Page 1

Page 2 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Black Isle


In The Picture

Printed and published quarterly for the Black Isle by Chatterbox Community News Group Chatterbox provides a vehicle for any member of the community to demonstrate his or her opinions or beliefs, so long as these are not defamatory or offensive. Publication does not mean articles are the opinion of the magazine or its production team. Send stories, letters and adverts to: The Editor, Chatterbox, Burnside Cottage, Newhall, Balblair, Dingwall, IV7 8LT; phone 01381 610315; email editor@

The Team Editor/Layout Russell Turner Advertising Printing Sandy Mitchell Liz McKinlay Secretary Cathy Orr Treasurer Howard Wainwright Chairman Sandy Mitchell

Advertising Rates for 2013 are based on 73p per column centimetre, using our standard seven-column layout. We give 15% discount to advertisers who book for the year. See our website for full details of rates and discounts.

Next Issue The Winter edition of Chatterbox will be available in early December. The deadline for articles, photos and adverts is November 7th Chatterbox was founded in September 1997 by Jack Malpas

Brodie Rowlands, Tomos Dargie, Andrew Orr, Susannah Bowman and Stewart Torrance represented Avoch Primary in this year’s Rotary quiz. The team got through three local heats to reach the Scottish final which was held at Perth racecourse on June 15th. Sixteen teams from the north and east of Scotland were represented in the final which was won by St Margaret’s Primary School from Dunfermline. Avoch came in 7th, a fantastic achievement considering that over 500 teams had entered the competition – well done Avoch. Do you have a picture to share? Send it to

A View from the Black Isle

If at first you don’t succeed... O

UR children’s writing competition launched in the Spring edition had so few entrants that we had to abandon it. But Chatterbox doesn’t give up easily. In this edition we’ve gone into partnership with the Black Isle Writers Group in a competition open to everyone. You’ll find more about it on pages 38-39. We look forward to your entries. Something else we’re looking forward to are more nominations for our Citizenship Award. We’ve already received the names of several worthy individuals but there’s still time to tell us who you think deserves recognition for their work in the community. Find out how on the back page. On page 10 we’re delighted to report Cover: Freda Bassindale

the graduation of Ewen Patience. We’d love to report more university achievements. If you have a new graduate in the family, please send us a picture and the details. We’d like your wedding photos too – as long as there’s a Black Isle connection we’ll be happy to publish them all.


ON and Emmy Palmer have not only brought Dutch cheese to Cromarty, they’ve also introduced the Black Isle’s first Gluren bij de Buren. Learn more on page 32. We wish the venture huge success and look forward to reading all about it in the next edition of Chatterbox.

Picture: Russell Turner

Russell Turner Editor Story: Pages 22-23 Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 3


Volunteers enjoy a By Sandy Mitchell


HATTERBOX has featured the admirable volunteer group Black Isle Need To Play before, but recently it had a special occasion – the 25th anniversary of its foundation. This was celebrated with an afternoon tea-party in the Masonic Lodge, Fortrose, guests including all those who had helped or donated over the years. It was a way of saying thankyou and a fine spread was put on for the guests. Committee member Tricia Tickner put me in the picture. Apart from saying thank-you it was also a way of putting faces to names of organisations or individuals who have helped, such as folk from the Highland Deaf Service. As she explained, the group swings into action whenever it is contacted about some specific need. It can have referrals from local health visitors about a family or child who needs help. Anyone in the education or health services can contact the group, for it has no direct contact with the “clients”. But contacts have to come through the correct channels – and can’t just be from any member of the public. Every year the group does fundraising and shows up at the St Boniface Fair in Fortrose, at the Highland Gathering and the Black Isle Gathering. Its stalls are mainly to raise its profile and provide information on the services offered. For example, it can aid nursery schools and playgroups that need improved amenities. This is always done through intermediaries, without contact with the families concerned. This year Need To Play organised a fundraising cycle ride starting north of Laxford Bridge in North-West Sutherland – a distance of over a hundred miles! Before I left I had a chat with the two founder members, Norma Sinclair and Marjorie Taylor – you might say

Page 4 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

they were the guests of honour! Both retired, Norma had been a health visitor and Marjorie a speech therapist when all those years ago they had met and discovered they had a lot of clients in common. After assessment of hearing and speech and other social issues they saw a need to help parents get their children into suitable groups,

some of which were fee-paying, which would help the children’s development. Or it could mean they helped give parents support such as by paying to send children to childminders. Norma and Marjorie stressed that they had started up in a very small way and the organisation had since grown a lot. Initially they were


silver celebration

Supporters of the Need To Play Association at the silver anniversary tea party, Pictures: Sandy Mitchell

concerned with children of playgroup age but now they offer help to youngsters up to 19. Most referrals are from this area and can come from sources such as other therapists or local GPs. Finally, I had a chat with the current treasurer, Sarah Dunton, who told me the group has its own website where it

is possible for people to donate online. She said that in this respect BT had been particularly helpful. I left feeling this worthwhile organisation was going from strength to strength and was in very good hands. â– blackisleneedtoplay/

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 5


A night at

Charity seeks your H cash – and help

By Rosie Young Pictures by Cameron Young


HE Black Isle Committee for Macmillan Cancer Support has already raised more than £3,000 this year, with another major fundraiser still to come. Its annual house-to-house collection in May made £2,448.43, and a Strawberry Tea in July at the home of Mrs Rena Jones in Fortrose raised a magnificent £1,030 in support of the efforts of Myles Dillon, formerly of Cullicudden and presently serving at RAF Marham in Norfolk. Myles took part in the Virgin Active Triathlon in London on July 28th on behalf of Macmillan. He completed the event, his first triathlon, in an excellent time of 2hrs 23mins, coming in the top 10 per cent of runners. The committee is also grateful for the generous donations it receives from local residents from a variety of events, both public and private, such as open garden days, fundraising dances and birthday parties. Committee members are involved in a wide range of activities throughout the local area, and some members also volunteer at the Oncology Unit at Raigmore Hospital. The next big event is on Saturday September 28th, in Avoch, as part of The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Volunteers have also been at Ferintosh Community Market, Fortrose Fun Day and Animal Aid. Macmillan Black Isle would welcome support from anyone with an interest in helping cancer sufferers, either as a committee member, volunteer collector, or by donating to our stalls. Contact the secretary, Marian Burns on 01349 877103, email or approach stallholders at any event.

Page 6 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

OLLYWOOD came to the Black Isle in June when the world premiere of The Secret Life of Avoch Primary, a comedy documentary made by its students, was staged there. Greeted by autograph hunters and paparazzi, the students, their parents and staff made their way up the red carpet, wearing a dazzling assortment of outfits from ball gowns to tuxedos. Inside the star-decorated hall, guests were offered ‘champagne’ – a mix of orange juice and lemonade – and chocolates by P7 pupils and were then led to tables to watch the short film. The whole evening was so secretive that these youngsters had volunteered without knowing what it would be for! The P5/6 pupils were assisted by Wild Bird Productions, Elgin, with funding from the community outreach/education team of Eden Court. However, everything, from filming to acting, was down to the children. This included sound engineering, dialogue writing and story boarding. The film was an entertaining perspective of Avoch Primary, including a Soccer Skills performance, the Ultimate Teacher Challenge, the Ultimate Pupil

Challenge and an Avoch’s Got Weird Talent display. It was obvious a huge amount of work had gone into the production. After a short interval, the evening continued with a presentation of Oscars led by Ruth Mackay, the class teacher, and Lorna Sim, Avoch’s head teacher. Categories including Best Dramatic Performance, Best Comedy Performance and Most Over The Top Performance were awarded to both pupils and staff. Following the interval, ’Oscars’ were presented to the stars and film crew by Ruth MacKay, class teacher, and Lorna Sim, head teacher, in categories such as best female dramatic performance, funniest performance, chief lighting technician, best production coordinator and best comedy performance. P4 teacher Mrs Mackenzie won the award for most over the top performance and gave a most emotional speech, thanking everyone from her family to her stylist. Lorna Sim commented afterwards: “I was very impressed by how hard our children worked on their filming over a long period of time and what good sports the staff involved were. “I would like to thank Graeme and Chris from the Wildbird team and also I would like to thank Eden Court for giving the children the opportunity.”


the Avoch-Scars

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 7


A good drooking By Sandy Mitchell


SURPRISINGLY good crowd gathered at the football pitch to take the annual march to the summit of Ormond Hill where once stood one of Scotland’s stoutest fortifications – the castle of the De Moray family. It was met however by surprisingly bad weather. An initial overcast gave way to a steady drizzle which matured into a good drooking for all concerned. Once on the hill-top we stood in the customary semicircle while the honours were done. Charlie Beattie, in full auld-farrant hielan gear, had to scrabble up the wet and skity cairn to unwind the rope from its fixing so the flag could be lowered. In the weather it was an awkward bit of business as you see (next page) from the image of Rob Gibson in an attitude of prayer – either hoping that Charlie didna coup or that the sun would shine a bit more next year for the Referendum. The untying done, forward stepped Sally Bradford to lower the old Saltire to make way for the new. Since I had missed the march last year I hadn’t known the story behind this. Last year Sally was the first Sassenach (and maybe the first woman?) to raise the Scottish flag on Ormond Hill. The honour was bestowed on her because as part of her recent university degree she had done a study on the De Moray family. Sally duly lowered the flag she had raised a year before. After some years in Avoch – living along Henrietta – she has her place up for sale and plans a complete change of scene by a move to Somerset. Rob gave the main address and after reminding us of the importance of remembering and honouring this largely forgotten Scottish hero, talked of how this might be done by some more visible and permanent commemoration. In Avoch itself there had been discussions and plans to raise funds for a statue in the village

Page 8 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Remembering Andrew De Moray. Pictures: Sandy Mitchell

with Jane Patience very much involved with this project. We hope Rob as Convenor of the Andrew de Moray Project will be able to push this plan forward. Down where the battle of Stirling Bridge was fought, in which De Moray had played such a significant part as leader and strategist, there are plans for a major memorial – possibly near the old bridge itself and on the side of the river where the Scots army lay in wait. Stirling Council has already pledged £10,000 towards this project. Rob also mentioned one interesting point – that after Robert Bruce’s great triumph at Bannockburn he issued a diktat to the Scots lords who had fought with him. From that time on they had to decide on which side of the border their interests lay. No more could they have land and owe allegiance in England as well as in Scotland. Presumably he included

himself in this as Bruce had had lands not just in England but also in France – from where his family had originated. A colourful additive on a gey grey day were members of a local reenactment society – The Scottish Military Research Group. They were splendidly rigged out in military gear and heraldry of this great period in Scotland’s history. In the evening there was a grand and well-attended Fund Raising Ceilidh in the Station Hotel, the entertainment provided in stirring fashion by Ted Christopher. Oh – and did you know there is a novel about Andrew de Moray – The Boy and the Well of Memory by Konstantina Ritson. This was launched at the anniversary of the battle on September 9th, 2011. Something to look for when there’s a present to give…


on Ormond Hill

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 9


MSP hails pier heroes


SP Dave Thompson visited the North Kessock Community Pier project in May to see the great reconstruction efforts volunteers have undertaken on their local pier. Mr Thompson said: “These good folk are real heroes. They have adopted this pier that is the focal point of the North Kessock community and they, with generous support and help from Highland Council, have already made considerable improvements to this amenity. “It is a facility that sailors and canoeists and other water users can use, and their work has made it safer and more usable.” The North Kessock Community Pier charity aims to purchase the pier from Highland Council and make it available to the wider community. This will bring more visitors into the community and enhance the local economy.

