerous properties had to be evacuated due to danger from rising floodwaters.  Residents of Ballater in Aberdeenshire were forced to flee after the River Dee overflowed, while the fire service was called in to help villagers in Straiton, South Ayrshire, to leave their homes.  Travel on motorways and rural routes alike was severely disrupted by surface water and landslips, with motorists being urged to avoid unnecessary journeys.  Meanwhile, Glasgow’s busy Great Western Road was partially closed near Gartnavel Hospital due to “severe flooding” and Aikenhead Road in the city’s southside was closed to all traffic after the road was left beneath several feet of water.  CalMac ferry sailings between Mallaig and Armadale and Oban and Craignure were cancelled, with the Largs to Cumbrae service also suspended.  ScotRail said services between Glasgow and Inverness, Carlisle and Kilmarnock suffered disruptions.  Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) said power faults were caused by wind damage and trees or other debris hitting lines.

I never heard a single mention of the floods & disruption in Scotland from any of our usual media outlets (TV & Newspapers) but again maybe old age is catching up and I miss events on TV, Radio & Newspapers- oh me!! Oh my!!!!.

Heirloom Home After 100-years
For over a century a Victorian locket has drifted half the globe looking to be reunited with a Darling in a remarkable story spanning three generations and two continents.  “It’s left me with wonderment and a sense of awe and mystery of the universe, makes me wonder if there really is something in fate,” said Stornoway resident Mandy (Amanda) Darling, as a quest, began long ago on the plains of Patagonia, reached its finale when she was presented with her great-aunt Maggie Darling’s sweetheart keepsake.  Born at Patterton Farm, near Thornliebank, Glasgow, in 1874, Maggie Darling trained as a schoolteacher before travelling to Isle of Lewis at the turn of the 20th century to take up post at Dun Carloway School.  Even before she’d stepped foot on the Western Isles, Maggie appeared to cause ripples in the remote community – a telegram sent to the school’s Headmaster reading ‘I’ll be off ferry tonight Darling’, leading to some awkward questioning from his wife.  A lively woman of her era, Maggie had a keen interest in politics and the supernatural – she reportedly held séances in her home upon the strict Protestant island – as well as being a bagpipe player, enjoying music and the adventure of sailing.  On Lewis, she met and married Calum Macleod; the couple, known locally by the nickname ‘Aird a Bhaigh’, settling first in 13 Kirivik before taking the bold step to leave their homeland to make a life in Patagonia, South America.  “I knew grandpa had a sister called Maggie who was said to be a bit crazy, but that’s all I knew,” said great-niece Mandy, unknowing she was following Maggie’s footsteps when she moved to settle in Lewis a century later. “It spooks me more than I’d like when I think about her. She was very opinionated, possibly a little stroppy. She was into politics and became a Lewis councillor in later life, so to me she was obviously a feminist of her time.  And she loved music and sailing. For people who know me, you could say we’re very similar, well, apart from holding séances,” continued Mandy, herself a musician and sailor.  It’s as if everything was waiting until the locket could be returned to me, it belongs with me.”  From the lack of family records during the years of World War I, Mandy assumes it was following the end of the Great War that the ‘Ard a Bhaighs’ returned to Lewis, building a house – called Aird a Bhaigh – in Sandwick, just outside Stornoway.  Calum acted as agent for islanders travelling to Patagonia and beyond, while Maggie continued to sponsor island education and took up role as local councillor.  Yet, back in Patagonia, a gold and crystal glass locket containing two photo portraits lay lost amongst the vast grassland plains.  That is until it was spied, glinting in the grass, by a man, believed to be a fellow islander, on horseback searching the lands for stray sheep.  “We don’t know who this man was, but the story goes that he got down off his horse, picked up the locket, remarked that it was the ‘Aird a Bhaighs’, and put it in his pocket making up his mind to return it to Maggie,” explained Mandy.  The early 20th century marched on and World War II, the Darling family believe, long delayed the locket’s return to Lewis.  When it did arrive, both Maggie and Calum had died, leaving no children behind them. Calum’s two sisters had also passed, and so the generational search for a Darling family member began.  The locket, its story and the quest to reunite it with the family was entrusted first to local solicitor and Procurator Fiscal Colin Scott Mackenzie, before being passed to his son, also Colin Scott, then the third generation of his family to become Fiscal at Stornoway.  A bite on the line came in the 1980s when Mandy’s cousin, Gwyn Darling, visited Lewis; but with Colin Scott having advanced to the bench as Sheriff in Orkney, and Gwyn leaving no contact details, the trail ran cold.  Retired from the bench, and unaware a Mandy Darling had washed up on island shores, Colin Scott was on the brink of donating the locket, and a written version of its story, to Museum nan Eilean in the ‘faintest of faint hope’ a claimant would one day appear. Then a chance meeting of islanders with Patagonian connections at a dinner in the Cabarfeidh Hotel saw a retelling of the story – and Mandy and Colin Scott were connected. “I was told that Colin Scott Mackenzie was looking for me, that he had something for me,” said Mandy.  “I was intrigued, got in touch, and he told me of his life-long search for a Darling family member, a search he’d inherited from his father. I went to his house and, after proving who I was to the former Sheriff, he put the locket in my hand.”  She continued: “That’s what else is remarkable about this; it’s not just the locket that’s survived, but the story has been passed along with it.  “It just makes me wonder, over 100 years ago at least Maggie lost her locket, is it pure coincidence, is there something in fate that it should end up in my hand a century later? It’s amazing.”

Edinburgh's Fireworks Usher in 2016 with A Bang
Edinburgh has led the capital's traditional Hogmanay celebrations as its firework display lit up the sky over the famous castle as the clock struck midnight to mark the start of 2016.  Around 75,000 revellers from more than 80 countries hugged, kissed and exchanged greetings at they celebrated the start of the new year in Princes Street.  They were then treated to the traditional spectacular display then lit up Edinburgh Castle and could be seen for miles around on a clear night.  The event went with a bang too, as Scottish rock group Biffy Clyro headlined the sell-out concert in Princes Street Gardens.  One Australian party-goers Phil Carabot, from Melbourne, said of the Princes Street festivities: "It's good to be somewhere different.It’s the first time I’ve been away for 43 years and it reminds me a lot of home. I feel very comfortable, so it’s great.”In other towns and cities across the country revellers saw in the start of the second half of the decade whether attending public events or at private parties or in their homes.  The capital's celebrations had been in full flight since Thursday when torchlight procession when 10,000 torchbearers travelled from George IV Bridge to Calton Hill for the fireworks finale. This year's street party in the Scottish capital also featured a message from British astronaut Tim Peake being beamed onto screens just before midnight. Mr Irvine said: ''This is a truly global event with revellers joining us from around the world. This year we've gone one better and will be visited from space.''  In Glasgow, party-goers packed bars and clubs and were not deterred from coming out in to the city despite earlier torrential rain. However, the rain stayed off for the countdown to new year and many gathered at the winter festival in George Square to celebrate.  Security was stepped up at many events in the wake of heightened fears in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Islanders Receive Increased Air Fares Discount

Islanders will now be eligible for a 50% discount on air fares, as ministers described flights to remote communities as "lifeline connections".  The new discount is an increase of 10% to the previous Air Discount Scheme (ADS) and is available for residents of Caithness and north-west Sutherland, Colonsay, Islay, Jura, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.  The discount will apply to all tickets booked on or after January 1 and is also available to students who study away from home, volunteers and employees of third sector organisations.  Minister for Transport and the Islands Derek Mackay announced earlier in 2015 that the scheme would be extended until 2019.