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Looking Back: Lively dispute at Dunbeath, Harbours study mooted and Supermarket plan for Thurso


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Postcard view of Bridge Street in Halkirk, circa 1940, with the church and Ross Institute in the background. From the Henrietta Munro Collection
Postcard view of Bridge Street in Halkirk, circa 1940, with the church and Ross Institute in the background. From the Henrietta Munro Collection

Lively dispute at Dunbeath

From the Groat of July 4, 1924

It was reported that “a question of considerable interest that promises to ripple the surface of the usual placid stream of life in the picturesque little village of Dunbeath had once again arisen”.

The Dunbeath Literary Institute had become a “substantial subject of controversy” as it was managed by a committee of the Dunbeath Literary Society, the members of which many locals considered were failing to acknowledge that the building was a public one.

The hall had been erected by public subscription with a donation from Andrew Carnegie and had been run by the literary society since 1896.

“To test the opinion of the community about the matter” a public meeting was called. It became apparent that local interest had been aroused and 200 people had assembled at the county road below the hall.

However, “a surprise was in store” when it emerged that access could not be gained to the hall as the literary society secretary had refused to hand over the keys.

Those assembled left the road and “gathered in a close circle round the door of the Institute. The night was fine and business could easily be discussed in the open air.”

The meeting passed a resolution that a body of trustees be elected “and that the proprietor of Dunbeath be asked to grant a disposition of the hall in favour of such elected trustees”, so that the hall “may be utilised for proper public objects and administered in a fair and reasonable manner”.

Harbours study mooted

From the Groat of July 5, 1974

A meeting had been held in Wick to discuss the future of Wick and Scrabster harbours.

Representatives of Caithness County Council, Wick and Thurso town councils, Wick and Scrabster harbour trusts and the Highland Development Board met to consider a suggestion by local MP Robert Maclennan “that a general study be commenced into the potential of Wick and Scrabster harbours with regard to oil-related and other industrial development”.

A paper prepared by the county council’s planning consultants indicated that a “full physical study of the harbours would extend for a period of six months and cost some £26,000”.

The meeting decided that the best way forward was to invite the three local councils and the harbour trusts to consider the consultants’ proposals in detail, to accept the estimates for the study and indicate “to what extent they would be prepared to contribute to the cost”.

Elsewhere, two young men were fined at Wick Sheriff Court after they admitted “walking naked through the centre of Thurso in the early hours of the morning”.

The court heard that a police officer had seen the pair “strolling down Traill Street completely naked and carrying their clothes. After a chase they were arrested.”

It was explained that they had been celebrating after one of them had completed his apprenticeship and “had had a few drinks”.

Supermarket plan for Thurso

From the Groat of July 9, 1999

The Scapa House site in Thurso was being earmarked to base what would be the town’s third supermarket.

A property company had lodged plans to demolish the former naval hostel and build a store with a 96-space car park.

The existing building at the corner of Smith Terrace and Pennyland Terrace had been leased to a mix of office and commercial concerns. It had also been the subject of a feasibility study into the siting of a new luxury hotel.

The scheme was being spearheaded by Scapa Properties Ltd, whose address was given as the Glasgow-based Smith Design Associates.

The plans involved the razing of the building and the erection of a store with a gross area of 1242 square metres. A large piece of the ground to the rear of the Scapa site was earmarked in the plans for future housing.

However, local community councillor Ron Henderson had questioned the need for a third supermarket. He said there was “surely a limit to how much money people could spend in supermarkets”.

He added: “I’d be inclined to say there’s no room for more than two in Thurso and we already have Presto’s redundant store sitting in the middle of the precinct.”

Elsewhere, a Caithness millennium song contest had a hit a dull note with budding composers.

Launched a month previously, the competition had attracted just one entry, and that had come from outwith the area.


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