Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 422

Issue # 422                                     Week ending Saturday 14th October 2017

Why I Think That Rocker Madonna’s Minister Will Be A Cracking Moderator by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Women here in the islands need help. Our wee islands council has decided that, as no women were voted in last time round, they are going to balance things out by dragging in any females they can find and make them members of working groups. They need them to be part of decision-making processes - even if the electorate and the entire democratic process has rejected those that stood and seemingly suggested they stay home and do something useful - like cook their men’s dinners.

I am joking, of course, but some people have told me they don’t think this is how to handle the problem. There should instead, they say, be help for women to allow them to be candidates. Help with childcare, help with caring for relatives, help with cooking nicer dinners - er, maybe not that one. Help them to keep healthier so they can work longer hours and be effective leaders like, er, well, like, Reverend Susan Brown. Yeah, the Dornoch minister is to be the next Moderator of the General Assembly in the Auld Kirk. Nice one, Susie B.

She is made in Scotland from girders, that one. Best known for marrying Madonna and that film director cove, that union didn’t end well but that wasn’t her fault. She did the blessing and praying bits by the book. As she did last year when Stornoway couple Willie, from the paint shop, and Shirley-Ann, from the cop shop, got wed in the Sutherland town’s ancient cathedral. Mrs X was photographer and Rev Susan drilled them to make it a memorable event. When you have bossed Madonna about, you can boss anyone. However, Mrs X says she was very nice and helpful to her too - so, yeah that clinches it. I think she will be a cracking Moderator too.

In politics, good health is crucial. “There are three things you cannot hide; coughing, poverty and love,” says an old Jewish proverb. Where would we be without being able to cough? Not only is it a very handy function of the body to clear the throat of, well, whatever is clogging up the throat, it is also an oft-used device in matters of etiquette. For instance, when you go into a shop - Inverness ones are the worst for this - and the assistant has their back to you, is engrossed in a book or has their peepers firmly fixed on their smartphone rather doing their, a polite cough is all you need to get their total attention.

With Theresa May’s endless spluttering the other day at the party conference, maybe she was thinking of buying the entire shop. Her coughing also confirmed she is there - but only just. No wonder she was convulsing with that hacking cough. The poor wee PM is feeling the pressure of all these malcontents in her own party and it is just as well yon Boris Johnson says he is not in the least bit interested in her job. Do I think Johnson is angling for the premiership? Does a bear attend to its ablutions in a rural setting?

Top doc Dr Gerald Brookes, a specialist at a Harley Street ear, nose and throat clinic, gives advice to patients with bad coughs. He says: “The best thing you can do is keep quiet, rest the voice, and let things settle down and it'll be fine.” Which is all splendid advice if you have hours to go before your speech to the nation and you do not have too many worries about your own future to distract you from common sense.

Another woman who seems to have worries over her future is Melania Trump. When her hubby’s ex, Ivana, claimed in an interview about her new book that she spoke to The Donald at least once a fortnight, she added: "I don't want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I'm basically first Trump wife. I'm first lady, OK?" Of course not, Ivana. You would not want to cause any green-eyed monsters on the lawn. Then Mel came out of her shell. She fired off a statement saying she planned to use her title and role to help children, not sell books. Ouch, then she added: “Unfortunately only attention seeking and self-serving noise.” Let’s hope there’s more to come.

Anyway, why should women want to get into politics? Is it the best occupation? Can you make a difference? Maybe there are other choices. I say that because I am reminded of the words of that great philosopher Grouch Marx. He said: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it and then misapplying the wrong remedies.”

