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


By Features Reporter

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There have been many changes and improvements to port facilities at Scrabster since this picture was taken. The fishing boat entering the harbour is thought to be the Wick-registered Pavonia.
There have been many changes and improvements to port facilities at Scrabster since this picture was taken. The fishing boat entering the harbour is thought to be the Wick-registered Pavonia.

End to allotments at Wick park

From the Groat of March 24, 1922

Bignold Park was to be given over to sport and recreation. At a special meeting of Wick Town Council, members agreed to award a tender for the ground to be ploughed so it could be sowed with grass, as opposed to continuing its use for allotments.

The council had before it a letter from the allotment holders association communicating a resolution and a decision of a public meeting that one half of the park be left under cultivation for a further year.

There was also laid before the meeting a petition signed by 200 citizens asking for the whole park to be returned as soon as possible for recreation and sport.

The decision, however, was criticised by the Groat. A leading article said the compromise of half allotments, half sport, had been "a reasonable mode of meeting the demand" for both.

"But no reasonable recommendation appears to weigh with those who have set themselves as opposers and obstructionists of the allotments movement," according to the article. It also hit out at two councillors who had abstained from voting, saying that "such evasion of responsibility is neither creditable to those who abstained nor fair to the public whom they represent".

Scrabster plan approved

From the Groat of March 24, 1972

A plan to provide a new terminal at Scrabster, at a cost of £700,000, had been approved by the Scottish Development Department.

Drilling for the foundations had already started but the main construction work was not due to begin until December.

The terminal was expected to be ready for the early summer of 1974, when the North of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland Shipping Company was to introduce its new roll-on/roll-off ferry to the Stromness/Scrabster service.

Members of Scrabster Harbour Trust regarded the terminal as the first phase of the expansion of the harbour's facilities. As soon as the construction of the new breakwater was under way they were to resume negotiations with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries concerning the provision of a new fish market.

Elsewhere, it was reported that despite a fire which damaged its printing presses, Orkney's only newspaper, the Orcadian, had been published as usual – thanks to a helping hand from over the firth. The six-page emergency issue, which kept intact the paper's non-stop record over 118 years, had been produced with the help of the John O'Groat Journal.

The Orcadian's Linotype machines had been damaged in the fire, so facilities were made available at the Groat's Wick premises, and two operators made the journey from Orkney to typeset their newspaper.

Dry dock detective work

From the Groat of March 28, 1997

Wick harbour master Malcolm Bremner had been praised by his bosses for an enterprising piece of detective work.

Wick Harbour Trust might have had to shell out thousands of pounds in order to get control of the dry dock area as it was not clear whether it was situated on dry land or the foreshore.

Attempts to investigate the matter had drawn a blank, and the conclusion was reached with Hempriggs Estate "that they probably owned a half each", leaving the trust with the option of buying the estate's half.

However, Mr Bremner had "managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat". He had delved into old maps and plans of the harbour at Wick Heritage Centre and the archive section of the local library, and had discovered that the estate didn't own any of the ground as the dry dock had been built entirely on the foreshore.

Praising Mr Bremner, chairman Donnie Shearer said he had saved them "an enormous amount of money".

Elsewhere, it was the end of an era in Watten as the village post office closed its doors, bringing to an end 166 years of service from the same building.

Sam and Nettie Anderson, who operated the post office and shop, had retired and the post office had moved up the street to Woodside Stores.


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