Some Scottish News & Views Issue # 437

Issue # 437                                     Week ending Saturday 27th January 2018

Trust Me, My Old Ancestor Was Slung in Jail for the Cause of Seven-Day Golf by Iain MacIver Courtesy of the Press & Journal

Treat your cold like you would a vampire, I read. It said you should insert some garlic in each pocket of your cardigan. Yep, maybe these handy tips were in the People’s Friend. Also, it said to pop a clove in your pyjamas and under your pillow. Er, so I put one under my pillow. It also said to lock your door because vampires are shy. Being locked out makes them nervous and likely to buzz off somewhere else. Cold germs also love a cold and draughty house.

Symbols of faith are said to make a vampire recoil so that is why crucifixes are often used to repel them. No crosses here but I wonder if a photo of the Free Church (Continuing) would have the same effect?  It scares me so I think it probably would. Most zombies are put off by running water so maybe a water pistol with garlic salt rubbed into it would do the business just as well.

In films about the undead, they are often despatched with a stake through the heart. I should probably not rip out any fence posts just to rid someone of the cold. Well, someone will have had a good grant for that fence. Maybe the cold-cure version is a steak. We had one recently from a certain supermarket that was so tough it probably could be driven through flesh and bone any day.

Which reminds me that flesh may be put on the bones of a decision soon on how to deal with people who want to play golf all week by the public landowner which owns the grounds around Lews Castle where also lies Stornoway Golf Club. Being a heavy-handed landlord, it has banned club members from playing golf on Sunday. The crucial meeting next week is of Stornoway Trust in its ivory towers in Leverhulme House.

Anyone else may play Sunday golf but not club members. Which is why some people who want to play golf when they choose have simply quit the golf club. Anyone can run, play football, wrestle, or play hide the sausage on Sunday in the grounds. The one thing they can’t do is play golf. It’s the sort of farcical situation that makes Hebrideans seem really backward. Which is why so many people shake their heads and mutter sarcastically: “Oh, trust the trust.”

This hurts me, personally. My great-grandfather’s brother, Angus Macdonald, was slung in jail in 1874 for standing up to Donald Munro, the corrupt and bullying factor employed by then-landowner Sir James Matheson. As my late friend, the Rev Donald Macaulay, wrote: “In the ensuing trial a unanimous verdict of not guilty was awarded and Donald Munro was shown to be the despicable tyrant he was.” Munro was eventually booted out of his job in disgrace. Food for thought, dear reader.

To hear his successors in 2018 have learnt nothing but will only listen to blinkered non-golfers makes my blood bubble and boil. Angus and two other men from Bernera were sprung from the slammer by brilliant lawyer Charles Innes. The trust may now call themselves a public body but they still act narrow-mindedly, trampling people rights and think they know better. History so often repeats itself. Oh heck, I do not want to get thrown in jail - mainly because there are no sharp lawyers left in this here joint.

Maybe I should uproot a telephone pole for a battering ram, like shen-shen, and lead a march on Leverhulme House. If they want to be dubbed the nastiest landlord in Scotland, so be it. How will they enforce the Sunday ban if they confirm it? Will we see marshals employed on Sundays to stop people doing what they want on Sunday?

Another activity the trust allows in the castle ground is the demon drink. They gave their blessing to the castle being turned into a prestigious holiday destination run by an international outfit which has a seven-day licence to serve up meats, trifles and lashings of non-stop booze every day. Brass necks.

It’s not my neck that’s bothering me. The after-effects of having a heavy cold are that I always get dry skin. Mrs X is also better but has red patches on her boat race which seem to be some kind of eczema following her three thousand sneezes. We’re like a pair of clowns with red lipstick on our cheeks. We phoned up for medical advice and we were both advised to get different creams to apply to our itchy faces. Right, we are off to the chemist. Are you ready, Mrs X? Let us synchronise our blotches ...