Gaelic School Rejected After Council Shuns Parents' Bid
A bid by parents for Gaelic primary school education has been rejected despite new laws which were supposed to encourage the spread of the language.  A group of 49 families from East Renfrewshire contacted the council asking them to explore the possibility of a Gaelic primary unit or school in the area.  However, East Renfrewshire Council sent letters to all those involved warning families children would no longer be able to attend their local catchment area school if a Gaelic facility was set up.  “Instead, your child would attend another establishment in a location yet to be decided,” the letter said.  The council also highlighted the importance of parents learning Gaelic stating: “It is considered that it is crucial prospective parents ... who are not already Gaelic speakers are committed to learning Gaelic.”  The council said subsequent responses showed only families of eight children had remained interested - spread across a number of school years - and rejected the request. A subsequent appeal was also dismissed.  However, parents say the tone of the letter was designed to be off-putting and argue the council has not operated within the spirit of the legislation.  Under the 2016 Education (Scotland) Act an obligation has been placed on councils to investigate the case for a Gaelic unit whenever parents ask for one, but there have to be at least two pupils in order for it to be considered and five in the same year group to trigger an automatic consultation.  A spokeswoman for the East Renfrewshire parent group said: “The letter was extremely negative in tone and had a devastating impact, with some families withdrawing their support because of an apparent loss of a place at their catchment school a major issue.  Perhaps more seriously, several parents indicated that they did not receive a letter, while others who responded were told that they had not responded.” The way the council has dealt with the request has also sparked concern from national Gaelic organisations including parent body Comann nam Pàrant.  Robert McGowan, chair of Comann nam Pàrant, said: “We are surprised and extremely disappointed by the rejection of the appeal to East Renfrewshire Council which was based on clear grounds and we believe the council did not follow legislation and due process. It remains our view that the council did not act in line with the statutory guidance and that its approach to the assessment was both administratively and legally flawed.  We will be seeking the views of the Scottish Government on necessary next steps in relation to this request, but also to the guidance itself.” There were several serious deficiencies in the manner East Renfrewshire managed the preliminary assessment.  The most important issue is the very strong statements about the need for non Gaelic-speaking parents to learn Gaelic to support their children. This insistence is unprecedented. The overwhelming majority of parents of children in GME are not Gaelic speakers, especially in urban Lowland areas.  Gaelic policymakers have always believed it is extremely important to make GME accessible to as many people as possible. Parents are encouraged and supported to learn Gaelic, but it is crucial to present this message in a positive and supportive way. A heavy-handed approach that discourages or frightens parents will be damaging. This is particularly important in light of the national policy objective to increase pupil numbers in GME. This is the single most important element in the national strategy to secure Gaelic for the future. The council has been given an outstanding opportunity to act with 49 parents expressing an interest in GME, but instead of embracing it the council has suffocated it.

Litir Bhon A’Cheathram
le Alasdair MacMhaoirn
A’ cumail oirnn sa mhìos seo leis na cuimhneachan a bh’ aig Eòsaph MacAoidh nach maireann. An trup seo, a bhith a’t eagasg ann an Srath Mòr. This month we are continuing with the reminiscences of Joseph Mackay. This time he talks about the period between the wars.

...chaidh mi gu srath mòr gu side school. Agus bha mi teagaisg sin uile sia bliadhna is corr ’us agus bha mi glè thoilichte leis cuideachd ach cha robh an t-uabhasach de dh’airgid ann agus chaidh mi gus an obair rathad a bha sheo agus an uairsin bhris an dara cogadh a-mach.  ... I went to a side school in Strathmore. I taught there for more than six years and I was very happy with it but the wages were very poor so I went to work on the roads here, and then the second war broke out.

Nach b’ e obair cruaidh a bh’ ann? Ma bhios mi tuigsinn cuisean ceart, gun robh sibh fuireach cuide ris an teaghlach. Nach robh e duillich dhuibh a bhith a’ teagaisg na cloinne tron an là agus a bhith mar charaid dhaibh a’s an fheasgar?  Wasn’t the work difficult? If I understand things properly you lived with the family. Wasn’t it difficult to be a teacher through the day, and a friend in the evening?

