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Looking Back – News from the John O'Groat Journal of yesteryear

By Features Reporter

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Lybster firemen in the early 1940s – (standing) G Sutherland, J Alex McDonald, A Oag, P Nicol; (seated) D Wares, D. Cormack, D Bain, J Mackay.
Lybster firemen in the early 1940s – (standing) G Sutherland, J Alex McDonald, A Oag, P Nicol; (seated) D Wares, D. Cormack, D Bain, J Mackay.

Unique distinction in America

From the Groat of November 25, 1921

The son of a Wick man who had emigrated to America had been appointed Assistant District Attorney of Queen's County, New York.

William B Groat jnr had the distinction of being the youngest man to occupy such an office in the United States, having just passed his 22nd birthday. The honour was conveyed on him "as a reward for his activities for the Republican Party" and the post carried a salary of $3500 a year.

Mr Groat, who was married with a young son, had graduated from Brooklyn Law School and during the war had served with the navy. He was active "in many fraternal societies and in politics" and was a member of the law firm Groat and Hyland.

His father, also named William, lived in Long Island City but hailed from Wick where he lived in Bexley Terrace and served an apprenticeship in the offices of the John O'Groat Journal.

Meanwhile, the last Wick Town Council meeting before the election was held in the town hall. Among the topics discussed were Sunday trading and the matter of ice-cream shops that opened on the Sabbath.

Councillors wanted to see the shops shut on Sundays as it was "an eyesore to those going to church to see these places open".

Wick's Poppy Day record

From the Groat of November 26, 1971

The poppy collection for Wick and District raised £615.81, a "splendid new record" which had exceeded the previous year's amount by £75.51.

The area's clubs, hotels and businesses had helped to swell the funds amassed by the various volunteers, including the "lady collectors and the school children who went round their districts in the severe weather".

On the list of collections it was noted that the Queen's Hotel had raised 71p, the Rosebank £7.93, Mackay's Hotel £1.37, Nethercliffe £2.93, the Crown Bar £6.39, Camps Bar £1.76, Mountain Dew 94p, Town and County Club £8.49, British Legion Club £9.95, Seaforth Club £9.50, Dounreay Club £2.18 and the Station Hotel 88p.

Thurso was also celebrating a record sum as a result of the poppy appeal and the Armistice Day church collection and the Earl Haig Fund was to get £465.

This was at a time when, according to an advert for the Co-op in Thurso, 15p would buy a half pound of butter, a pound of bacon was 22p, a pound of cheddar cheese was 23p and a bottle of whisky was £2.47 and a half pence.

Entrance to a dance in Bower Community Centre was 30p, as was admission to a dance in Thurso Town Hall, while the annual Fishermen's Ball in the Portland Arms in Lybster would cost £1.75, including dinner.

Bid to combat Thurso rowdies

From the Groat of November 29, 1996

A Thurso town centre project was being mooted in a bid to counter vandalism and rowdiness being caused by youths in the pedestrian precinct.

At a special meeting there was "considerable frustration" evident as residents, business people, police representatives and councillors discussed the problem.

The meeting had been organised by Councillor Falconer Waters and had attracted 28 residents, some of whom criticised the level of policing in the town centre, while others told of regularly being tormented by youths and being threatened after making complaints to the police.

The meeting heard the problems were caused by "a tiny minority of youths".

Councillor Waters suggested that the council consider a project to tackle the antisocial behaviour which could bring in such measures as relocation or removal of precinct seating, erecting gates on alleyways and, as a last resort, the installation of closed-circuit TV.

He said: "People are understandably angry, some are living in fear. We can't let a tiny minority spoil things for the town."

Elsewhere, the resurgence of the Caithness flagstone industry after decades in the doldrums had prompted a £900,000 expansion by a family firm.

A&D Sutherland was to expand its operations in Spittal with the help of a £110,000 investment from the local enterprise company.

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