Warning of Grave Brexit Threat to Scotch Whisky Industry
Brexit poses a grave threat to the Scotch whisky industry putting thousands of jobs at risk, according to newly-published research about the impact of leaving the EU. The sector will be “particularly vulnerable”, it was claimed by the GMB union – with a “post-Brexit trade carve-up” leading to the ripping up of trade agreements.  Tory ministers were also accused of "complacency" and "ignorance" about the industry. The GMB claimed that thousands of jobs in bottling operations would be at risk. And that Scotland's “thriving industry" could become a "historic tourist trail" for wealthy American and Japanese tourists.  The sector, which employs 10,000 people across Scotland and is worth over £1.2 billion in exports, will face devastating consequences, the union claimed. The GMB highlighted the claims in a motion to the forthcoming Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) conference. The draft motion is likely to be debated at the STUC conference in Aviemore in April.  GMB Scotland senior organiser Louise Gilmour called for a separate deal to protect Scotch whisky ahead of Brexit. She said ministers must "bring forward protective measures to defend our economic and employment interests.  There is a lazy assumption out there that whisky and spirits will OK." she said. “Our whisky and spirits manufacturing industry is particularly vulnerable. It is the jewel in the crown of Scotland’s food and beverages sector – our second most valuable export market to the EU – and trade with the EU market alone generates £1.2 billion for the economy and supports 12,800 jobs. But we fear there is either complacency or ignorance in UK Westminster government circles about employment in Scotland’s whisky and spirits industry. We don't want Scotland's drinks industry to become a historical trail for wealthy American and Japanese tourists."  The Scottish Government backed the call from the GMB.  A UK Westminster Government spokesman said: “We are determined to open up new markets around the world for the very best whisky our distillers have to offer – and to drive down any tariffs they face.  By strengthening ties with key partners, identifying new markets and tackling tariffs, the UK Westminster Government is paving the way towards an even brighter future for Scotland’s whisky industry.”

Why the Bard Still Matters. How Rabbie Burns Still Lives on in Scotland
These days Burns isn't just a bard, he's a brand. Back in 2003 the World Bank estimated that Robert Burns boosted the Scottish economy by £157 million. SNP MSP Joan McAlpine, who wants the value-added figure of the Bard's financial benefits to Scotland updated, says Burns the brand helps promote Scotland’s exports and trade links "around the globe". The Burns brand, she says, creates a year-round tourism industry, and the The Centre for Robert Burns Studies at Glasgow University is an "income generator and job creator – with students from all over the world". But what is it about Robert Burns? Why does the ploughman poet born in 1759 still matter, today, in 2018???  He brings us t’gither.  Where would Burns' fame be without the supper? For as much as we love the verse, the whole fact of coming together on the night of January 25 - the Bard's birthday - for a blow-out of haggis and whisky has probably done more than anything to make him a global phenomenon. Burns Night is the only literary supper to have survived since such nights were all the rage in the 19th century. For Graham Main, artistic director of the Big Burns Supper in Dumfries, the event, a kind of arts festival meets giant supper club - including performances from Eddi Reader, Ocean Wisdom and others - isn’t so much about the bard, but about communing. It’s a friendship festival. “We don’t place Burns at the centre of it,” he says. “We place the Burns supper at the centre."  That coming together is perhaps something we need more than ever in these digital, screen-oriented times.  It’s not, according to writer and activist Kevin Williamson, Burns’ lyrical love poems that give him relevance today, but his politics. “Remember,” he says, “this is a guy who was quoted in both Westminster and Holyrood parliaments the day the Scottish Independence referendum was announced.” What matters, observes Williamson, is Burns’ radical political ideas, his “track record of speaking truth to power” and his “siding with the common people against those who would lord it over them”. “In an age of war and revolution,” he says, “when the common people were excluded from all political discourse, often under the threat of incarceration or deportation, Burns was a radical subversive who led a double life. He was a respectable government official by day, but by night, especially in the last four years of his life, he consistently risked his liberty to articulate the cause of social change.”  Professor Gerard Carruthers, director of the Robert Burns Centre at the University of Glasgow, however, advises against getting too carried away in our caricaturing of Burns’ politics. “Burns matters to many people as a political figure and that is fine.  Much more interesting,” he observes, “is the Burns who lives through two world defining events, the American and French Revolution which define him increasingly as a proto-Republican and as certainly in favour of reform.” One of Burns’ most relevant aspects for our times, he says, is “the sardonic, satirical attitude to authority found in 'Holy Willie's Prayer' or 'A Man's A Man'. Burns mirrors our own “scepticism to government”.   One of the chief things that makes Burns so important, says MSP Joan McAlpine, is that he was writing in Scots at a time when he felt that identity was under threat. “He was,” she says, “writing about quite sophisticated concepts using Scots. If you look at 'To A Mouse', he was writing about philosophy and the nature of existence, but he was saying that in Scots. He linked Scottish culture to the wider movement of the Enlightenment.” Part of the draw of Burns, in these times of increasing social inequality and reducing social mobility, is that he was, as Prof Gerard Carruthers puts it “low status made good”.   Once you start looking for Burns, says Eddi Reader, you find him all over the world and in the most surprising places. From Ava Gardner singing ‘Coming Through The Rye’ in the film Mogambo, to the novel Catcher in the Rye, and from John Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men to the fact that we sing Auld Lang Syne all over the world. "You look in so many places and there he is," says Reader. "I found him in Stanley Park in Vancouver in a statue. I found him in Minneapolis. I found him at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life. I found him in the aphorisms my Granddad used to say, lines like ‘Time and tide waits for no man’. Once I started to chap the door of Robert Burns, when he opened it I just suddenly saw the world anew.  For many The Slave's Lament is a key song. Jamaican roots-reggae artist Brina, who has done her own versions of Burns songs, observes: "In 1792 Burns wrote that song about a woman taken from Senegal to endure inhumane treatment in Virginia. This was at a time when people began to petition against slavery. Burns was a smart man and he knew plenty about slavery, its benefits and its evils. He used the arts to send monumental messages the whole world o'er, and the meaning of the essence of unity, among humanity. That side of Burns is worth upholding."  What comes across in his writing is his humanity – that he lived, loved and felt like we all do. His works, as Professor Gerard Carruthers observes, have an enduring resonance. “The songs like many of the poems, sing of love, grief, a world of beauty and cruelty. In our century where the pace of change and our moral and political compasses seem ever-changing, these texts represent a kind of timelessness.”  Former Makar Liz Lochhead observes: “He was a very, very complicated and very contradictory character. Not a hypocrite, but a mass of contradictions.” And complexity is something in our black-and-white, social-media-driven world, we struggle with because it negates the messiness which we know lies at the heart of humanity.  Let’s not forget the words. For they were great, and they still speak to us. As Liz Lochhead puts it: “Burns is important because language is important, as it is — so far — possibly the very best, bar none, means that we human beings have of communicating with each other.”  “How could Burns,” says Lochhead, “and his commitment to language not matter desperately in these days when Donald Trump has reduced public rhetoric to the mad tweets of an egotistical and illiterate baby?”