Cha robh. Cha d’ rinn e diofar sam bith, bha an sluagh ann tuigsinn agus bha a chloinn ann tuigsinn. ’Se aon rud doirbh ann gun teagamh gun robh còignear chloinne ann agus anns a h-uile bliadhnaichean bhitheadh iad le chèile. Bha am fear bu shin’ bha e fàgail. Ach bha iad glè ’us bha sinn faotainn air (adhart) fearasd’ leòr ’us. Cha robh a chloinn, cha robh iad... bha iad glè mhath air ionnsachadh. Bha iad deònach ionnsachadh. Well, am fear bu shin’ chaidh a mharbhadh o’s an dara cogadh. Bha es’ o’s an Lovat Scouts. Cha robh es’ deònach air ionnsachadh mòran, bha athair aig na gheamair ... agus bha e a’ sireadh a bhith cuideachd ach tha cuimhne ’am bhitheadh e ... mar a thachair e a-mach, cha deach leis. Bha an dara fear bha e na gheamair o’s cinn Srath Mòr. Agus Tearlach, am fear bu shin’. No. It didn’t make any difference, the children understood and the family understood. The one thing that was difficult was that there were five children in different years and they were all together. The oldest one left... They were very good and we got on well and the children were very good scholars. They were willing to learn. Well, the oldest one was killed in the second war. He was in the Lovat Scouts. He wasn’t so keen on school, his father was a keeper... and he wanted to be a keeper also, I remember... As it happened, he didn’t manage. The second one was a keeper in Strathmore. And Charles...

Chaidh a h-uile fear ann air adhart gu Laorag dha Ard Sgoil agus rinn iad glè a sin. Marion chaidh i gu bhith na Clerical Officer o’s Ghlasgow agus a-nis Tearlach, bha e seòrs’ ... an Agriculture. Bha Tearlach glè glè mhath. Fhuair e scholarships agus chaidh e a-muigh o’s an States. ’Se adviser to the Secretary of State for Agriculture. Chan ann uamhasach fad oirre nuair a rinn e retireagadh. Agus an deaghaidh sin, an nighean, ’s ise an tè b’ òige. Fhuair ise a chuid mu dheireadh den teagaisg ann a sheo, bha i fuireach cuide ri aunt ann o’s an taigh shìos agus phòs i o’s Laorag. Agus am fear bu shin mharbh e o’s Italy ’s ann am fear bu shine agus an tè b’ òige a mharbh le chèil’ chan eil a leanabh fhàgail a-nis ach Dòmhnall agus Tearlach agus Màiri.  They all went to High School in Lairg, and they did well there. Marion became a Clerical Officer in Glasgow, and Charles, he was something in agriculture. Charles was very, very good. He got scholarships and he went out to the United States. He was the adviser to the Secretary of State for Agriculture. It’s not long since he retired. The girl, the youngest one: she was the last taught here, she lived with her aunt in a house just outside of Lairg. The oldest one died in Italy, and the youngest is dead also. Of the children left there is only Donald, Charles and Màiri.

Robh Teaghlaichean eil’ a’ fuireach a’s an srath? Were other families in the Strath?
Bha, ‘s e cìobairean ’sann ann Caisteal Dubh, trì no còig no ceathair mìltean air falbh agus bha amhainn mhòr mhòr a’ dol seachad ann a shin, bha sgoil eil’ ann a shin den an seòrs side schools a sheo. Agus aon eil’ aig h-Òp bha iad.... aig cìobair a bha e.  Yes, there were gamekeepers in Castle Dubh, three or four miles away, but not much passed in those days; there was another side school there similar to the one here. There was another in Hope, where there was a keeper and his family.

Nach ann anns an dearbh àite a rugadh Rob Donn? Wasn’t Rob Donn born in that very place?

Oh, sin an dearbh àite, ‘s e, far an robh sgoil, ... co-dhiù...taobh sìos seachad air cùlaibh o’s taobh eile an allt, far an robh iads a’ cumail mucan. ’S ann thall sin a rugadh Rob Donn.  Oh yes, just where the school was, where the house was, well down behind at the back one the other side of the burn, where they used to keep pigs. That’s where Rob Donn was born.