Page 10 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Ewen John Patience graduated from the University of Strathclyde in July with a Masters degree in Chemical and Process Engineering. He is the eldest son of John and Jane Patience, Avoch. Well done Ewen, with love from all the family.


Memories on the beach By Verity Walker


OSEMARKIE Beach Café now has three new picnic tables and five new benches thanks to the generosity of local people who donated them in memory of loved ones. They were handmade from local timber, most from the Novar Estate, by award-winning wood-carver Iain Chalmers, of Chainsaw Creations in Cullicudden. The picnic benches have been specially designed to accommodate elderly people and

wheelchair users in comfort. At a simple ceremony in a brief interlude of perfect sunshine on Sunday June 30th, café manager Philip Eley welcomed the families and their friends, Munlochy piper Sarah Ashburn played most beautifully and local minister Alan McKean said a prayer of dedication. Rosemarkie Amenities Association is very grateful to the families of Malcolm Broxton, Toni Burton, Stuart Dillon, Laurie Draper, Jane Holm, Iain McCall, Penny Poole and Vera Tait. Top: The family of the late Stuart Dillon, much-loved PE teacher at Fortrose Academy, and Stuart’s commemorative bench. Stuart loved his rugby! Middle: The family of the late Jane Holm from Rosemarkie. Her table is decorated with maple leaves as a tribute to her Canadian origins. Bottom: Pam Draper from Culbokie (seated far right at her late husband Laurie’s commemorative picnic table) with friends Maureen and Gibb Weir from Rosemarkie and Elizabeth Leask from Dingwall. Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 11


Fun for everyone By Liz McKinlay


IKE last year, there were the usual anxieties about weather for the 60th anniversary of the Herring Queen and Gala Day in Avoch. Contingency plans had been made, the runes had been studied, then the Met Office supplied the news all had been dreading! Scottish summer weather was forecast and rain clouds were gathering. Gazebos were erected and Avoch car park resembled a scene from the crusades as the Avoch army set up its annual camp. The Sea Scouts showed off their skills and muscle, the Avoch Amenities Association and team performed like a well rehearsed dance troupe, and stallholders unpacked their wares. The newly, and beautifully, redecorated Avoch pavilion looked like a well-dressed, polished lady in her new finery. Some wonderful home baking was awaiting guests. Champagne was cooling in buckets to welcome queens who had returned for the celebrations. Smells of burgers mingled with smells of Black Isle soap, Indian food, plants of every fragrance, and the RNLI, Children 1st and the Church of Scotland were also there to support their roles in the community and do some much needed fundraising. There were numerous crafts and plant stalls. The bouncy castle and face painting kept the bairns, and adults, happy and colourful. There was even a chance to try out playing bowls on the green, where Isla and Stefan were in charge of proceedings. Skipper Derek, fresh from his success in Masterchef, manned the barbecue to provide sustenance to the revellers. The celebrations began with the piping in of this year’s queen, Lara Mcleman, who was transported by Darry from the harbour, along Avoch High Street in his open-topped carriage. Louis Patience read the tribute to the Herring Queen and her

Page 12 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Tea and cakes were as popular as ever in the pavilion. Pictures: Liz McKinlay attendants, overseen by 20 previous queens. There were representatives from each decade since the title’s inception in 1953. Morven Skinner (Herring Queen, 1959) crowned this year’s queen. Lara’s attendants were Millie Mclean and Esther Baarda. The past queens introduced themselves, enjoyed some champers and were presented with a rose before the activities got under way. The rain abated long enough for everyone to enjoy the fun and festivities. A wonderful array of cakes was served by the Avoch Amenities in the pavilion, where photos of past galas adorned the walls and there was even a computer presentation on a loop showing images of gala queens and past shenanigans. And the good people of Avoch had at

least a few dry hours before rain heralded the usual summer weather. Kitty McWilliam, from the Avoch Amenities Association, was delighted with the turnout and the support from the local community. She appealed for volunteers to safeguard the gala’s future and wants more people to become actively involved. The Amenities Association would like to thank all the stallholders, former Herring Queens and all who attended to make it such a good day. The Association would particularly like to thank a certain German gentleman, who worked tirelessly for weeks to decorate the pavilion, with his helpers, particularly Angus. Kitty would also like to remind everyone that the next Association event will be the Burns Supper in January. It promises, like last year, to be a wonderful event.


at Avoch’s big day

Herring Queen Lara with attendants Millie (left) and Esther who arrived (right) thanks to chauffeur Darry.

George and Jimmy working hard at the bottle stall. Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 13

News The Village Voices choir sang outside Rosemarkie Beach Café on June 22nd to celebrate the longest day of the year and as part of Scotland’s Big Sing. Dark clouds loomed but the rain held off until near the end when umbrellas and hoods were quickly raised for the last song, “I’d like to teach the world to sing”.

Enjoy an artisan pizza for less! FOR over nine years Sutor Creek Café has been creating delicious artisan pizzas cooked in the Highlands’ only

Page 14 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

traditional wood-fired oven. Our dough is made daily and then topped with sauce made of simply tomato, garlic, basil and seasoning and mozzarella cheese. We offer a selection of toppings including Roasted Vegetables with Hazelnuts, Rocket and Rocket Pesto; Crayfish, Spicy Sausage, Chili Relish, Ricotta and Coriander; Chorizo, Pepperoni and Jalepenos; and our Parma Ham, Artichoke, Garlic, Spinach and Olives (as featured in photo). The online Good Food Guide 2013 featured Sutor

Creek’s Pizza in their Top 12 Pizza Places in the UK. Sutor Creek was the only restaurant in Scotland to be included in its list! Sutor Creek Café is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11am9pm for both sit-in and takeaway pizzas. Sutor Creek also offers a selection of homebaking, wines and local beers, and lunch and dinner menus featuring local seafood and Black Isle produce. For a full list of our pizzas, lunch and dinner menus visit our website.

News By Alastair Morton


NCE again this year Groam House Museum has retained its much-prized 4 Star visitor attraction rating from Visit Scotland, no mean feat for a venue without running water! This result is, as ever, down to the quality of the displays and the gift shop but above all to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers who staff and care for the facilities that the visiting public enjoy (see our advert below). The museum is looking for even greater recognition however and much hard work has recently been going into two initiatives. In the first place, whilst the museum is already ‘Accredited’ by Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), the standards of performance required have been raised and Groam House is determined to retain its accreditation at the highest level possible. A great deal of work had to go into the application in terms of evidencing the museum’s capabilities and performance but we were able to meet the deadline set by MGS thanks to the committed effort of our volunteer team and the assistance of our professional advisers. It will be some months before the result is known. Accreditation ensures that the museum continues to be eligible to apply to a variety of funding streams for projects, equipment etc. Our sights are set even higher though. In the George Bain Collection we are privileged to hold a unique and significant body of artwork and an archive which we believe is of national importance. Accordingly we have applied to MGS for the Collection to be a ‘Recognised Collection of National Significance’. This was a massive undertaking in terms of gathering the evidence required to support the bid and again was largely achieved

A Hebridean rug from the George Bain Collection.

Groam keeps 4 Star rating through our volunteers. We await the outcome of the bid but, if achieved, recognition will not only raise the status of the museum but will open the door to new funding sources that will enhance its long term sustainability. Greater visitor numbers should follow and that can only benefit the local community and its economy as well as the museum itself. Finally an update on our big project: the Black Isle Trail of Mosaics inspired

by the Gaelic Tree Alphabet. Eight of the 20 planned mosaics have now been completed by the various community groups participating, and Munlochy and Tore Primary Schools have already had theirs erected. Most of the rest are in design or construction and we are looking towards a grand unveiling of the complete trail later in the year so please watch out for publicity in the weeks ahead.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 15

Skool Daze – A Flavour of Fortrose Academy

Are Teachers Here To Stay?

Lunch Club

On Friday 7th June in the school theatre six pupils, Hannah Danson, Magnus Henry, Isla Mackay, Charlie Wilson, Laing Anderson and Rachel Spence, along with six teachers, Mrs Massie, Mrs Stormont, Mrs Foster, Mr Schroder, MƌƌŽŶŝŶĂŶĚDƌdŚŽŵƐŽŶĚĞďĂƚĞĚƚŚĞŵŽƚŝŽŶ͞dŚŝƐ ŚŽƵƐĞǁŽƵůĚƌĞƉůĂĐĞƚĞĂĐŚĞƌƐǁŝƚŚĐŽŵƉƵƚĞƌƐ͘͟dŚĞĚĞďĂƚĞǁĂƐƌƵŶ twice, firstly for S2 & S3 and secondly for S1. The funds of just under £100 we raised will go towards a new school minibus. The three judges,

We have lunch club every fortnight ʹ we always cook our own lunch. Recently we made chicken and leek soup. The leeks came from the school garden.

Mrs Ross, Mrs MacKellar and Dr Johnston, selected two winning pupil/teacher teams: Hannah Danson and Mr Thomson and Isla Mackay and Mr Cronin. As this debate was enjoyed so much we ůŽŽŬĨŽƌǁĂƌĚƚŽƚŚĞEŽƌǁĞůůEŽƌƚŚŽĨ^ĐŽƚůĂŶĚ^ĞŶŝŽƌ^ĐŚŽŽůƐ͛ Debating Competition in September. Isla Mackay S4 & Laing Anderson S3

We make soup and snacks for teachers when there is a parents͛ night. Last time we made homemade bread and tomato soup and provided cheese. In February we made marmalade to sell to provide funds for Life Skills Cookery. We like to celebrate when one of us has a birthday. We try ƚŽƌĞŵĞŵďĞƌĞǀĞƌLJŽŶĞ͛ƐďŝƌƚŚĚĂLJďLJďĂŬŝŶŐĂĐĂŬĞ͘,ĞƌĞ are some of the cakes we have made in Life Skills Cookery in the Learning Support Dept. Adam Cowan 2F