18th Century Inn Abandoned During Clearances is Unearthed

The remains of an 18th Century inn that was abandoned during the Highland Clearances have been unearthed by archaeologists.  Evidence of life at the old Wilkhouse inn which overlooked the sea near Brora, Sutherland, has been excavated by Clyne Heritage Society, Guard Archaeology and a team of volunteers.  Dating from the 1740s, it is believed the inn was well used by passing travellers and drovers moving cattle from north Sutherland and Caithness to markets at Crieff and Falkirk.  The inn, which had a large cattle stance and a pond, closed around 1819 and was left to decay after the land was bought by Sutherland Estates.  Historic accounts detail the warm welcome once received at the inn from the host, Robert Gordon, and his “bustling, talkative wife” with customers heartily dining on cold meat, eggs, new cheese and milk.  Pieces of wine and beer bottles were among objects found by the excavation team with bits of fine 18th Century porcelain, buttons and a butchered sheep shin bone also discovered.  Archaeologists believe the inn was well built and well financed given that a piece of window glazing, a rare luxury in Sutherland at the time, was found during the dig as well as thick, lime mortared walls which were also unusual during the period.  Dr Nick Lindsay, chairman of Clyne Heritage Society, said: “No inn has been dug in Sutherland before and we’re pretty excited about the evidence that we have found. It’s a ground breaking excavation.”  Dr Lindsay said a number of those working at the site felt “linked” to the old inn and its history while at work. He said: “You are absolutely linked to it. Since it was closed down and left to rack and ruin, we were the first people to see the floors and doors and the fireplaces.  An amazing thing was in the fireplace at the north gable, there were still the ashes of the last fire lit at the inn. You could imagine Mrs Gordon tending the hearth for the last time and cooking the last meals for travellers.” Thirty coins were also found at the Wilkhouse site, including a French Louis XIII Double Tournois which dates from between 1610-1643.  These finds suggest the site was used as a stopping place by travellers long before the inn was built, Dr Lindsay said.  The inn was originally on land owned by Kintradwell Estates which was later bought by Sutherland Estates which embarked on a third wave of clearing its land of people and property to make way for sheep farms during 1819 and 1820. An estimated 5,500 people were removed from their homes during this time. Dr Lindsay said Wilkhouse inn was likely stripped of everything valuable, such as timber rafters, slates, glass and masoned building stones.  He added: “It was then likely left as a ruin, which gradually collapsed over the decades and centuries to a broad pile of rubble.” Sutherland Estates then built a number of coaching inns as part of its investment in new villages such as Helmsdale, Brora and Golspie, Dr Lindsay added. The inn was first depicted on William Roy’s map of 1747-52 and later by John Kirk in 1772 with a detailed account of the inn given in Rev Donald Sage’s Memorabilia Domestica which documented parish life in the north of Scotland.

