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


By Features Reporter

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The Wick-registered boat Sheena Mackay entering Helmsdale harbour during the 1950s, with the Seine Queen and her attendants on board.
The Wick-registered boat Sheena Mackay entering Helmsdale harbour during the 1950s, with the Seine Queen and her attendants on board.

Hotel liquor licences refused

From the Groat of April 28, 1922

Wick was to become completely "dry" after members of the Burgh Licensing Court decided not to allow hotels to sell alcohol.

Public house and grocers' licences had already been refused at a previous sitting, following the failure of a legal challenge by local licensees to the temperance vote in the town. The matter of hotel licences had been deferred.

At the latest meeting, five hotels had sought licences – the Station Hotel in Bridge Street, Caledonian Hotel, Bridge Street, Station Hotel, Thurso Street, Commercial Hotel, Union Street, and the Lorne Hotel, Lower Pulteneytown.

It was argued by representatives of these hotels that, while the No-Licence vote had to be respected, the court had the power to grant restricted licences to these premises. If the magistrates were to refuse the licences, they would be "going beyond the vote of the people".

Stressing that alcohol would only be sold as part of a meal, the representatives argued that refusal would "inflict a grievous injury upon visitors and would put the town in a very anomalous position as the only place from Land's End to John O'Groats where there was no licensed hotel".

Bailie Green said refusal would be the "greatest legislative farce for many years" but his fellow magistrates opted to refuse the licences regardless.

Reay tourism plan

From the Groat of April 28, 1972

A Caithness County Council scheme envisaged the development of the hamlet of Reay, including Sandside Bay, the harbour, the golf course and the hill country inland, as a village holiday centre.

The scheme was "Project No. 3" in the Caithness programme and the council intended to "take all necessary steps to provide facilities which will have the effect of extending the holiday season".

At Fresgoe, where the harbour was situated, it was mooted that existing buildings could be adapted to accommodate a tearoom, shop, shelter, boat store and toilets.

The architects and planning consultants stressed the importance of suitable access but took a different view from the council by advocating the preservation of a small bridge on the road to the bay as a pedestrian way.

Councillors agreed to discuss the matter further and with the proprietors of Sandside Estate.

Elsewhere, the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Dounreay was to be presented with a safety award from the British Safety Council.

To qualify, the company's accident rate in 1971 had to be lower than the national average for that particular industry. Out of the several hundred thousand workplaces in Britain, only a handful had managed to win such an award.

Britain backs Blair landslide

From the Groat of May 2, 1997

Long-standing MP Robert Maclennan made it nine successive election wins when he secured the Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross constituency – but with a reduced majority.

As Labour swept to a stunning victory nationally, Mr Maclennan had fought off a strong challenge from Labour candidate James Hendry to win the enlarged constituency for the Liberal Democrats.

At the election in 1992, Mr Maclennan had had a majority of 5365 but Mr Hendry had closed the gap to 2259.

Labour leader Tony Blair was swept to power on a tidal wave of support which had taken the most seasoned political analysts by surprise and left the Tory party in chaos.

The Groat reported that "as the drama unfolded up and down the country during the night the Conservatives were left with no seats at all in Scotland. High-profile casualties included Malcolm Rifkind, Ian Lang and Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth."

Elsewhere, one of the north's best-known solicitors, Anne Dunnett, was honoured on the occasion of her retirement.

More than 100 friends, clients, colleagues and business representatives had gathered at the Portland Arms Hotel in Lybster to spring a farewell surprise party for Miss Dunnett, who was leaving the Wick law practice she had founded in 1982.


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