Sad News
Well-known Kinlochbervie writer, artist and popular retired schoolteacher Mr Andrew Marshall has died aged 94 following a fall in the local Ceilidh House, where he was a regular attender. He was airlifted from there to Raigmore Hospital but sadly died shortly thereafter from the effects of his fall — a broken hip.

Scottish Council Flies Catalan Flag in Solidarity with Region

A Scottish local authority is flying a Catalan flag in front of its headquarters following the contentious independence referendum in the Spanish province. West Dunbartonshire council raised the Estelada, an unofficial flag typically flown by Catalan independence supporters, in front of its headquarters in Dumbarton on Tuesday following a request by an elected member. Councillor Jim Bollan, of the West Dunbartonshire Community Party, asked for the flag to be raised after being approached by a local constituent. Provost William Hendrie supported the move. “It’s to show solidarity with the Catalan people,” Cllr Bollan said “I think the Catalan and Scottish people have a lot in common, given their respective independence movements.People across the world were shocked at the force used against the Catalan people for just trying to exercise their democratic right and vote.” The flag will fly until Tuesday. A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson said: “The Provost agreed to a request to fly the Catalan flag for one week from Tuesday, 3 October, as a symbol of support for those affected by violence in the area on Sunday.” The Titan Crane in nearby Clydebank was also lit in the colours of the Estelada.

Canada’s First Premier Under Scrutiny
A famous expatriate Scot with links to Rogart is the latest Empire figure to undergo a questioning of reputation. John A Macdonald, who was born in Glasgow, served as the first prime minister of Canada (1867-1873, 1878-1891). However, his treatment of the First Nations, particularly through education programmes rife with abuse, has led to calls for John A to be stripped of official recognition.  John A Macdonald’s grandfather came from Dalmore in the parish of Rogart and a memorial to John A was erected at the site of his grandfather’s home in 1968. It was opened by John Diefenbaker then Prime Minister of Canada. Every year in May, the Canadian flag is hoisted at the site and brought down again in a simple ceremony during October. Rogart Heritage Society chairperson Penny Calvert confirmed that the autumn ceremony would happen as usual this year. In her view, over-apologising for the past is not always constructive. “Different days are different ways and we have to look at how we are now”, she said.  Similar questions have been debated in Australia, where the Scottish pioneer Angus Macmillan — whose name was revered and memorialised for more than a century — has more recently been vilified for his treatment of indigenous peoples. Award-winning journalist Cal Flyn, who claims kin to Macmillan, covered the subject in a thought-provoking memoir, Thicker than Water, published in 2016. In the final chapter, Flyn writes of Macmillan: “We must hold him, and others like him, accountable for their actions. It is important to look back with clear hindsight and see what havoc they wreaked, and know that it was wrong. But before we sermonise too loudly upon the moral weaknesses of our predecessors, we must remember too what things looked like to them, so we might understand why they behaved as they did, and in doing so, ask how such things might be prevented from happening again.”

More Thanks for Outlander

We’ve heard much talk of the so-called “Outlander effect” on Scottish tourism, and today we have more hard figures to support the claim.  Historic Environment Scotland is reporting a 20 per cent average increase in footfall at its 70 sites across the country, meaning this summer was the busiest season on record.  Outlander, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon, has been behind much of the rise, particularly a 42 per cent hike at Doune Castle – famed for its role as the fictional Castle Leoch in the series. VisitScotland chief executive Malcolm Roughead has even hailed Outlander as the new “Braveheart” of tourism, for its ability to attract international visitors to its locations around Scotland.  It all adds up to great news for Scottish tourism as the industry faces an uncertain time negotiating the post-Brexit world. Today’s figures suggest a huge number of people coming to Scotland for the Outlander connection. Once here, we need to ensure they stay – and come back – for much more.