Record Number of People Flew to Scotland’s Highlands and Islands
A record number of people flew to some of Scotland’s most far-flung destinations, according to the latest figures from one of Scotland’s airport operators.  Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) reported a total of nearly two million passengers – with 1,722,913 journeys made during 2017.  The group, a public corporation wholly owned by Scottish ministers, operates and manages 11 airports at Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Islay, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick.  The 2017 figures show numbers were up 102,577 on 2016’s total of 1,620,336 people who used the company’s airports across Scotland, an increase of 6.3 per cent.  Highlights include a 6.3 per cent increase at Inverness and an 18.9 per cent jump in passenger numbers at the world-renowned Barra Airport which had 14,264 passengers using its beach runway in 2017.  Sumburgh, which serves the Shetlands and the North Sea oil and gas industry, recorded a rise of 13.9 per cent to 386,039 – up 46,948 – continuing the growth it has enjoyed since HIAL refurbished the airport and provided enhanced facilities for offshore workers.  Orkney’s Kirkwall Airport saw passenger numbers up by 9.2 per cent to 195,544 from 179,140 in 2016 and Stornoway also saw increased demand, with passenger numbers up 4 per cent to 137,103. Tiree, Campbeltown, Benbecula and Islay all reported increases year-on-year.  Inglis Lyon, HIAL managing director, said the figures demonstrated the growing demand for regional airport services. Mr Lyon said: “These figures indicate a positive economic outlook for the regions. This illustrates the continuing need for strategic investment across the HIAL operating area. We are working with our colleagues in Transport Scotland to deliver a regional airports network that can grow passenger numbers and has long-term sustainability.”

Perthshire Village Features in Fiction Thriller
Perthshire’s historic Fortingall Church has a starring role in a new fantasy novel – appearing as a key location in a Dan Brown-style historic thriller by author Andy Malone.    The book, Shadows Rising, is the second instalment of a trilogy written by Malone (53), who is based in Alva.  His novel is about a time traveller who has to save the world by finding a special artefact that’s key to the future.  And the quest takes the main character to hunt for it at an ancient Yew Tree and an old church, which according to legend has a connection to Pontius Pilate.  “It’s a Sci-fi/horror/thriller, based in Scotland, Italy and the US,” explained Andy, who wrote his story plan while flying between jobs in his other career as a security consultant with his company, Quality Training.  Alan, who was a Microsoft trainer and spoke at large international events, explained: “I had a lot of time in the air and the story gradually developed while I was on board long-haul flights.  “Increasingly I knew that I was supposed to be a writer, so I went ahead and self published.  “My first book, the prequel to Shadows Rising, got an award in the US as best Sci-fi by an independent publisher in 2016.  I hope one of the big publishers will pick it up.  Many people have said it would make a great film script. Much of the new story in the second book occurs around Stirling, Perthshire and Clackmannanshire, with a particularly large section in Fortingall.”  Tom, the protagonist, is thrown forward from his own time in 1710 almost 200 years to 1900.  He goes on a journey around Loch Tay and is drawn to Fortingall Church, where he believes a secret object has been hidden.  “Like Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code, I’ve blended real information – like the famous Fortingall Yew – with a story I’ve made up,” said Alan, who as a walking enthusiast has made several visits to the area.  “My chief character is trying to solve a puzzle to prevent a political/religious sect bringing on the end of the world.  You could say Shadows Rising is part Da Vinci Code, part the Book of Revelations with a bit of the Omen thrown in. It’s pretty dark.”