Interview with Alex Gray Isla Mackay and Hannah Danson (S3), Marieke Malipaard and Rachel Spence (S2) On May 17, third year pupils were lucky enough to have a visit from crime writer Alex Gray. Alex has had six books published ŝŶĐůƵĚŝŶŐ͚dŚĞZŝǀĞƌDĂŶ͛ĂŶĚ͚WŽƵŶĚŽĨ&ůĞƐŚ͕͛ĂůůŽĨǁŚŝĐŚĨĞĂƚƵƌĞĞƚĞĐƚŝǀĞŚŝĞĨ/ŶƐƉĞĐƚŽƌ>ŽƌŝŵĞƌ͘^ŚĞŐĂǀĞƵƐĂŶŝŶƐŝght into where she gets her inspiration from and the writers she was influenced by. We were lucky enough to be able to ask her a few questions after her speech. Q: /ĨLJŽƵǁĞƌĞŶ͛ƚĂŶĂƵƚŚŽƌ͕ǁŚĂƚǁŽƵůĚLJŽƵďĞ͍ A: ĨĂƌŵĞƌ͛ƐǁŝĨĞ͊/ůŽǀĞĂŶŝŵĂůƐ͕ƚŚĞŽƵƚĚŽŽƌƐĂŶĚŐĞƚƚŝŶŐƵƉĞĂƌůLJŝŶƚŚĞŵŽƌŶŝŶŐ͊Kƌ/ĐŽƵůĚŚĂǀĞŐŽŶĞŝŶƚŽĂŶŝŵĂƚĞĚĨŝůŵ͕ film scripting anĚĞĚŝƚŝŶŐ͘/͛ǀĞďĞĞŶĂƐŝŶŐĞƌ͕ĂƉŽĞƚ͕ĂŶŶŐůŝƐŚƚĞĂĐŚĞƌ͕ĂŵƵŵ͕ĂŐƌĂŶĚŵĂ͖/͛ǀĞŚĂĚĂǀĞƌLJƐĂƚŝƐĨLJŝŶŐůŝĨĞ͊ Q: Why do you set most of your books in Glasgow? A: /ǁĂƐďŽƌŶŝŶ'ůĂƐŐŽǁĂŶĚ/ĚŝĚŶ͛ƚůŝŬĞƚŚĞǁĂLJ'ůĂƐŐŽǁǁĂƐƉŽƌƚƌĂLJĞĚŝŶŽƚŚĞƌĐƌŝŵĞŬƐ͕ďĞĐĂƵƐĞƚŚĞLJŽĨƚĞŶĚŽŶ͛ƚ recognise how great a city it is. I try to show Glasgow as the great city it is ʹ academic, business, art, music, politics and sport including football! Q: Do you have any hidden talents? A: Cooking and baking. My family love my chicken broth and my scones! Everybody has a hidden talent, though; people who listen to other people ʹ what a talent! Q: ŽLJŽƵĞŶũŽLJƌĞĂĚŝŶŐǁŚĞŶLJŽƵĂƌĞŶ͛ƚǁƌŝƚŝŶŐ͍ A: /ůŽǀĞƌĞĂĚŝŶŐ͊/ƉƌŽďĂďůLJƌĞĂĚĂďŽƵƚĂŬĂĚĂLJ͘tŚĞŶ/͛ǀĞĨŝŶŝƐŚĞĚŵLJǁŽƌŬ͕/ůŝŬĞƚŽsit down and read a book and I am ŽĨƚĞŶĂƐŬĞĚƚŽƌĞĂĚĚĞďƵƚŶŽǀĞůƐĂŶĚƐƚĂƚĞŵLJŽƉŝŶŝŽŶĂƐĂŶĞdžƉĞƌŝĞŶĐĞĚĂƵƚŚŽƌ͘/͛ŵĂůƐŽŝŶƚŚĞůŽĐĂůƌĞĂĚĞƌƐŐƌŽƵƉ Q: Have you always wanted to be an author? A: zĞƐ͊/͛ǀĞĂůǁĂLJƐǁĂŶƚĞĚƚŽǁƌŝƚĞ͘DLJǁŽƌŬǁĂƐĨŝƌƐƚƉƵďůŝƐŚĞd when I was 9 and I wrote my first novel aged 12. I read a lot and I enjoyed reading mystery and magicʹrelated books. My favourites were The Tanglewood Tales, Roman and Greek myths, folk tales and Tolkien. Q: Do you have any advice for young, aspiring authors? A: Keep writing! Never give up! You need patience and perseverance, ĂŶĚĚŽŶ͛ƚůĞƚĐƌŝƚŝĐŝƐŵĚĂŵƉĞŶLJŽƵƌĞŶƚŚƵƐŝĂƐŵ͘

Page 16 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Out Of Doors

Above: Trish Mckeggie, Fortrose, and Marjorie Watson, Cromarty, plant a row of Norwegian apples called Ingelin. Right: Aga Lintern, Cromarty, plants another Norwegian variety – Riit Byerregard.

Farmers plan a sweet future A

N intrepid farming family from Knockfarrel, near Strathpeffer, has bucked the trend for orchard destruction in Britain by planting their own commercial apple orchard – with a little help from Black Isle folk. In June, Jo Hunt and Lorna Walker’s family and friends came together in the sunshine to plant pot-grown threeyear-old apple trees on the fertile clay soil just below the Knockfarrel hill fort which gives their business, Knockfarrel Produce, its name. Volunteer planters, who ranged in age from under five to over 75, came from around the Black Isle, and as far afield as Forres. Holes were dug, stakes inserted, soil loosened, organic fertiliser and peat was added to improve the soil and finally the threeyear old seedlings were planted – on the leeward side of the stake, a trick worth remembering – then watered in well. At the end of the day, not only had 100 apple trees been planted, but a native-species hedgerow around the orchard was in place to protect them too. The volunteers were kept going by

wonderful home-made bacon rolls and a Victoria sponge made with Knockfarrel eggs: all present were comparing aching backs and blistered hands, but were triumphant at their achievement! Jo had the trees grafted from the UK’s National Fruit Collection at Brogdale, on vigorous M111 rootstock. Jo commented: “In the last 25 years, more than half our apple orchards have disappeared, and we wanted to do our bit to help put that right. A lot of our regular customers at the Black Isle community markets and our veg box delivery scheme have been asking for apples. And I was really impressed when many of them turned out to help us plant the trees. They must be keen!” Apples rank as the UK’s second favourite fruit, just behind the banana, and each year we consume roughly 680,000 tonnes of them. But only one in three (34 per cent) of the apples we eat comes from the UK despite it being a prime environment for growing apples and boasting over 2,300 varieties of its own.

Varieties native to the Highlands are few and far between (Coul Blush in Strathpeffer being the most northerly apple in the UK) so Jo has instead taken a bold approach, sourcing four Norwegian-bred varieties of apple which are delicious, but also withstand extreme temperatures in winter. Jo is hoping his trees will begin to fruit in two years’ time, and should be supplying commercial quantities about two years after that as eating apples and juice. Jo and his family are regular faces at community markets in this area, selling their organic vegetables, pork and jams every month in Cromarty, Culbokie and North Kessock. Knockfarrel Produce also supplies many local restaurants and schools with fresh organic produce from their 40-acre croft. Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 17


Neglected state of our roads must not be ignored Black Isle View by Councillor Billy Barclay


T last we have had a summer we can remember for the right reasons. What goes along with that is there are fewer complaints about water issues and potholes on roads. That said, we cannot forget there is an on-going problem with the deterioration of our roads. It is disappointing that the administration has chosen to limit the extra funding available for road repairs when there is £18 million available for emergencies. Whilst I accept that the administration cannot spend money ad hoc and money has to be kept back for unexpected events like severe winter weather, they need to think out of the box and realise that during a winter of wet weather the deterioration will be such that the millions kept in reserve will be a pittance to what may have to be spent in the future due to lack of investment. I think this generation of councillors will be remembered as the one which neglected our roads and I don’t blame any member of the public for thinking that. I suspect that ahead of the Referendum next autumn there will be an injection of capital for various road projects throughout the Highlands as the Scottish Government will be hoping to reap the benefits for the Yes campaign. We can only hope that the Black Isle will benefit.


WOULD like to take this opportunity to thank various individuals and organisations for their generous donations towards the De Café for people with dementia in Fortrose. I would also like to thank Fortrose Academy staff, especially Jacqueline Ross, for allowing the pupils to perform their musical instruments at the sessions. It is very much appreciated by the people who attend. If anybody has any queries about transport in connection with the café or any other issues, eg elderly care, I would like to hear from them as it is an area that I have become quite heavily involved in over the last few months. I would like to think that I could progress a day care facility in the Black Isle run along the same lines as the café. I am working with NHS Highland in maybe achieving this in the near future.

Page 18 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Black Isle People

Reids reunited in Avoch By Jane Patience


ETER Reid and his wife Julie from Geelong, Australia, recently made their first visit to Avoch. Peter had emailed the Avoch Heritage Society through its website and when his details and query, as to whether he had any relatives in the village, were passed on to me I realised Peter was related to the Reid Family of my husband, Lewie Patience. Peter’s great grandfather Hugh, aged 19, had emigrated from Avoch as an unassisted emigrant, travelling steerage, on the Prince Consort which sailed from Liverpool on March 9th 1861 and arrived at Melbourne on June 30th. Hugh’s destination was Geelong where he met up with his brother James and his cousin David Jack. David’s parents and siblings had emigrated to Geelong in 1854 followed by Hugh’s brother James in 1857. In the 1850s Geelong was the main port for the goldfields at Ballarat. Hugh settled in Geelong, married Marion and lived with his family in his St. Andrew’s Terrace home named Rosehaugh (pronounced Rosehaw by Australians!). His occupation was noted as Professional Fisherman. Hugh was the seventh of the eight children of James Reid and Margaret Jack and, of the six children remaining in Avoch, I researched the eldest brother Alexander. It was impossible, in so short a time, to research all the six children. Alexander Reid had married Margaret McLeman on October 1st 1858 in Avoch and I concentrated my research on their family of seven children and their descendants. I discovered that there were over 70 descendants now living in Avoch and nearby. On July 29th seven of the third cousins plus the son of a third cousin came along to meet with Peter in the Parish Church Hall and enjoyed lots of chat over a cup of tea and home-baking. Afterwards, Lewie took them to see 11 Alexander Street which had been the home of Hugh’s parents and, on the way there, they also met George Reid another third cousin. It was a very enjoyable day for everyone with lots of photographs taken of both people and places. Peter and Julie intend to return to Avoch for a much longer visit with the promise of a game of golf for Peter with David, Jimmy and Lewie.