Historic Ayrshire Village of Loans Faces Being Swallowed by its Bigger Neighbour As Troon Looks to Grow

The historic village of Loans faces being swallowed by greater Troon.  Planners have suggested the boggy farmland that has always separated the town from the village could be filled with houses. The proposal sparked fury this week, with vows the 30 acres of land must remain “sacrosanct” and the village protected.  A developer is said to be waiting to snap up the field between Loans and Muirhead. The village, originally a medieval clachan, is already under threat from the north as housing developments head to the Struthers Burn. Councillor Peter Convery said he had been “flooded out” by concerned people. Planners want the development included in the official local plan for the area and Councillor Convery said: “This will go before full council and is not there just for a laugh.  There have already been discussions with contractors and it has sparked an emergency meeting of Loans Community Council. Nobody had actually told them about it.  The bottom line is we need to take it seriously. I have no wish to see it at all.  That ground is sacrosanct and it should never have been put into the local plan. I wouldn’t suggest for a minute the planners are being sleekit.” At Troon Community Council chairman Helen Duff suggested the issue had been kept “hush-hush.”  She said: “For as long as I have been on the community council – and that is 28 years – we have always said Loans should never be joined with Muirhead. I will totally object to any houses being built on that bogland.” Loans, which has a population of around 900 to Troon’s 15,000, was on the original turnpike toll between Ayr and Irvine.    By 1775 there was a cluster of homes but it was a known settlement much earlier and in 1654 was called Lons. Community council vice-chairman Dougie Graham said a similar plan was rejected in 1999.  He said: “As far as the community council was told then, it was designated green belt and no housing was to be built on it. The planners have come up with ideas and they try to force things on to us. If the public don’t like it they can have their say on it.” Community councillor Anne Cameron said: “That site is always flooded, both sides of the road for months. It is ludicrous.” The proposed local plan, to be discussed by South Ayrshire Council, reveals there were previous plans to build on the site and roads infrastructure to it is already in place. The report states: “The layouts of both settlements turn their backs towards each other at the moment and this doesn’t create an attractive approach to either of them. We think there is potential to improve the outward appearance of both Muirhead and Loans by creating a large shared parkland between them and providing land for new homes that would face each other over this new parkland landscape.”

Archaeologists Find Secret Treasures on Ayr High Street As Demolition Work Reveals Part of Town's Past

As diggers clear the old Woolworths site at the bottom of Ayr High Street archaeologists are pouring over finds in the soil. The remains of the old King’s Arms Hotel at number 14 have resurfaced along with pieces of medieval pottery. The inn, which was likely a haunt of Robert Burns, was demolished in 1925 to make way for Woolworths and other stores.  A team have been cutting trenches as the demoliltion continues – revealing the walls of the pub.  Archaeologist Thomas Rees said: “The King’s Arms was an important pub and hotel at the western end of the site. It was once owned by the council. There is quite good survival of the low wall surfaces and cobbled and paved surfaces. There is a good streetscape of the hotel and its yard.”  Early examination shows archaeologists are likely to strike historical gold.  Mr Rees said: “It will help our understanding of how the medieval burgh grew up. Archaeology gives us an insight into how people lived their lives.”  Medieval pottery, which has already emerged, is being examined by a specialist. Mr Rees said: “It is reassuring that we have found it because it suggests survival of the earlier foundations of the burgh.” The Carnegie Library in Ayr has launched an exhibition to coincide with the site exploration, which reveals more about the operation of the King’s Arms and the layout of the High Street at the time .  A four-horse passenger coach left twice a day from the inn for Glasgow alternating with the Black Bull.  Stagecoaches rushed into the courtyard at the back of the King’s Arms through an archway, which still exists in Bridge Street. The library has amazing images of the inn on display.  An advertisment for the inn boasted that the “accommodation afforded at the King’s Arms is such as to give entire satisfaction. The cuisine department always commands his best attention and his stock of wines and spirits is of the finest quality.” The original material shown in the library has helped inform archaeologists as they prepare to dig deeper. It includes a map of Ayr from 1654 by a Dutch cartographer. Local history librarian Tom Barclay said the Riverside site was at the centre of the town’s beginnings. He said: “It would have been the heart of the royal burgh of Ayr as it was established at the beginning of the 13th century. There may be traces that go back to the beginning of Ayr as a town. It is hard to know at this stage what they will find. Hopefully it will be exciting.”  Proper archaeoligal exploration is yet to start but will be factored in at later stages to fit in with the planning process.

