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

By Features Reporter

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This week 10 years ago, learning support auxiliaries from Wick High School were among those honouring the Viking traditions of Caithness at Da Doonie Day events. Picture: Eswyl Fell
This week 10 years ago, learning support auxiliaries from Wick High School were among those honouring the Viking traditions of Caithness at Da Doonie Day events. Picture: Eswyl Fell

Court action against temperance vote

From the Groat of December 2, 1921

Witnesses from Wick gathered at the Court of Session to give evidence in the case brought by 28 of the town's innkeepers, hoteliers and wine merchants to overturn the result of the previous year's no-licence vote.

The year before the temperance cause had won the day, but licence-holders had been staging a fightback.

The licence-holders maintained that the poll had not taken place in accordance with the provisions of the Temperance (Scotland) Act in that it was held simultaneously with the ordinary municipal election of the burgh. Voters were handed two ballot papers when they arrived, and so people voted who would not normally have done so.

They also argued that the voting arrangements in four of the five venues were inadequate, to the point that others in the room could see the marks being made on the ballot paper. They said this lack of secrecy caused those who were against the no-licence movement to stay away.

They also said that John Sutherland, an active no-licence campaigner but not an authorised agent, had been present at the Parish Church hall voting station on several occasions when he had no reason to be there, and eventually police had to be given instructions to eject him.

They called on the result to be declared null and void.

Home help cost rise delayed

From the Groat of December 3, 1971

A plan to increase the cost of the home help service to 50p per day had been delayed by members of Caithness County Council's health committee.

People who used the service had been paying 5p, or one shilling, a day. However, the scheme had become obligatory and local authorities had been asked to review their charges.

County clerk Mr R H Stevenson said the scheme locally had been "running at a huge loss" with the scale of charges "ridiculously low" in comparison with other local authorities.

On the other hand, he explained, "there is a crisis for old people who cannot find 10 shillings a day to pay for the service and it is very likely that the use of the service will fall rapidly unless the difficulty is sorted out".

Councillors felt that the Ministry of Social Security should be reimbursing recipients for the extra charge and, while they agreed that the costs should rise, decided to delay the introduction of the new charges while further discussions took place.

Elsewhere, Castlehill Harbour Trust had been offered a "non-economic grant" by the Highlands and Islands Development Board for the completion of extensive improvements at the harbour.

It was hoped the restoration would promote tourism and fishing.

Christmas tree on the move

From the Groat of December 6, 1996

A proposal to change the location of the town's Christmas tree had won the backing of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council.

The town centre was to be upgraded and local development manager David Richard-Jones had mooted the idea that the tree could be moved the following year from its traditional site in the garden beside the town hall to the newly refurbished Market Square, which by then would be a pedestrian-priority area.

Mr Richard-Jones felt that this would encourage the holding of festive events in the square and it would be a sign that the town centre was "again becoming the focus of the community".

Earlier, community councillors had heard that the upgrading of the town centre would be a "textbook example" of how to lay and design with Caithness flagstone. Unfortunately, because the laying of flag was a lost skill in the county, it was possible that local contractors could miss out on doing the work because of a lack of experience.

Meanwhile, in Castletown a feasibility study was to be carried out to find additional uses for the proposed interpretive flagstone museum on the outskirts of the village.

Members of the Dunnet Bay Initiative heard that a museum alone would run at a loss of £10,000 a year and have limited opening, but incorporating a range of other activities would make it more viable.

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