Back, from left: Peter Reid, Lewie Patience, Jimmy Skinner, Jimmy Reid, George William Skinner, John Skinner, David Reid, William Skinner; front: Jane Patience, Julie Reid, Isabel Reid, Nan McLeman.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 19

Black Isle People

Collaboration By Liz McKinlay

part in the ‘Couples’ edition of the Feminality Art Show in Los AST year I interviewed Angeles. This was an exhibition Pamela Tait as part of a where artist couples would Women in Business feature submit one piece of artwork each for Chatterbox. The interview and one collaboration, and gave was ostensibly about her Black us a very good reason to spend Isle soap business, but it time experimenting with became obvious, after visiting collaboration. with Pamela, that this was only “At first we tried working it out half of the story. through discussion, which got us Her business supports her nowhere fast. So, because we other passion, her art. both love drawing, we decided to Both Pamela and husband, just put colour pencil to paper Erlend, who live in Fortrose, are and see what happened. working artists. Erlend was “We both trust each other brought up and went to school in implicitly, and have a mutual Fortrose. They met at art school respect for the other’s skills and and returned to live in the Black ideas, so the one handing over is Isle in 2005. excited to see what happens In May they held a next, and the one receiving is collaborative exhibition in eager to be given a new piece Glasgow’s Kelly where the Gallery. The sometimes exhibition was difficult starting called point is already Duologue. done. “Duologue is “Not every the eagerly piece we start awaited twoworks out, and person some of the exhibition of other drawings new paintings were never by Erlend Tait completed. and Pamela However, Tait,” stated ‘Priestess’, the press release, indicating their which was one of these earlier talent and the esteem in which collaborations, was received well the couple are held in the art and we were asked to make a world. variation of it for an American TThey have exhibited in shirt company. Germany and the USA. They are “We’ve both exhibited at the both internationally renowned Royal Glasgow Institute’s Annual artists and work in a variety of Exhibition, and in 2012 Lynne mediums. Erlend as well as Mackenzie, curator at the RGI painting, expresses his art in Kelly Gallery, invited us to have stained glass. an exhibition. This was the “In the past, working perfect opportunity for us to collaboratively was something we concentrate on and develop our would discuss enthusiastically, collaborative working process. but other projects always kept “Our exhibition with the Kelly us from developing the idea gallery went really well. The further,” said Pamela. “Then in work was well received, with lots 2011 we were invited to take of good feedback. We were


Page 20 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Black Isle People

is key to pair’s success

Pamela and Erlend – making a name together in the art world. asked to do a workshop with pupils from Hillhead Academy in Glasgow at the end of the exhibition which was great fun. “Another Glasgow gallery managed to view the show and is now keen to work with us. I had a solo exhibition planned for October this year in Germany but the show is now to be my work plus new collaborations. We’ve been awarded funding, from the Bet Low Trust, to help fund our trip to Germany. “Next, we're exhibiting some of the work from 'Duologue' at Brown's gallery in Tain this September. Then we have our show at FB69 in Münster in October. That’s enough to be ahead of me just now!” Pamela and Erlend’s work can be viewed on their websites: and

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 21

Black Isle People

Rosemarkie’s past By Freda Bassindale Freda at the launch of her book at the Gordon Memorial Hall in Rosemarkie. Picture: Russell Turner


EARLY 400 copies sold and still rising! Who would have believed that my book Rosemarkie People and Places would be such a smash hit? It all started about 18 months ago. Whenever an old Rosemarkie photo was printed in the Ross-shire Journal, I cut it out and visited someone I thought might be able to identify the people in it. Although some of the photos were available to view online, none of the elderly residents I visited had access to a computer. “What we need is someone to put them into a book so that people without computers can see them,” said one lady when I called with yet another old photo. That was when I decided that I would compile a book of photos with captions. As soon as I made my intention known in the village, the photos started to pour in. Postcards sent to relatives serving in South Africa; school photos of the old Rosemarkie school in Courthill Road; treasured wedding photos and photos commemorating important events in the history of Rosemarkie, such as the building of the Gordon Memorial Hall, the opening of the tennis courts, the re-enacting of the “bools” game which took place every New Year’s Day between teams from Rosemarkie and Fortrose and “beating the bounds”, these two last events commemorated during the bicentenary of Fortrose receiving its Royal Burgh status in 1955. When I visited people to hear more about their photos, I discovered that a caption was not going to be enough to describe these photos. Almost every photo had a story behind it that I thought was worth telling. These stories were sometimes from memory and sometimes from information passed down through the generations.

Page 22 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Sometimes no two people had the same information for a particular photo, so I resorted to the internet. Scotland’s People provided me with the names of some well-known residents

whom I was then able to identify in the photos and even connect to their descendants living in Rosemarkie today. The internet also gave me access to the back copies of local newspapers and from then on it became even more interesting. Word of mouth also featured, with one story originating in a chance remark at a funeral in Fortrose, which I followed up after a suitable length of time. I made the mistake of estimating the date of publication and as this drew near, people kept asking: “When’s the book coming out?” and “I’m really looking forward to seeing the book.” I began to panic. Had I bitten off more than I could chew? Would the book live up to their expectations? Although the book was nearing completion, I still had a lot of loose ends to tie up and I got a bit stressed. Eventually someone said to me, “You have to draw a line somewhere, otherwise you’ll go on for ever.” So I did just that. My publisher was Russell Turner of Bassman Books. Russell was responsible for the layout of the book and for cleaning up the photos, some of which were so faded that I feared they would be unusable. As soon as I saw the final copy however, I knew that I had a quality product. The official launch of the book, an afternoon with free tea and cakes held in the Gordon Memorial Hall, Rosemarkie on Saturday May 25th was a great success. Several people offered to bake and on the day we could easily have fed the five thousand. I thought we’d have loads of

Black Isle People

is a huge success food left over, but when the doors opened at 2pm, people flooded in. I spent the next hour and a half signing books, chatting, and lapping up the many compliments that were coming my way. It was a truly wonderful experience. The book was prepared with the Rosemarkie people in mind and for the many ex-pats with Rosemarkie roots, but also for anyone living in Rosemarkie and interested in the history of the village, and they came to the launch in their droves. I’ll always be grateful for the support they gave me on the day and since, with their kindly comments and enjoyment of the book. Will there be a follow-up? That is the question everyone is asking. Well, since the launch I’ve been given some more photos and several people say they have something interesting and intend to pass it on to me. At the moment I’m enjoying the hot summer weather, pottering in my garden and enjoying a stress-free existence, but who knows, once the notion to get started again hits me, I’ll respond. Watch this space! ■ Rosemarkie People and Places costs £15 and is available in outlets around the Black Isle or through

Two of the photos taken from the book Rosemarkie People and Places.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 23

Black Isle Books

The extraordinary tale of murder in Mulbuie I

N his new book, Black Isle author Dr Graham Clark tells the extraordinary story of John Adam, whose wife, Jane Brechin, was discovered in 1835 murdered and dumped in the ruins of an old cottage high on the Mulbuie moor of the Black Isle. Although the evidence was purely circumstantial, John Adam was found guilty and became infamous as the last person to be publicly hanged in Inverness – an event now commemorated on a plaque located in the car park of the Northern Constabulary Headquarters in Inverness. Press reports at the time claimed “... a more deliberate deed of atrocity perhaps has not been perpetrated in Scotland since the days of Burke and Hare”; and “... few murders have ever been committed under circumstances of more coldblooded determination and cruelty”. But who were John Adam and Jane Brechin? What was John’s motive? And was his secret lover involved? In seeking answers to these questions, Dr Clark has conducted extensive research on the family histories of the principal characters and has discovered that the post-mortem of the victim’s corpse, the conduct of the trial, the hanging and its aftermath were riddled with administrative and medical ineptitude as well as bizarre practices – such as the medieval interrogation known as the ordeal of the bier, the ‘science’ of phrenology and the legal ramifications of misericordia. itself is relatively simple – a classic It is for those associated features, not just the barbaric offence itself, that deceitful love triangle. But this book throws significant new light on how the Mulbuie murder has enduring John Adam’s body parts have been interest and notoriety. The storyline THE Moray Firth dolphins are one of Britain’s greatest wildlife spectacles. This lavishly illustrated book by long-time Chanonry Point enthusiast Tim Stenton gives an insight into their world and that of the other marine mammals living in the firth. It is available, price £15, at Black Isle outlets and through It is published by Bassman Books.

Page 24 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

lost, what happened to his lover, where Jane now lies at rest and, however implausible it may seem, why the Lord Advocate decreed that Jane’s heirs should pay for John Adam’s defence! ■ John Adam: The Mulbuie Murderer is available directly from the author via rder, £9.99 + postage, and through local Black Isle outlets. ■ Graham Clark is also the author of Redcastle: A Place in Scotland's History (£19.99) and was heavily involved in the booklet Historical Walks Around Killearnan, published by the North Kessock & District Local History Society (£6.50).

Black Isle People


FTER 20 years of making targes, Joe Lindsay, The Targemaker, has been forced to give up because of arthritis in his hands. But targemaking’s loss is literature’s gain – he has just published his first book and has plans for a second. In his tiny workshop on the waterfront at North Kessock Joe has made over 2,000 targes, hammered in around two million nails, posted targes to many countries around the world, mainly to America and Canada, but also to places as remote as Invercargill on the southernmost tip of New Zealand, and as far away as Japan, Russia, and Singapore. Famous customers have included a Saudi Arabian Prince, Billy Connolly (who received 21 as a surprise 60th birthday present from his wife), and Prince Charles, who was presented with two by the famous Burberry Store in Edinburgh for his sons, William and Harry. “Psychologically it was very hard to give up the targemaking,” said Joe. “It wasn’t just a job, it was a hobby, and interest. Almost a lifestyle, and I met many interesting people. “Unfortunately, physically, it was easy to give up. It became just too sore. Many of the targes had almost 1,000 nails, each to be pressed in a little bit by my poor thumb, before being hammered in place. I just can’t do that any more. The leatherwork also took its toll.” Joe started targemaking after a long spell of ME left him unable to do much of the physical activities he enjoyed such as gardening, hillwalking and sailing. In 1977 he had single-handedly (with a little help from his wife, Kate) built his own house on the Black Isle. So, in 1989, he turned to a gentler hobby which he enjoyed, and which he could do by his own fireside – targemaking. His hobby grew and grew, and in 1994 when he got the opportunity of early retirement, he jumped at the chance of making targes full time. His small garden shed became the targe workshop.

Joe Lindsay – giving up targemaking was both difficult and easy.

Joe turns from hammer to pen In 1996 he exhibited his work at the Aviemore Trade Fair which was a showpiece of quality Scottish Crafts for buyers from around the world. From over 200 exhibitors, Joe received the Highland Council Prize for the Best New Product in the Show. This exhibition resulted in many enquiries and orders from around the world. He has now turned his hand to writing, following a series of “Grampa Joe” stories for his four grandchildren with his first book, Ticket to Timbuktu, about his solo backpacking adventure to the city in Mali, West Africa. It’s a down to earth story about his arduous, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, 3,000 mile journey by plane, train, bus, bush taxi and boat down the Niger to reach

Timbuktu, where long ago as a wee boy his mother had often threatened to send him to if he did not behave! Along with most other folk of her generation, she didn’t believe it existed. Timbuktu does exist, of course, and has been in the news lately because of the Tuareg, followed by Al Quaeda uprisings, which were quelled by French troops. Luckily Joe was able to visit before the unrest. “I’m a member of a novel-writing group, and I hope to start a novel in the autumn,” said Joe. “That’s my next challenge. I still do little stories for my grandchildren when I get a moment or two.” ■ Ticket to Timbuktu is available from Amazon as a Kindle e-book and was launched in print at North Kessock Community Market on August 31st. It is available from North Kessock Spar or direct from Joe at or 01463 731577, price £6.99.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 25


Early days and late nights for bakers AS a baker with Alexander’s Baker, Fortrose (sadly no longer, now an antiques store) I had lots of early mornings. Once the day’s chores were done – “weighing up” for the next day, plenty of coke to keep the oven going, worktops scrubbed and washed, floors swept, everything shipshape and Bristol fashion – it was home time, usually 2pm, which gave me the rest of the afternoons to myself. Quite often myself and fellow baker William Jack (better known as Jackson) of The Bungalow, Fortrose, would arrange to meet and walk the

shore path from Rosemarkie to Cromarty. I fair hike, I may add, but we were young and fit guys with muscles of steel from moulding the dough. We used to climb up the braes on to Cromarty Mains Farm then down what they call “the avenue of trees” into Cromarty for a much appreciated pint of the best in the Cromarty Arms and home by Highland Omnibuses. A fine afternoon stroll. My friend Hugh MacKenzie and myself used to cycle most nights to Cromarty – eight miles there, eight

miles back, in all weathers. But the wind from Cromarty to Davidston Corner was tough. Many times we vowed never again but next night we’d do the same. Happy days. One night when cycling home we came out of the wood at Glenurquhart and the sky was on fire. We discovered it was Flowerburn House in flames. It burned to the ground. Spectacular but sad. Lots of experiences cycling these roads. John Reddigan Dumbrock Road Strathblane