Nicola Sturgeon Announces Publicly Owned Energy Company
Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled plans to create a new state-owned Scottish energy firm in a move aimed at driving down soaring energy costs.  It will be available to all customers across Scotland and operate as an alternative to the current privately-owned giants like npower and Scottish Gas.  The new firm will be set up by 2021 and Ms Sturgeon told delegates at the SNP conference in Glasgow yesterday that the new firm would allow low income Scots to turn to a supplier only concerned with “securing the lowest price for customers. A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon later said the new firm would supply electricity and gas.  The move will be seen as a bid to address fears among senior SNP strategists of a Labour revival in Scotland, and Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley accused Ms Sturgeon of “passing off” his party’s policies as her own.  It came as the First Minister pledged that a second referendum on independence would be staged in the coming years and called on delegates to make the case with “conviction.”  The SNP had pledged to explore the option of a new publicly owned, not for profit energy company during the campaign for last year’s Holyrood election.  And the First Minister yesterday pledged to establish such a firm by the end of this Parliament. More details will be set out in the government’s forthcoming energy strategy. “Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland - renewable, of course - and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible,” she said.  “No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider.  It would give people - particularly those on low incomes - more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers.” Both Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and Theresa May have unveiled plans to cap energy prices, with Labour also having backed a not-for-profit energy firm.

Englishman Rescued From Freezing Loch Ness After Going for Dip in Boxer Shorts

A man had to be rescued from one of Scotland’s most famous beauty spots after going for a dip in his boxer shorts.  Cam Hendry, who is from York, could not get out of the waters of Loch Ness for an hour after going for a swim on Monday, causing his pregnant girlfriend to dial 999,  The 26-year-old “lost all feeling in his legs” due to the freezing conditions with strong waves forcing him against the side of the cruiser boat the couple had hired.  Cruise boat the Ness Express came to his aid with passengers Alan and Kate James hauling him from the water, where he was given a body suit and taken to Fort Augustus.  Afterwards he was airlifted by coastguard helicopter to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.

Comment -R Wouldn't  a trip to  the Psych Hospital been more appropriate?

£325 Million Rosyth Biomass Plant Could Still Go Ahead
A Biomass plant that promised to create hundreds of jobs in Rosyth could still happen.  The £325 million project was approved by the Scottish Government in 2014, just two months before the applicants pulled out.  Forth Energy Ltd, a joint venture between Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Forth Ports, wanted to build a combined heat and power biomass plant that would create 570 jobs at the Port of Rosyth.   After they withdrew the scheme was dead in the water but an application to renew the consent could see it being revived by another operator.   A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Consent to construct and operate the Port of Rosyth Biomass Electricity Generating Station was issued to Forth Energy Ltd on January 24, 2014 subject to certain conditions, one of which being that it should be implemented within five years from the date of the decision. At this time, the consent has still to be implemented. Forth Energy Ltd has requested a further extension of the timescale for implementation of this consent, which is under consideration.”  Forth Energy said the £325m investment would provide low carbon energy to the local area, more than 40 per cent of Fife Council’s electricity needs and an economic boost in West Fife of £26m a year. The plant would provide 500 jobs during construction and 70 operational jobs at the port.  Forth Energy also had plans for similar biomass plants at Grangemouth and Dundee.  The proposals were met with opposition from local communities but were approved by the then energy minister, Fergus Ewing.  He had said: “The combined heat and power plant at the Port of Rosyth will create hundreds of jobs during its construction and while in operation will continue to support local employment while generating renewable power for local business and industry. In consenting this application I have put in place a series of conditions to protect local residents from inconvenience, and protect the environment and air quality. The conditions to the consent also ensure that the fuel used in the biomass is from sustainable and responsible sources.” It was approved in January 2014 but just two months later, in March of that year, Forth Energy said they were not continuing with the renewable energy projects in Grangemouth and Rosyth and would seek new backers.