Perth Company Toasts Whisky After Bottle Sells for £11,900
A rare 30-year-old bottle of second edition Black Bowmore single malt whisky has been bought for a record £11,900 in an online auction held by a Perth-based company.  Purchased by an investor from the USA, the new record for this bottle of rare whisky exceeds the previous mark of £9,500 set in 2017.  The record-breaking bottle is the second of the three Oloroso cask 1964 Bowmores released in the mid-1990s.  As one of 2,000 bottles, it originally retailed on the high street for around £80. Over the last 20 years, it has achieved almost mythical status among whisky fans and it is not known how many bottles are left in circulation.  The bottle was one of over 4,500 bottles auctioned by Whisky Auctioneer in their latest sale which fetched more than £1.2 million.

Dougie Maclean on Music, Family and Caledonia: the Song That Became A Legend
Dougie MacLean pauses to glance at the stone doorway that leads to the place where he makes his music. “Look,” he says suddenly, “you can still see the names of the kids carved into it.” You look closely, and then you see them, worked deeply into the stone.  The carvings are many decades old. For this room was once the schoolhouse that served the rural community of Butterstone, near Dunkeld. It was where MacLean, and before him his father, were taught. “It’s a wee bit uncanny that my dad went to school here, and I went to school here,” MacLean continues. “This was my first school.”  Twenty yards away stands the schoolteacher’s house. It, too, forms part of the striking home and business setting that MacLean has painstakingly put together over the decades with his wife, Jenny.  MacLean writes all his songs here and records them in his studio with the aid of his son, Jamie. It’s here that he records the high-definition videos that are posted onto his popular Butterstone TV site for fans. Jenny, an artist who specialises in watercolours and weavings, has her own studio; it’s her watercolours that grace the covers of MacLean’s CDs. The CDs are also sent out to the world from here.  Throughout the house, guitars line the walls or are arrayed on stands. There are gold discs, for The Gael and for a MacLean song, Ready For The Storm, which was used on an album by the Grammy award-winning country singer, Kathy Mattea. It’s the perfect place for making music.  MacLean is best-known globally for a couple of songs: Caledonia, which has been recorded by more than 200 artists and The Gael, which was arranged and adapted by Trevor Jones for the main theme of the stirring orchestral score of Michael Mann’s film, The Last Of The Mohicans. But he has written, sung and recorded some 300 other songs, scattered across his self-released solo albums. Our conversation, round the table in the spacious kitchen, begins with MacLean’s most recent album, last year’s New Tomorrow. “That was basically me and Jamie,” he says. “I would love to have credited it on the cover to ‘Dougie MacLean and Jamie MacLean’, because he plays a lot of instruments and arranged a lot of the songs, but he wouldn’t let me. Yet it’s half his record and half mine. You can tell that by listening to it: all the wee, tricky, interesting, contemporary arrangements are from Jamie. He’s got a palate of music that I don’t have: I’m just an old folkie who plays acoustic guitar and some piano.”  How does he compose his songs? “I think the guitar figure probably comes first. A lot of times the melody can be inspired by a little line on the guitar, and once you hit something like that, it almost suggests the rest of the song to you, you automatically know its shape. It’s a bit magical: I don’t like to talk about it too much, or intellectualise it too much. It’s innate in your melodic ear, that you tumble into these melodies. But I love the magic of it.” He laughs. “I remember something my daughter Julia said once, when she was wee. Her teacher asked her what her dad did, and she said, ‘My daddy’s a magician!’ I love that.”  MacLean, 63, has played all over the world: he’s hugely popular in the USA, Canada and Australia, and elsewhere: he has played New York’s famed Carnegie Hall and Sydney’s Opera House; and he has won numerous awards, including an OBE, and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, presented by Alex Salmond, who described him as a “celebrated artist, nationally and internationally”.  