Letters Send your letters to editor@ or to The Editor, Chatterbox, Burnside Cottage, Newhall, Balblair, Dingwall, IV7 8LT. No anonymous letters will be published but authors’ name and address will be withheld on request

Museum open again IN a recent issue of Chatterbox you printed an article of mine about Dr Brydon who is buried in Rosemarkie (Spring, No 60). The Fort George Museum staff gave me much assistance. The museum has been refurbished and was closed for many months. It has now reopened and my daughter, who visited there, said it is beautiful and with new places for children. This deserves a mention in Chatterbox. Mrs HE Forrester Courthill Road Rosemarkie

Feet, not fathoms ON reading the ferries article in the last edition I noted the depths given in the channels of the Firths. The figures maybe correct but they relate to FEET not fathoms. The deepest part of Chanonry Narrows is 45 metres in today’s language. Apart from that, a very interesting story. Gwyn Tanner Dolphin Trips Avoch Ltd

Page 26 Chatterbox Autumn 2013


Safety will be greater by slowing A9 traffic I

WAS pleased to note that the Kessock Bridge has reopened to traffic recently. The bridge will have a statutory speed limit of 50mph after the second phase is completed next year, and there is an interim 50mph limit in the meantime, and although this has caused some concern the decision has been made for reasons of road safety. The new heavy duty barrier has been uprated to withstand a lorry or bus collision and is substantially stronger than before, and a consequence of this is that were a smaller vehicle to collide with it at high speed, it would risk a bounce-off. The new limit of 50mph takes this into account. While this work was on-going there was obviously disruption for commuters to and from the Black Isle and Easter Ross. Transport Scotland anticipated much of this but there was criticism, especially from cyclists, and I hope the experience this year will better the precautions that are taken next year for the southbound carriageway works. I was also pleased to hear that average speed cameras are to be installed along the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness. Any measure to improve the safety on our roads is to be welcomed as we work to shake off the A9’s reputation as Scotland’s most dangerous road. However, while the A9 remains a single carriageway in many sections, an unintended consequence of this move may be to increase frustration and this could even lead to risky overtaking. HGVs are limited to 40mph on the single carriageway sections of the A9, and an average speed camera system will enforce this limit on them. This will make it difficult for drivers of other vehicles, who are not limited to 40mph, to pass these slower-moving HGVs. The impact of these speed cameras must be closely monitored to ensure

Holyrood View by Dave Thompson MSP that there is no unintended impact on road safety, and should platooning be observed to increase then we must take action to reduce this.


ECENTLY, planning consent was refused for the proposed 23-turbine Druim Ba wind farm by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. Highland Council was opposed to the proposal, and there was also a public campaign against it. The minister refused permission on the grounds that there would be a significant adverse impact on the landscape and residents living nearby. I believe that this was the right decision, and an important one, as it demonstrates that the planning system is working and takes into account the advantages and consequences of each development before reaching a decision that is right for both the local and wider community. The process takes into account local objections and ensures they are evaluated properly. I remain supportive of renewable energy, but only in cases where it is compatible with the planning system, and I am confident that our planning system will continue to perform this role in appraising all such developments.


HE ‘No’ campaign, or “Project Fear” as they call themselves, has claimed that independence may threaten our rural postal service. Over the last few

years, governments of all colours in London have chipped away at our postal service, opening up the service to competition with couriers who take away the most profitable business, undermining the universal provision and closing 400 Post Office branches in Scotland. Recent swingeing parcel price rises are threatening small Highlands and Islands businesses and the Coalition Government is now proposing to fully privatise Royal Mail, despite the service making a healthy profit. This is the ‘safety’ that Westminster offers the Royal Mail! Vince Cable recently published a paper which claimed that independence would lead to Scottish based hauliers having to pay premiums to travel across the border into England. A lot of business flows between Scotland and England, in both directions, and barriers such as these would be damaging for businesses and customers on both sides of the border. These types of protectionist barriers are unlikely to be created following independence, however. Again, if we look around Europe we can see that independent states are actively working together, through the EU and outwith it, to reduce these barriers. Cross-border trade flows freely among the EU members, and even fiercely independent Switzerland has signed up to these measures. There is a reason why all states are doing this: no one wins when barriers are erected which stifle the flow of trade. A London government has nothing to gain from this, just as an independent Scottish government would not, and the coalition’s attempts to present this as a ‘benefit’ of the Union are in fact just a thinly veiled threat which would not be seriously considered by two independent governments who share cross-border trade.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 27

Looking Back

Stones mark a By Lorraine Evans


URING this past spring there was much excitement within the archaeological community when an excavation in Edinburgh’s Old Town unearthed some rather unexpected finds. The media, it appeared, went into a frenzy with headlines proclaiming “Medieval Knight Found Under Car Park” every time you opened a newspaper or switched on the TV. According to the reports, archaeologists had found the skeleton of a well-built man whilst uncovering an elaborately decorated sandstone slab incised with a Cavalry Cross and sword, “markings of a member of the knightly nobility”, so the archaeologists claimed. Excited to find out more details I contacted the Edinburgh archaeological team, Headland Archaeology, who kindly provided me with images of the gravestone in order to study it further. I have to admit I was rather underwhelmed. Not to take anything away from this remarkable Edinburgh find, but its carvings rather pale in comparison to the wonderful examples we have here on the Black Isle. Furthermore, if the image of a Cavalry Cross is thought to denote a member of the knightly fraternity then certain quarters of the Black Isle must have been positively bursting with medieval knights, the local population regularly tripping over such grand individuals as they went about their daily business! Accordingly, I think I should elaborate further and present

Cavalry Cross Slab, East Church Cromarty. to you just a few of the fine specimens to be found here on Eilean Dubh. Before I commence I would just like to say a few words regarding the meaning and lay-out behind your

Cavalry Cross in Kirkmichael Burial Ground. Page 28 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Picture: Andrew Dowsett

typical Cavalry Cross. Occasionally referred to as a Latin Cross, the Cavalry Cross consists of a large florette cross mounted upon a threetiered base; the recent Edinburgh find unusually consists of only two. Thoughts behind what the three steps/tiers could represent vary. Many believe they signify the structure upon which Christ was crucified, whilst others say it refers to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. An argument has also been put forward that the steps could represent the Holy Trinity or even faith, hope and love. Design-wise, a Cavalry Cross is usually flanked by a broad-bladed sword, often two, together with a range of mortality symbols. For instance you will often see a fivepointed star, symbolic of the Star of Bethlehem, or sometimes a six-pointed star, which has come to represent creation. A small sun image equates to the soul rising to heaven, whereas a star and/or a half-shaped crescent moon is said to denote rebirth. The first representation of a Cavalry Cross which I would like to bring to your attention adorns a beast of a tombstone located in East Church, Cromarty. Weighing in at approximately half a tonne, this large red sandstone slab was initially discovered in the late 1970s and measures 1.73m in length, 96.5cm in

Looking Back

‘knightly’ past width and 12 cm in depth. It probably dates to around the 14th century, although there are no inscriptions to aid this dating or to determine for whom the slab was intended. It consists of a simple design, a sun-like floriated cross emanating from a three-tiered Cavalry base accompanied by two plain swords, one on either side. Initially found in a very poor state of preservation, during the repairs of East Church in 2008-2009 the stone underwent a process of intensive maintenance and is now on display to the public, to the right of the door as you enter the interior of the church. I highly recommend a visit. Just to the north of Cromarty, in the parish of Resolis, lies Kirkmichael Burial Ground. Here you will find a rather more ornate example of a Cavalry Cross, albeit today somewhat weathered. It comprises a recumbent grave slab measuring approximately 1.65m in length and 0.65m wide and depicts a large medieval cross in raised relief with a central boss, the stem of the cross arising once more from the top of a three-tiered Calvary stepped base, complete with a florette head flanked by two swords. The sword on the left has a straight blade and on either side are carved the letters R and E, whereas the sword on the right has a somewhat wider blade and on either side are engraved the letters C and E. Once again it is not known to whom these letters refer and further research is required. A model

of this particular Cavalry Cross design has become the official logo for the Kirkmichael Trust. Perhaps the best examples of a Cavalry Cross lie seven miles to the west of Kirkmichael, in the burial ground of Cullicudden, a locality rich with mortuary symbolism. The medieval gravestones are regrettably not on show to the public but the accompanying image exemplifies the splendour of the carvings and motifs to be found here. This particular example I have chosen shows a recumbent grave slab, approximately 1.89m by 0.71m, with a typical florette medieval cross upon a clearly defined wide three-tier base, a broad-bladed sword to one side, an array of symbolic decoration including both fleur de lys and an obvious five-pointed star together with the initials AMG. Considering their date, the astonishing preservation and sheer quality of these stones cannot be overestimated. Why, they even look as if they were carved only a few days ago! There are at least ten stones of 14th century dates, which represent some of the finest artwork to be found on the Black Isle. During the 1990s the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historical Monuments Scotland investigated these medieval gravestones and deemed that Cullicudden has the largest and most impressive collection of monuments of its type. But the nagging question still remains: could such grave markers truly represent a medieval knight? After all, when one thinks of a medieval knight two predominant images spring to mind – the knightly brotherhood that fought in the Crusades or the typical knight in shining armour. Neither example tallies exactly with the proposed date of these stones, albeit when push comes to shove, so to speak, the former might just fit the remit. Even though the Crusades had all but ended by the 14th century, the bloody aftermath continued albeit at a more localised level. Perhaps the sword and cross combination indicates the presence of a high-ranking warrior elite or maybe an ecclesiastical association. Some historians have even argued a masonic link. There can be no denying that such decorated slabs signify individuals of great affluence and esteem, yet it is somewhat surprising that many of the grave-markers do not clearly state who is buried underneath. I am certain that several did belong to high-ranking members of the Scottish nobility, yet without further investigation it is all just speculation. I am hoping that at a later date my Edinburgh colleagues, when examining their own find, may Cavalry Cross grave-marker in be able to afford the odd clue to Cullicudden Burial Ground. Picture: Kirkmichael Trust enable us to gain a better

The Cavalry Cross gravestone found under an Edinburgh car park. Picture: Headland Archaeology understanding of the historical gems we have here on the Black Isle. But as the old saying goes, only time will tell. ■ The Cavalry Cross markers in Cromarty and Kirkmichael are open to public viewing. If you would like to find out further details with regards to these symbols of mortality, and others, please feel free to visit where I will be publishing articles and images about various grave-markers in the up-coming months. The Kirkmichael Trust can be found at and East Church, Cromarty at Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 29