Michael Russell warns failure to get agreement on Brexit Bill would lead to "trench warfare" between London and Edinburgh
A failure to sort out disagreements between London and Edinburgh on Theresa May’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill would lead to “trench warfare,” Michael Russell, the Scottish Government’s Brexit minister, has warned.  Nicola Sturgeon’s administration believes the legislation is a “power-grab” by Whitehall, insisting, post withdrawal, powers should go straight from Brussels to Holyrood.  The UK Westminster Government argues that the powers need to go to Westminster first before being passed to Edinburgh to ensure the integrity of the country’s single market is maintained. Appearing before the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, Mr Russells told MPs there should be no imposition from Whitehall but full consent by Holyrood with co-decision-making on post-Brexit frameworks. Asked by Labour’s Danielle Rowley what would happen if MSPs continued to withhold consent, he said the UK constitution would then be put in a unique circumstance, creating a “real great difficulty” between the governments and the parliaments.  While he noted how getting agreement on the Withdrawal Bill would help smooth the way for consent on subsequent Brexit bills, the minister warned that failure to do so “would frankly start a process which would become more difficult with every single following day…a kind of trench warfare and that’s in nobody’s interest.”

Treasure Hunter Coining it in From School Playgrounds

A 79-year-old metal detectorist famed for finding the north’s largest hoard of Roman coins has turned his attention to school playing fields picking up nearly £2000 worth of change that has dropped out of pupils’ pockets. Eric Soane spends entire days combing playgrounds for coins to boost the coffers of cash-strapped schools.  And the amateur treasure hunter, who is one of Scotland’s top suppliers of treasure trove, has been reaping the rewards of his past time by banking more than 20,000 coins.  He said the reaction from the school pupils when he hand-delivers a wad of notes was priceless.  "I couldn’t believe the reception I got at Obsdale Primary School in Alness," he said.  The pensioner, who lives at Tornagrain, works with the National Museums of Scotland, Inverness Museum and the Highlanders Museum to piece together the past at significant sites in the local area.  He prides himself on being the "fastest finder" in the north and has hit the national news headlines for his discoveries.  His biggest yield came when his metal detector struck on part of a 36 denarii Roman coin hoard during a clean up of discarded tent pegs at Belladrum. A dig led by archaeologist Dr Fraser Hunter uncovered the rest of what was the first Roman coin hoard to be discovered in the Beauly area. And one of his proudest moments was unearthing a gold wedding band that had slipped off a newlywed’s finger when she was helping to gather corn in 1958. He was delighted to reunite Joan MacLeod, of Cabrich, Kirkhill, with her cherished ring. although it would no longer go on her arthritically swelled finger. He has uncovered 22,331 coins worth £1710 with his most lucrative days spent at Raigmore Primary in Inverness, where he picked up 3500 coins worth £185. Rosebank Primary in Nairn was his second best hit where he found 3127 coins with when banked returned £160.

Remembering the ‘Tattie Holidays’