His career began back in the 1970s. He played with the Tannahill Weavers, recorded an album, Caledonia, in 1978, with Alan Roberts, toured with Silly Wizard and eventually released his first solo record, Snaigow. In 1981 he and Jenny (they’d met at a concert at Norwich Arts Centre) took the far-sighted decision to set up a record label, Dunkeld Records. The first solo record on Dunkeld, Craigie Dhu (with a new version of Caledonia), came out in 1983. Later still came the recording studio and retail outlet. He has never regretted setting up Dunkeld. “Nobody was doing it at that time. It was a total unknown. We set up the label, and our own publishing, and everybody said you couldn’t do it, living in Butterstone – they said, you’ve got to move to Glasgow, or London … But we were pretty dogged about it all.  I bought some basic recording equipment and we made the first couple of records on it. There were no vinyl-cutting rooms [for manufacturing LPs] in Scotland then, so you had to go to London. For Craigie Dhu, I remembered getting an old Stagecoach bus down to London. Halfway down, the driver would get out and come back with a Thermos of tea and a tin of biscuits for the passengers. I went to Soho to cut the master-tape cut onto vinyl. And eventually we got the finished vinyl LPs.” Had I not made that decision back then,” he says of the setting up of Dunkeld, “I don’t know if I’d have had the career that I have. It has allowed me to have my creative integrity: nobody’s telling me what to do or record. It’s allowed me to have longevity, as a musician. It’s been totally under my control for the last 30-odd years. And now, of course, being an indie is fashionable. It wasn’t, back then.”  Nor does he take his fans for granted. “I’m very lucky, I’ve got this real community of people. I learned, very early on, that you can’t please everybody. Not everybody will like what you do. Whether it’s fashionable or unfashionable, the way that some people like certain things is dictated by what’s happening in fashion. But there are other people who like songs and guitar-players. It’s not hyped in any way, you know? It’s authentic. That has been my fan-base for the last 30 years. I’m not trying to be anything more than I am; I’m a songwriter, a folk singer. The records, however, can be quite contemporary, and can be put alongside anything. The people who like lyrics and things with substance, they become really good fans.”  One of MacLean’s oldest songs, of course, has taken on a life its own. He wrote Caledonia very quickly, on a beach in Brittany, while in his early 20s. Frankie Miller’s version, heard on a TV lager commercial, topped the Scottish charts in 1992. MacLean’s own performance of the song at the SNP 2014 conference at the SSE Hydro saw him joined by, amongst others, Salmond, and Nicola Sturgeon.  “It’s incredible, but Caledonia has become part of common culture,” says its creator. “It continually amazes me where the song crops up. It has just been played for 35 nights at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo by the massed pipes and drums. It’s just been translated into North Friesian, I think. And it’s a huge song in Ireland as well.  It’s about the fact that it describes a sense of belonging, and people can relate to it, and not just in Scotland. The very first place I sang it was in west Berlin, with my friend Alan Roberts. We were a duo. I had just written it, and we played it in a place called Quartier Latin. We sang it, and the audience response was big. I remember me and Alan saying, ‘Well, we’ll keep that one in the set!’ I didn’t realise then that that response was going to be repeated for the rest of its life. It was an unusual response, and I still can’t put my finger on why it has achieved that. Because I think I’ve written better songs, and I’ve written more melodically interesting songs, and maybe in terms of language too.  The one thing about that song is that I was so young, I was genuinely homesick, in France. I was – well, not naive, but sometimes when you’re young, I think sometimes you don’t use so many words, so you say things very simply and directly. As you get older your language gets a bit more complicated, and your idea of poetry gets a wee bit more complicated, so maybe there’s something in the fact that I was young and homesick, and wrote a lyric that is simple and is easily accessible.  But I’m very proud of it, and I love singing it still, which is unusual. I don’t get tired of it.” MacLean has just done a CD of Burns songs; he has a handful of gigs over the next few months, and is working on one intriguing project that he yet can’t talk about.