Spooky T

RADITIONAL singer Christina Stewart’s new album, Haunting, is now on sale on iTunes as well as through shops and her website, and Black Isle audiences will have the chance to hear the songs and spoken word tracks from it in October this year. Christina’s is a familiar face around Avoch, where she lived until a few years ago and still has family ties. She is now resident on the fringes of the Black Isle, on the west side of Muir of Ord. Her new album is a double CD made up of one CD of songs in Gaelic, Scots and English and one CD of spoken word tracks, all in English, mirroring the songs. “Traditionally, live performance at the fireside would include more general storytelling and sharing of anecdotes and experiences, never told twice the same way,” said Christina. “This is a hard thing to capture on CD, but I hope that Haunting does go some way to reflect this precious aspect of our heritage.” Christina performs five of the spoken tracks, the other nine being divided between storyteller Andrew Mackintosh and tradition bearer Iain M Campbell from Killen. The album’s theme is the supernatural, with fairies, selkies, ghosts both benign and threatening, and the Devil himself all making an appearance alongside enchantments, divination and portents of death. Christina is proud of her Avoch background but admits to being an Invernessian by birth. “I rented a room in the Dock over 20 years ago when I came back to the Highlands after studying in Edinburgh,” she said. “I was lucky enough to bag myself an Avoch fisherman and married Ross Skinner back in 1995, when he was still working with his father Willie, aboard the Primrose, sometimes landing in Avoch harbour “Ross now skippers his own boat, the Maracestina, too large a boat to come into Avoch harbour and spends a lot of his time ashore attending meetings of the Avoch Harbour Trust and Avoch Fishermen’s Co-op and as chair of the Mallaig and North West Fishermen’s Association. “My mother-in-law, Morven, is a former Herring Queen who crowned this year’s Herring Queen. When we lived in George Street, Ross and I were heavily involved for quite a few years in the Amenities Association and Avoch Galas and I worked part time for the WEA forming a group recording oral history in the village and for

Page 30 Chatterbox Autumn 2013


sounds on new CD Community Education teaching methods for researching local history. “A decade ago after my father passed away, we crossed the Black Isle to Urray to be nearer to my mother. We were married in the Congregational church and our two daughters, Marsaili and Grace were christened there. In fact, I was honoured to sing at the Congregational Church bicentennial service a few years ago.” Christina works as a singer and tutor specialising in traditional song and related oral traditions. “Technically, I suppose that makes me an ‘ethnomusicologist’ – it’s a great word, but a bit posey to use it! I try to work during the day when the girls are at school or at events where they can come too. This means teaching in schools and community groups during the day and performing at events the children can enjoy too. “This is where you really appreciate how fortunate you are to have a close family’s support. It was our Avoch relations being happy to take the girls for part of the summer last year that allowed me to go to the States to teach in summer schools there, and I am very grateful for that. This year, I am teaching in Fort Augustus and (as the Fèis there is for children up to 18 years old) Grace and Marsaili will be coming along with me to learn in other classes as I teach.” Sadly, Iain M Campbell died earlier this year. “His is a sad loss indeed,” said Christina. “He was a lovely man and a veritable treasure trove of energy, imagination, creativity and knowledge – not just in traditions (which is where he got involved with Haunting) but in music for pleasure and theatre on a national level. Those of us who could call him friend are fortunate indeed to have known him.” ■ Christina will appear at Cromarty Arts Centre on Sunday October 20th, at 4pm. ■

From left: Storyteller Andrew Mackintosh, vocalist Alpin Stewart, Christina Stewart, cellist Jo Baird, guitarist Martin MacDonald and vocalist Christine McClenaghan at Tulloch Castle, Dingwall where the CD was launched. Below: Iain Campbell recording spoken word tracks for 'Haunting' in Killen.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 31


Cromarty set to become Harp Village THIS year’s three-day residential Harp Village is held at the Stables and Old Brewery in Cromarty from September 27-29th. An evening concert on Friday the 27th will feature Corrina Hewat (right) and Dave Milligan, Patsy Seddon and Mary Macmaster and Heather Yule. There will also be a Saturday Evening Session and workshops covering a range of ability levels all day Saturday and Sunday. To book places contact Cromarty Arts Trust on 01381 600354 or Visit for more information.

A chance to peek at the neighbours


LACK Isle performers are being given the opportunity to show off their creative talents – all in the comfort of a Cromarty living room. If you’re part of a band, classical music or singing ensemble, or you write poetry and want to read it aloud, or in fact have any sort of performance you would like to present to an intimate and appreciative audience, this is your chance. On the first Sunday of October, from 1-5.30pm, Cromarty homes are opening their doors to host free performances. Members of the public, armed with a map and a list of what’s on, stroll around the neighbourhood and select which houses and performances they wish to see. Each performance lasts around 30 minutes. Gluren bij de Buren (’Peeking in on the neighbours’) comes from the Netherlands and is brought to the Black Isle by Jon and Emmy Palmer of The Cheese House in Cromarty.

Page 32 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

“The concept is borrowed from our time living in Amersfoort (near Utrecht) where they’ve been doing this for a few years and now have over 100 houses and acts participating and more than 7,000 visitors,” said Jon. “We’re not expecting that kind of event in Cromarty but the response to the idea has been very positive. We’re aiming for around 10 houses and with a little nudge over the next couple of weeks should reach that target. “Realistically, people will only manage to see three or four acts in an afternoon so that still gives quite a bit of choice, which is the fun of it. It’s the kind of thing that will hopefully evolve and become a regular annual event and I think this first year people are curious to see how it works. And they are still getting their tongues around the title! Gluren is pronounced with a hard ‘g’ like ‘ch’ in loch – Chleuren. Bij = by. Buren rhymes with gluren.

“The beauty of the idea is that it’s quite simple to organise and is a great chance for anyone who wants to perform to give it a go in a relaxed atmosphere. After all, what could be more relaxed than performing in someone’s living room? “So far we have acts ranging from traditional folk music to comic drama sketches with a bit of classical, blues and country music and even some poetry thrown in. For the audience it’s all about experiencing a whole range of things in the course of the afternoon and sometimes you might be surprised by what you enjoy, and certainly what your neighbours are capable of. There is a lot of hidden talent on the Black Isle.” The final programme will be announced a couple of weeks before the event so anyone interested in getting involved still has time to do so. Contact Jon at his shop or visit:



NEW play written by a Black Isle team is to get its premiere in Avoch in September. The one-woman play, about the difficulties of caring and being cared for when dementia becomes part of your life, is by Jackie Hodges of Rosemarkie and Jackie Goode of Avoch. It will be one of the Highland events in October for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival 2013. A preview performance of the play, entitled ‘Tell me your secrets and I’ll shout them out’ will be performed at The Station Hotel in Avoch on Tuesday September 17th at 8pm. It is suitable for over 14s. Entry costs £3. “At the end we would like to invite audience members to give a few minutes of feedback on the points that the play raised and let us know what you thought of the production in general,” said Jackie G. Jackie H. has worked within social work and caring for many years and has written several short plays and stories. A shortened version of this play has been performed a few times in small theatres in England. Jackie G. has been involved in various forms of theatre for the last 10 years and has direct experience of the difficulties when dementia creeps into a family’s life. They met through a mutual friend when Jackie H. was looking for an actor to help produce the play in the Highlands. “‘Tell me your secrets and I’ll shout them out’ is loosely based on a mix of real experiences and so, over time, George and Ella evolved as the main characters,” said Jackie G. “Their marriage was not always a bundle of laughs and at times was incredibly destructive, so we can definitely describe it as a dark drama but it is also interspersed with some golden nuggets of comedy. Well, it makes us laugh! That’s why we would like to ask for some feedback at the end of the play so that we can re-work parts if necessary before a full public performance.” The play is mostly self-funded at the moment with the possibility of some funding in the near future via Playpieces – the lunchtime theatre

Jackie Hodges (left) and Jackie Goode – looking forward to a big night in Avoch.

Comic drama on the stage event in Inverness. Alzheimer’s Scotland has offered some financial help and Eden Court, in conjunction with the Highland events for Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival 2013, has offered in-kind support. “We have also had interest from Quarriers Care Support in Moray to be involved in National Carers Week 2014 and from the NHS about using the play within workplace events,” added Jackie G. “So we hope you can come along on September 17th, either because you have an interest in the subject or just come for a nosey! It’s only an hour or

so long, you can be home by the back of nine and it’s a bit of theatre in Avoch – a wee change for a Tuesday night.” The play will also be on at The Bike Shed in Inverness on October 20th as part of the festival and at other venues still to be confirmed. The play is available for any type of venue or organisation as part of a day/evening of entertainment or as a training event for those involved personally or professionally with dementia in the Highland, Islands and Moray. Phone 01381 620003 for more information and booking.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 33


Competitors at the World Skiff Rowing Championships prepare for action in Loch Broom.

Skiff stars shine in By Morgan Jones


HE second week in July saw some 30 teams congregate in Ullapool for the inaugural World Skiff Rowing Championships. Crews from Tasmania, USA and Holland joined teams from the UK to compete in their own boats, built by the communities they represented – and a Black Isle woman was among the winners. HRH the Princess Royal officially opened the Championship on the Monday and racing began in earnest on the Wednesday. With the weather set fine the competition on the water

Page 34 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

was hot as the ‘Skiffies’ went head to head in pursuit of the medals. The concept of the St Ayles Skiff dates back to 2009 when the Fisheries Museum in Anstruther commissioned renowned boat designer Iain Oughtred to design a replica of the Fair Isle Skiff. Alec Jordan then developed a flat-packed kit version of the vessel which could be built for around £3,500. The hope was that local communities could build the boats and revive the coastal rowing regattas that were a regular feature amongst the mining communities of Fife up until the 1950s. They were not to be disappointed

with five communities quickly placing orders and starting to build their own boats and there are now over 50 skiffs built around the world with more on the way. The races are categorised by age from the under 16s to the over 60s with crews of four rowers and a cox in each boat. The races are over a 2km distance for both men and women with the juniors competing over a 1km course. Although there was sadly no team representing the Black Isle at the regatta one of our own, Kathy Taylor who has lived in Avoch for more than ten years was competing. Having


Ullapool previously lived in Achiltibuie she was part of the all-conquering Coigach Community Rowing club winning two gold medals. The world team title went to Coigach with North Berwick in second and hosts Ullapool in third. For all those who competed in and watched the events over the week there was no doubting how successful the first World Championships had been both on and off the water and everyone involved is looking forward to the next Worlds in three years time. During the year the clubs hold their own regattas with visiting crews coming to race and enjoy the hospitality of the host teams. While the racing still takes centre stage these are very much social events with the emphasis on building friendships and getting people, both young and old, afloat for the first time. â– If, having read this piece, you would be interested in becoming involved with a team based on the Black Isle then contact me at

Kathy Taylor of Avoch – a member of the world title-winning Coigach team.

Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 35


Girls ready to ride Emma with some of the goodies at the fundraising soup ‘n’ sweet event.


T didn’t take long for friends to rally round when Avoch hairdresser Brenda May learned that her granddaughter needed funds to compete in a major riding competition. Emma Matheson, formerly of Avoch but now an Inverness resident, received the news on July 1st that she and horse Ben had been chosen to represent Scotland at junior level in the Home Internationals at Barbary Castle in Wiltshire. “Obviously we had to think of expense,” said Brenda. “Her mum approached some very knowledgeable Avoch ladies and, before you could blink, a soup ‘n’ sweet was arranged for August 3rd. “This was amazing. All the donations – of baking, raffle sales and help – were unbelievable. The sales table was overflowing with goodies for sale. The room looked lovely

with the tables all done pretty with flowers too! “Many ladies turned out to help on the day, and by gosh, they know how to do it. The result was £830 raised which will pay for the fuel and expenses. Our grateful thanks to everyone that attended on the day and helped, and for all the donations given in.” The competition, on August 17th and 18th, happened while Chatterbox was in production, so we’re unable to report how Emma did, but Brenda was optimistic. “She’s been riding with me since the age of about three or four,” she said, “and in 2009 she rode for Scotland when she was the best overall junior rider. I know Emma will do her best throughout the trip and behave in a manner of which Scotland can be proud. We can’t ask anything more than that.”