Freezing mornings, sore hands and muddy sandwiches were all part of life in the fields during the tattie holidays.  For decades, pupils across parts of Scotland provided a vital workforce to farmers during the annual potato harvest. It was backbreaking work but the little brown wages envelope at the end of the week made it worthwhile - as did getting to spend the day with your pals in the fresh air. Long days at the tatties usually started at 7am when a trailer or minibus picked up squads of workers from collection points across towns and villages.  After being dropped in the field, dreels would be split up among the “howkers” depending on their size and experience. A tractor-drawn spinner would first dig out the tatties and scatter them across the surface.  The howkers would then get to work, gathering up the vegetables in baskets - often laundry baskets - for weighing with the shift usually finishing around 4pm.  In the 1980s, a good hand picker could usually earn around £10 a day with the best worker gathering in around two tonnes of tatties on every shift.  Hard work was made easier by the camaraderie, from the songs sung on the journeys to and from the fields to pack lunches shared by chums. Sometimes farmers would hand out cups of soup to the workers - and some remember fires being lit to roast tatties.  The tattie holidays began in the 1930s when parents would take their children out of school to help with the harvest. Workers from Ireland had boosted the harvest workforce for decades before. Schools granted exemptions from class for those children whose parents livelihoods depended on the work but the holidays became increasingly contentious given many pupils would just not show up for class during the harvest.  The issue was raised in the House of Commons in November 1955 by Mr C Thorton Kemsley, MP for North Angus and Mearns. He wanted schools boards to be able to return to setting potato holidays in accordance with local harvests after a 1947 Act set out a national approach to setting school breaks.  “It cannot be expected that the potatoes will be ready to be gathered at the same time in Midlothian are they are in Kincardine and Angus,” he said.  That same year, Dundee education chiefs dropped the tattie holiday claiming it was having a “serious affect” on children’s education. By then, 3,000 pupils from the city went tattie picking with 72 buses used to transport the workers.  Tattie pickers were generally phased out in the mid to late 1980s as machines appeared in the fields. They could collect around 200 tonnes a day - leaving even the best howkers surplus to requirements. The pickers may have long cleared from the fields but in October, in some parts of Scotland at least, the Tattie Holidays will always remain.

Barra Mod Goes Ahead After Disruption of Gales

The Wee Barra Mod, as some are now calling it, took place on last Saturday, having been postponed for a week due to the violence of the equinoxial gales of the previous weekend. For Barraich any event of this kind in mid to late September runs the risk of clashing with the forces of nature as they adjust from their summer systems to those of winter, but summer school holidays aside it is hard to find a Friday to Saturday slot which is not already taken up by some other Provincial Mod in the months before The Big One.  In the week before the event such was the concern of the organisers about the consequences of the postponement that an appeal went out to Radio nan Gaidheal, Facebook and other agencies to help find, in particular, replacement adjudicators, an appeal which bore fruit when some kind Gaelic scholarly and musical souls, largely from the Lewis and Benbecula colleges, soon got in touch and …..problem solved!  Moran taing Donna, Marie, Tracy, Margaret, Chloe and Jordan, and indeed to the aforementioned agencies which brought the problem to people’s notice. The Adjudicators considered the standard of Gaelic to be high as was the musical competence of the competitors.  Co dhiubh all went well and despite the inevitable reduction in numbers, competitions went ahead and competitors were duly adjudicated and assessed both by the appointed judges on the bench and those in the audience, and away from the competition rooms youngsters were to be seen unhealthily munching sugary goodies and drinking sweet fizzy drinks, while the supervisory grown-ups, forgetful for the day of their vows to lose weight before Christmas, happily joined them.  Huge words of thanks must go to Michael the chef and all his helpers, members of Castlebay Community School staff who gave of their time, those who provided baking etc and those who manned the doors and  chaired the competitions.

Firefighters Checking Glasgow Tower Blocks 'Every Four Hours' Over Cladding Fear

Two properties in Castlebank Drive at the Glasgow Harbour development on the banks of the River Clyde are being checked by firefighters "every four hours". One resident said: "The cladding in my block and one other has no fire resistance at all. We now have two 24-hour fire wardens, four-hourly visits from fire brigade and a huge amount of parking attendants ensuring that access is clear."  They said the roof and lifts of the upmarket properties near Partick are causing concern to firefighters.  The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service could not confirm how often the properties were checked or if 24-hour fire wardens were employed. However, Assistant Chief Officer David McGown said two properties identified by Glasgow City Council which required regular visits. He said: "As part of a package of reassurance measures, firefighters are conducting regular site visits at both these properties. Our community action teams are also offering residents free home fire safety visits." Glasgow City Council confirmed samples of the fabric of the building had been taken. A spokeswoman said: "There were samples of the building taken last week and we also lettered the owners. There has been an amount of ACM found in the building and it is now a matter for the owners of the building and their factor." Glasgow City Council previously revealed combustible cladding and ACM (aluminium composite material) similar to that used in the Grenfell Tower, had been found on 57 private high rise buildings. This was reduced to 19 properties after investigations.