Pupils Go to New Heights to Highlight Gaelic Film
Budding actors and directors from schools across the Highlands have been shortlisted in a national Gaelic short film competition.  Judges for the competition run by Gaelic media service MG Alba have revealed the shortlisted entries that will be contending for the overall prizes at this year’s awards ceremony in Glasgow next month.  They include nominations in the most creative production category for Gairloch Academy, Nairn Academy and Millburn Academy in Inverness as well as by Katie Gregson-MacLeod – an Inverness Royal Academy pupil who took on the initiative as an independent film-maker.  In Nairn’s case, murder mystery Ciontach no Neo-chiontach? (Sure or Not Sure?) is the school’s first ever entry to the competition and saw the pupils use several town locations including the local police station. They were also devoted enough to work on the project over the October school holiday.   Culloden Academy, Millburn Academy, Alness Academy and Tain Royal Academy are also all in the running for best script in the Gaelic learners section of the competition. Tain’s Fathann (Rumour) follows the school newspaper team as they hear about a murder that took place some years ago and set off in search of the truth.  Dingwall Academy could also have its own star in the making after S2 pupil Aaron was nominated in the best performance category in Sathadh Air An Starsaich (Offers Aplenty).  Elsewhere Gairloch brothers Anndra Cuimeanach (12) and Eòin Cuimeanach (15) have both been shortlisted in the fluent speaker categories.  In Eòin’s case it is for mobile short, Sgaradh Tuinn nan Linntean (Parting the Waves of Time), which sees him visit Eilean Maolruibhe (Isle Maree) to take viewers through the island’s fascinating history. Anndra made the shortlist with his vlog Sireadh na Fìrinn (In Search of the Truth) in which he takes on local Munro, A’ Mhaighdeann, to see if the views really are as impressive as people would have him believe. The FilmG competition was established in 2008 as a means of developing Gaelic film- making talent and encouraging grass-roots storytelling in the language through film. Competition judge Calum McConnell, who works on Radio Scotland comedy sketch show Breaking the News, said: "We watched over 60 films in this year’s youth category, which is the highest number of entries to date, and it was an honour and privilege to do so.  I can speak for the whole panel when I say how excited we were at the ambition shown by school groups and individual young film-makers. They are no longer satisfied filming simple stories within their school complex, they are out and about in woodlands, the top of a mountain and even in a prison, making their films look more exciting and engaging.  I would genuinely encourage all the entrants to continue making short films in Gaelic and I’d like to congratulate all those that have been shortlisted."  The tenth FilmG awards will take place on February 9 and for the first time highlights of the ceremony will be broadcast on BBC Alba, on February 11.

Selfie-mad Outlander Fans Asked to Respect Culloden War Graves

She raises a dram and salutes the dead of Culloden before pouring her whisky on their shallow grave.  Then she leans on the Victorian stone which marks the final resting place of Jacobite soldiers, either slain in Britain’s last battle or murdered immediately afterwards. The woman, from New Zealand, is a fan of Outlander, the US drama. She has come to show her respect to its stars and those it inspired.  And like hundreds of others she has left her footprints on the site – digitally and literally – with a series of selfies.  But historians – and Scotland’s last Jacobites – are increasingly worried. TV -inspired tourism, they say, is far from always respectful.  Alasdair MacNeill, of the Circle of Gentlemen, the once secret group set up in the aftermath of the Rebellion, appreciates the interest.  But he said: “These graves are only a foot deep. We really would ask that people respect what is a designated war grave where 1,200 men lie. “Some of the things I have seen at Culloden have really got my back up.”  Mr MacNeill first complained about tourists sitting on grave markers to picnic a decade ago. But the boom in selfies and the rise of Outlander has made such scenes far more common.  He said: “A lot of the visitors are American and seem to think they are on a film set rather than a war grave. They maybe don’t know the history. But how would they feel if I walked my dog across Gettysburg?”  Mr MacNeill’s concerns are echoed by history blogger Colin MacDonald, who said: “While most Outlander fans visit Culloden respectfully, social media shows us that a minority of those visitors continue to act inappropriately around the memorial stones and mass graves.”  Mr MacDonald wants the National Trust to do more to protect the site. He said: “As the caretakers of this nationally important site, the NTS is obliged to ensure that visitors treat Culloden with the respect that any war grave deserves. Clearly they are failing in this duty and I’d like to see them do more in preventing a small group of tourists from turning a Scottish war grave into a fan site for an American TV show.” Fans often leave little cardboard cut outs of Sam Heughan, the Scottish actor who stars as Jamie Fraser , a Jacobite, in the time-travel drama. Mr Heughan last year said a friend had seen a group of Americans at the Fraser grave. He said:”I don’t believe they were Frasers.” He added: “So many people, especially from America, say that there is something about Scotland; they feel they belong there.”  There is not thought to be an immediate danger to the graves but the NTS is understood to have a maintenance team on hand. Its manager at the site, Katey Boal, welcomed the rise in interest thanks to Outlander.  She said: “The vast majority of visitors conduct themselves completely appropriately and treat the site and its features with respect. Where there are concerns, our staff always try to deal sensitively with issues as they arise.  Throughout the peak visitor season staff are on the battlefield regularly throughout the day, and of course, there are signs making it clear that this is a war grave.” Diana Gabaldon, the creator of the time-travelling novels on which Outlander is based, took to Twitter on Wednesday reminding fans that Culloden is an historical war grave.  In a post to her 244,000 followers, she said: "Um, guys...? I know almost everyone approaches Culloden with the respect due its mournful history and the fact that it _is_ a war grave. But for the few...maybe think twice?"