Hannah and Doby during the Development Show Qualifier.


© 2013 The Conservation Volunteers, Reg charity 261009 (England), SCO39302 (Scotland), Sedum House, Mallard Way, Doncaster DN4 8DB, Green Gym is a Registered Trade Mark of TCV.

Page 36 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

OMEONE else who has just taken part in a big event is Hannah Cox, aged 14, who with her pony Doby competed in the prestigious Blair Horse Trials at Blair Castle Estate. She qualified by winning her class at the Highland Development Show held at the Black Isle Show Ground on June 1st, which is a regional qualifier for the Blair event. Hannah took part in the Blair Open Working Hunter Pony Championships for ponies not exceeding 13.3 hands on August 22nd. Hannah and Doby are based at the Broomhill Riding Centre, Fortrose., where she has been helped by her instructors, Nicola Martus and Minette Maclennan. Hannah is also a member of Ross-shire Pony Club based at Scotsburn. She attends Fortrose Academy. Again, Chatterbox was in production at the time the event took place. In the next edition we’ll tell you how she did.


Oana Stan with some of her students.

Kung fu comes to Munlochy B

LACK Isle residents are now able to benefit from access to the Wing Tsjun Kung Fu school which has started teaching children and adults in Munlochy Village Hall. Wing Tsjun is a very effective system of self-defence developed by a woman, Ng Mui over 300 years ago in China. It relies on speed and reflexes rather than strength. This makes it suitable for people of all ages and abilities. Students will benefit from improved fitness, flexibility and coordination as well as increased confidence. Many parents of children in the class report that children’s concentration and commitment has improved as a result of training. Oana Stan is the National Trainer for Scotland and oversees the class in Munlochy. Originally from Romania, Oana trained as a school teacher before turning her passion for martial arts into a thriving

Highland business. “I am delighted to be teaching on the Black Isle,” she said. “It is a great pleasure to meet so many great kids and adults and to see people progress through the Wing Tsjun system.” Oana is a fully qualified instructor and has been teaching kung fu for many years. She gained the title of Sifu, or master teacher, in a prestigious ceremony at the European Headquarters in Germany in July this year. Kung fu instructors from the Munlochy class will be at the Black Isle Gathering on September 28th and would be delighted to talk to anybody who wishes to know more. Wing Tsjun classes are taught in Munlochy Village Hall on Monday evenings. Kids from 5pm to 6pm and Adults from 6pm to 7.30pm. For more information contact Oana on 07835 912956, or visit Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 37

Creative Writing

Tell a tale with the By Eleanore Simpson, Chair, BIWG


HE Black Isle Writers Group originated as an extramural evening class in creative writing tutored by Rosemarkie author Elizabeth Sutherland. When the council ceased to run the class, some of the participants wanted to continue meeting, and so The Black Isle Writers Group (BIWG) came into being with Elizabeth as its first chair. Over 25 years later, some of the original members are still active in the group, including Elizabeth who attends nearly every meeting. Last year she ran a workshop on writing a novel, drawing on her extensive experience. The aim of the BIWG remains to support writers in their work. This year the programme will include workshops on the craft of writing in various genres including plays, poetry, and the short story. Some of these workshops will be led by outside speakers, others by members of the group. The workshops will be complemented by sessions where we can share samples of our own work with other members and ask for constructive feedback. That is not as scary as it might sound. As one member put it: “I write about some pretty personal and sensitive stuff, but that’s OK. I feel comfortable about what I am sharing for I feel I am among friends.” Having started with six members, numbers have fluctuated widely, reaching a peak of 40 one year. In the year 2012-2013 there were 18 members, with an average of 12 at each meeting. New members are always welcome. All that is needed is

curiosity and an enthusiasm for writing. Come and have a chat with us at The Black Isle Gathering in Fortrose on September 28th. BIWG meets in The Dolphin Room at the Leisure Centre in Fortrose from 24pm on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month from September to April. The annual membership fee is £18. For more information please contact me on 07842 082486 or A WINTRY TALE


AVE some fun – write a story in 500 words or under on a wintry theme and enter it in the competition being sponsored by The Black Isle Writers Group in collaboration with Chatterbox. What do I hear you say? You don’t think you can write a story? I would suggest that every one of us is a natural storyteller. Just think of the times you have made up a story for children or told a friend about something that happened. Writers take We received so few entries for the children’s writing competition in the Spring edition of Chatterbox that, regretfully, it has been cancelled. We apologise for the disappointment this may cause to authors who did send stories but hope you’ll take part in our new competition in partnership with the BIWG. Russell Turner, Editor

the extra step of writing their stories down so, go on, have some fun and write a story. Here is a suggestion for part of your opening sentence – copy it down and keep writing for at least 20 minutes. Just see where your pen takes you. Be prepared to be surprised at how easily the words can flow once you get going. Go with the flow and leave any editing for later. The snow had been falling all day, the big soft fluffy flakes smoothing out the wrinkles in the ground and... Give it a go. Good luck! Rules The story on a wintry theme, can be fictional or based on fact such as your memories of Christmas past, and in a maximum of 500 words. It may be hand-written or typed in double spacing. On a separate front page please put your name, address, telephone number and email address if you have one, and the title of your story. To keep your story anonymous so far as the judges are concerned, do not put your name on the story itself. Entries, marked ‘A Wintry Tale’ should be sent to the Editor, Chatterbox, Burnside Cottage, Newhall, Balblair, Dingwall, IV7 8LT or as an email attachment to Entries should be received by October 20th. The winning entry will be printed in the Winter edition of Chatterbox, and the winner awarded a £20 book voucher. All entrants will receive a personal invitation to one of the workshops run by the Black Isle Writers Group.

Pied Piper by Jeremy Price, winner of the BIWG members’ competition in May


HE first indication that something was wrong came as soon as Guy walked into the office. The phone was ringing and his colleague was engaged on the other line, frantically waving at him in a manner that suggested urgency but without meaning or direction. Guy put on his headset and pressed the answer button. A voice said rather curtly “I.T.?” “Yes, can I help?” Guy responded. “What’s up with the computers, mate?” the nameless voice asked. “They’re all down – every single one on every bleedin’ floor. What’s happening?” Guy had been in the department four years. The company, a subsidiary of a multi-national, was situated in Glasgow where some four hundred office-based staff were based. There was a constant hubbub from routine activity, about eighty-five per cent of which was computer-reliant. Guy was

Page 38 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

used to the regular calls from the computer-illiterate who had managed to lose information, find they were unable to print documents and even get their machines fired up. The solutions were generally basic and if it wasn’t for the fact that part of his responsibility was developing new software packages, he’d have left a long time ago. This was new – and serious. Never before had all the computers crashed at once – that sort of thing happened years ago with the early mainframes, but with the technology now it was almost impossible for a department, let alone the entire office block, to crash. His colleague finished her call and as soon as her phone was replaced, it rang again but she didn’t pick it up. “I’ll check this out and see what I can do.” Guy ended his call. His phone, too, started ringing as he hit the end call button. He noticed that his mobile

was vibrating too, sending tickling pulses down his thigh. “What’s going on, Fiona?” Fiona was his ‘associate’. She had two attributes that Guy hated. First, she was morbidly obese, eating incessantly and filling the room with various food-based odours, usually fast-food. Second, she was totally incompetent – a fact she could not and would not acknowledge, assuming the world owed her a favour and that the promotions she failed to achieve on every attempt were deserved above all the other applicants. By now, she’d normally be well into a coffee and cake of some kind, prior to nipping out for takeaway elevenses. “Seems like every computer in the building is firing up, then as the password is put in, it flashes up some kind of rodent’s image before shutting down completely. It’s happened everywhere – even mine’s crashed.” “And mine too, Fi.” Guy had started

Creative Writing

Black Isle Writers his machine up as he talked on the phone. His headset kept his hands free for when he was talking a client through some technical computer process. A few seconds after the startup screen had flashed, a black rattus Norvegicus appeared on his screen before the whole thing shut down and went dark. He sat back, perplexed. A short while later after the office was cleared of frantic, cursing staff and his line manager had departed to brief the top team, Guy set Fiona to work fielding the calls whilst he gave the firm some of his valuable thinking time. Eventually, he snatched his personal laptop from its case and plugged it directly into the server. Amazingly, it did not shut down and Guy began frantically tapping keys, accessing files deep within the core of the system. He worked solidly all day, pausing only to drink coffee and explain for the umpteenth time to the succession of managers that he was doing his very best. At last, he sat back. “Got it!” He looked up. “Fi – I’ve found the culprit,” he said. “It’s a Trojan. God knows how it got there but it’s there alright. Now I just need to find a fix for it somewhere.” Guy hadn’t found a Trojan for years. The system was pretty tight and staff were disciplined if they downloaded unauthorized applications or games because of this risk. Generally, people were pretty clued up about these things now and it seldom happened, so he’d find the culprit easily enough when this was all sorted. Unfortunately for Guy, he couldn’t sort it. He’d tried the usual channels of looking for the name of the malware on the internet, but Star, which is what the file suggested it was called, did not register at all. The day dragged on into the evening and then into the night. He became more determined as each hour passed – the challenge was greater as each level of difficulty increased. By the time Fiona came into the office the next morning, Guy was beaten. He looked it, too. Dishevelled, unshaven and a touch fusty, she thought. “I can’t do it, Fi. I can’t crack it.” He

looked downtrodden and upset. “Coffee?” she asked. “Got a nice pack of Jaffa cakes as well if you want breakfast.” He despaired, sometimes. A while later, Guy found himself in the director’s office. Mr Clubb was sympathetic but understandably getting fairly irate at the situation. Over twenty-four hours into the attack, as he called it, and still no progress. It had wrecked a whole day’s activities, albeit some elements had

been transferred out to sub-offices and others had found they could work from home successfully. He demanded to know what Guy was going to do before he brought in the resources of the holding company. Guy explained that this was way, way beyond anything he or his colleagues at head office could manage. He’d spoken to someone from Holland who would probably be able to help, but at a considerable price. Mr Clubb agreed that he would find the money to pay this man from somewhere but he’d need to work fast. Guy contacted his geeky, computernerdy friend in Amsterdam and sent him the necessary files to examine. Within an hour he was downloading

the fix and within two, the system was restored. Instead of plaudits, he merely ran the gauntlet of sarcasm as he went from office to office ensuring normal service had been resumed. Which it had, save for one solitary machine in the accounts department which simply could not be restarted. He’d save that one, thought Guy, until he’d slept and felt able to think. About a month later, Guy’s computer pinged an email. As he got between sixty and ninety a day, this was not going to turn his eye until he caught sight of the name attached to it – Piet von Hameln. He clicked it open and read his Dutch friend’s latest missive. It seemed that, despite sending three invoices to Guy’s company, he had yet to be paid for his work unpicking the Star malware. It really was a considerable sum, Guy thought, but then it could have taken Piet days to sort, so in terms of the speedy turnaround, it was worth every cent to the company. He promised to chase it up and forwarded the missive to accounts. Within a few minutes, he’d received a reply saying that the fee was ‘under scrutiny’ with the board of directors as they felt it was not justified to pay such an amount for a mere hour’s work. They’d get back to him in the next few days. Curt and to the point. Piet would be less than pleased. Within a few minutes of forwarding their reply to Amsterdam, an accounts department staff member was on the phone. “Guy, we’ve got a problem here. Our computers are shutting down on us like last time. Only this time it’s just happening in full flow – not when we start them up.” Guy looked up just as the rat appeared on his own screen, laughed at him and then disappeared into the electronic night as the computer died and the phones all started ringing again. “Guy,” – Fiona’s voice was half muffled with the doughnut despite the fact she was frantically answering the calls – “you know the last time this happened and you found the virus thingy? Well, it’s funny but Star spelt backwards is rats.” Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 39