Heroin and Cocaine Worth £130k Seized in Aberdeen
Drugs with a street value of almost £130,000 have been seized in a police operation in Aberdeen.  CID officers recovered “significant quantities” of heroin and cocaine from Guild Street in the city centre on Wednesday following a search.  A 37-year-old man from London was arrested and charged in connection with the recovery. Detective Sergeant Bruce Buntain said: “This latest seizure is yet more evidence of our commitment to infiltrating illegal substances before they make it into our communities. It should send a clear warning that this illegal trade is not welcome here.”        

Archaeologists Survey Scotland’s Forests Under the Sea
Archaeologists are studying Scotland’s “woodlands under the waves” which were created thousands of years ago when dramatic rises in sea levels pushed vast stretches of forest underwater.  Recent work has been carried out at the Bay of Ireland near Stromness ,Orkney, with similar research underway at Benbecula and Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Dr Scott Timpany of the archaeological unit at the University of the Highlands and Islands, said the small stumps and roots found at the Bay of Ireland were around 6,000 years old.  The discoveries have helped to build a picture of life on the island from the early Mesolithic period when Orkney, then a single island populated by hunter gatherers, was broken up by rising sea levels into the archipelago we know today.  Dr Timpany said: “For these early Mesolithic communities, this landscape must have been a dynamic place. They would have been aware of the sea encroaching onto the land and the coastal area changing. A fair bit of the landscape would once have been woodland, so we have been thinking about how people would have navigated that landscape, which would have been wet, boggy ground, and how people adapted to the change in sea levels.”  Separate research, also carried out at UHI, found that sea levels around Orkney have risen by about eight metres over the past 8,000 years.  The forest that was submerged in the Bay of Ireland, which now covers an area roughly 10 metres wide, included willow trees which were fairly unusual on an island where birch and hazel more commonly grew.  An oak timber measuring 3.5 metres long was also found in the underwater forest which once grew close to a freshwater pool, tests have shown. Dated to around 4,400BC, the piece of oak is the first timber of this age to be dated in Scotland, said Dr Timpany, whose research has been funded by The Carnegie Trust and Historic Environment Scotland.  There was now the “tantalizing” possibility that the piece of wood may have been a marker post to direct travellers arriving in the area, he added. He said: “It is tantalizing to think that the oak timber at Bay of Ireland may have been used for a similar purpose.  The oak would have been located in a prominent position marking the Loch of Stenness and a possible connecting stream at the Brig of Waithe that would have been suitable for the landing of maritime craft coming across from Graemsay and Hoy.”  Orkney’s woodlands were further ravaged over time.  A migration of people into Orkney during the Neolithic period led to woodlands being used in different ways, mainly for construction, Dr Timpany said.  Remains of only one ancient forest can be now be found on Orkney at Berriedale on Hoy.  Considered to be Britain’s most northerly woodland, it is a relic of the larger forest that grew there from around 8,000BC.