Police should support our mountain rescuers I

WAS dismayed to learn of Police Scotland’s decision to withhold funding for mountain rescue teams’ insurance during ‘third party’ events such as the Ben Nevis race. These events are an invaluable opportunity for the mountain rescue teams to train new recruits and, in return, provide invaluable support for events which can be both challenging and dangerous. The work that the mountain rescue service undertakes is invaluable in supporting our tourist trade and the events they attend are an important aspect of promoting and advertising the world class facilities we have been blessed with in the Highlands. In light of the comparatively small amount of money that this voluntary organisation receives and the huge savings it creates, I think that this move by Police Scotland – which has a budget of £1.1 billion – is both misguided and cynical. To an extent I think the confusion surrounding the funding of the mountain rescue service only goes further to highlight how a centralised police force is struggling to understand and serve an area as diverse and varied as the Highlands. I don’t imagine that under the old ‘localised’ system such a policy would have ever seen the light of day. The former Northern Constabulary always understood the huge value of the mountain rescue teams and valued the contribution they made beyond the spreadsheet. Although it is welcome news that the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland has now agreed to cover the mountain rescue teams’ insurance cost at these events, I think it is important to note that this will mean approximately 13% of its budget will now be spent on this and not on the

Page 40 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Westminster Positive outlook for Kishorn View I by Charles Kennedy MP

‘The former Northern Constabulary always understood the huge value of the mountain rescue teams and valued the contribution they made beyond the spreadsheet’ mountain rescue teams. In light of the millions of pounds that the mountain rescue teams save Police Scotland annually, it is extremely sad that the laudable service this organisation provides is being impeded by what is a drop in the ocean of the Police Scotland’s budget.

AM encouraged by the recent ‘Masterplan’ that has been submitted to the Highland Council by Kishorn Port Ltd. I have long championed the value that the port could bring to the constituency and I believe we are getting closer to finally realising the potential of this important site. If the plans are accepted it could pave the way to creating hundreds of jobs for Wester Ross and countless further opportunities across the constituency. The project has garnered support at every level of government and Alex Salmond has recently indicated his support for the regeneration project. I am pleased that the First Minister has thrown his weight behind the project, although his latest announcement neglects to mention that the Scottish Government did not appear to see the value of Kishorn when it was overlooked for enterprise zone status in 2012. But despite that fact, it is nevertheless welcome that Kishorn is back on the agenda in Holyrood. I raised the issue of the Kishorn site once again in the House of Commons and the response I received from the Minister was very positive. He is open to visiting the site over the summer and hopefully – with the support of the Department of Energy and Climate Change – we will be able to secure the site’s long term future and finally bring the manufacturing industry back to the area.

Public Information

Bringing Change to the Black Isle By Pat Kemsley


HE story of how Be The Change Symposium Day has come to the Black Isle began, for me, last December when I was fortunate enough to join a group of fellow travellers from 11 countries on a journey to Guatemala. We were led by John Perkins and Daniel Kouperman to attend the Mayan Ceremonies honouring the end of the Long Count Calendar of 5,125 years. 2012 for the Mayans was extremely important as it also marked the completion of the greater cycle lasting 26,000 years also known as the Precession of Equinoxes. Our journey included four ceremonies led by Mayan ‘shamans’ from the Guatemalan Highlands. These were held at three ancient Mayan sites, the most famous being Tikal which is set in its own National Park within the Maya Forest which constitutes the largest continuous expanse of tropical forest left in Central America. The ecosystem is amazing and even though I did not see a jaguar I certainly heard them – and the roar is different to the astounding calls of the howler monkeys! Both John and Daniel were keen to share both their knowledge of and deep concern for the environmental crisis our planet is in. John Perkins is a writer and authority on the Shaur Indians of the Amazon and finally confessed to his other life of being an economic hit man for American corporations in the Third World. The two roles became difficult to reconcile and he left the corporate world and eventually wrote Confessions of an Economic Hitman. This memoir was an eyeopener for me into how the Third World was brought into debt and poverty. Daniel works as an eco guide into the Amazon for The Pacha Mama Alliance. They encouraged us all to make personal commitments to be of service to the planet at this time where on so many fronts we are reaching the tipping point towards planetary disaster. This includes not only climate change but, among other crises, depleted resources, mass extinction of life forms and toxic waste pollution. John suggested I attend a Be the Change UK Symposium for more

Above: The Jaguar Pyramid at the Great Plaza, Tikal. Left: A Mayan Tata (shaman) and family at the Yaxha ruins.

information in living a more sustainable life. In January I attended the symposium in Edinburgh. This provided information about our present predicaments which for me was quite shocking and yet not without hope. During the day I met Jacqueline Buckingham, who is the co-ordinator of Be the Change Symposium in

Scotland. I asked her could we bring the day to the Black Isle and she agreed. I invite you to come and find out for yourselves what is really going on for our Planet Earth and what avenues are open to us to join with others to find a way through to a future of hope for the generations to come. ■ The Black Isle symposium takes place on Sunday, September 22nd. See the advert on Page 2 for more information, especially how to register. Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 41

Public Information

A dream comes true in Dingwall A

N ex-Fortrose Academy pupil, Lisa ValentineMcLelland, made a dream come true in May when she opened a complementary health clinic on Dingwall High Street. With her husband Robert McLelland she took on one of the empty retail units and turned it into Dingwall Complementary Health Ltd, a shop, clinic and fitness centre providing complementary health care for the communities of Dingwall and the surrounding area. Lisa, who has worked in the complementary therapy sector for over three years as a sports and remedial therapist, opened the clinic after her clients in the area complained that there was nowhere central to access such treatment and advice and they were tired of having to travel for such services. Since opening the centre she is picking up not just new clients but also new practitioners offering a wide variety of treatments from massage to acupuncture, hypnotherapy and personal fitness classes. The reception area of the clinic also doubles up as a shop where Lisa supports local independent retailers of health and wellbeing

products. She also has lovely hand-made products and artwork by local crafts professionals and artists for sale. Recently they held Women’s Health Week which raised over £80 for local charity Ross Shire Women’s Aid. During this week the centre held various promotions for money-off treatments, a craft evening, and finished off with an open day offering mini taster treatments. The centre run more of these events throughout the year including other workshops such as Saturday yoga workshops and talks, so watch out for these being advertised. Events to come include: September 23rd-28th, Pregnancy & Post-natal Health Week; October 28thNovember 2nd, Winter Health Week; December 2nd-7th, Christmas Health Week. Lisa still has treatment rooms to rent, also the group/workshop room is available to hire along with display space to rent. Contact her on 01349 861477 or 07766310204.

Linda’s business keeps on growing E

XERCISE expert Linda Bailey of Avoch works at the new centre two days a week. “I moved to Avoch eight years ago and started working with the GPs on the Black Isle as a GP Exercise Referral Practitioner,” she said. “The programme proved to be a success but funding ended after two years. I continued the best I could as a volunteer (or accepting a nominal fee) and my client numbers continue to grow. “A GP Exercise Referral Programme is so needed here in Ross-shire and surrounding areas. It bridges a huge gap between when the physio finishes and patients then have to fend for themselves with very little and in most cases no help and support. You can imagine how this affects the senior members of our community.”

Page 42 Chatterbox Autumn 2013

Macross’s Scotmid Puzzle

No. 66



7 Once a 12 down, 9 – Churches gather round Scottish render (7) 8 Once a 12 down, 9 – testament to one morning (7) 9 See 12 down 10 Mangled harpsichord loses hour but is yet emotionally musical (9) 12 Plunder; ever a crime (in Scotland anyway) (5) 13 Steel men make them and are made from them (8) 15 An instrument that sounds deceitful (4) 16 Rents waterworks? (5) 17 See 18 across 18, 17 Bad lungs to do awful gore (5, 3, 4) 20 See 3 down 21 Shortened Duke of Milan and editor flourished (9) 24 Words in question; follower of 7, 8, 21 and 23 (7) 25 Grandeur, perhaps taking a joke (7)

1 Hare confused bird (4) 2 Big sponge by karate chopped (4-4) 3, 11, 20 across See an uxorial doggerel piece composed by 8 for 23 as a 20 ac reflection of this delivery (6, 9, 5) 4 Pst! 7, 8 and 12 down 19 gather round for jazz buffs (8) 5 Snow-mobile throwing a batsman (6) 6 Stuff back from wine-making (4) 11 See 3 12, 9 Rocky Balboa – two years, right – for 3, 11, 20 across (5, 4) 14 Bishop’s ballet skirts (5) 16 Mix pesto on a stirrer (3-5) 17 Taunt leg-up with this? No, it protects the hand (8) 19 Rodeo I melted down for an alloy of copper (6) 20 An idly arranged description of soft, slow music (6) 21 Once a 12 down, 9 – Greek character – a learner – for short Greek character (4) 23 Meerkat envoy hosts the latest bearer of a 12 down 3 (4)

Answers to No. 65

The Scotmid prize


Post your solution to the Editor marked “Crossword”. The first all-correct answer opened on November 1st will win £20 from Chatterbox and a mystery prize from Scotmid, Avoch.



The winner of Crossword 65 was Phil Sanderson, Mount Eagle Court, Culbokie. Autumn 2013 Chatterbox

Page 43

Chatterbox Citizenship Award





O you know someone who deserves a pat on the back for all the work they do in their community? Last year Chatterbox presented its second Citizenship Award, and now it’s time for you to nominate your candidates for 2013. We are looking for someone who has made an outstanding contribution to their community in the Black Isle. To give your nomination a chance of success, it is important that you provide a full statement of why you think they deserve recognition. We also need your name, address and contact details (phone number, email etc). There are no restrictions* on who you




nominate, as long as they live in the local community. Please send your nominations to Russell Turner, Editor, Chatterbox, Burnside Cottage, Newhall, Balblair, Dingwall, or email editor@ The deadline for nominations is November 7th. The selection for the Chatterbox 2013 Citizen of the Year will be made by the editorial team and announced in the December issue. * Members of Chatterbox production and editorial teams are not eligible for this award, nor any other awards that Chatterbox may promote.

Chatterbox 66  
Chatterbox 66  

Community magazine for the Black Isle, Scottish Highlands