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


By Features Reporter

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A royal occasion at Watten in 1973 as the Queen Mother arrives to open the new hall. She was welcomed by Viscount Thurso, Lord-Lieutenant of the county, and Lady Thurso, and hall committee chairman Douglas Brims (left).
A royal occasion at Watten in 1973 as the Queen Mother arrives to open the new hall. She was welcomed by Viscount Thurso, Lord-Lieutenant of the county, and Lady Thurso, and hall committee chairman Douglas Brims (left).

'Last Post' sounded as Wick goes dry

From the Groat of June 2, 1922

In accordance with the wishes of the people, expressed at the poll in November 1920, Wick had, after a long-drawn-out struggle, become a dry area.

"The passing of 'John Barleycorn' was marked by the sounding of the 'Last Post' on the vicinity of Bridge Street. There was a large number of people in the main streets but there was no demonstration, everyone seemed to take the long-talked-of happening quite philosophically."

The No-Licence party planned to mark the occasion with a thanksgiving service in the Breadalbane Hall.

Elsewhere in the town, there had been no buyer for the valuable properties Kirk's Buildings and Nicolson's Buildings, which belonged to the late William Nicolson, merchant.

The properties had been exposed for sale by public roup at the upset price of £4000.

Meanwhile, a national story made the Groat's columns.

At the Old Bailey in London, Horatio Bottomley MP had been found guilty by jury of fraud and sentenced to seven years' penal servitude.

Bottomley had been convicted of a "long series of heartless frauds" to the value of £150,000, a crime "aggravated by his high position, by the number and poverty of his victims and the callous effrontery" with which they had been committed.

Groats ferry service bid

From the Groat of June 2, 1972

A group had been formed to promote and carry out the work of building an extension to the pier at John O'Groats with a view to developing a regular ferry service to South Ronaldsay.

Although the ownership of the pier was in doubt, Caithness County Council was regarded as the proprietor and from time to time had financed and carried out maintenance work there.

There was currently under consideration an improvement scheme which was assured of government aid provided the work benefited the local fishing industry, but "something more than this would be necessary of the pier is ever to be of use for the operation of a regular ferry service".

A small-scale ferry service had already begun in May, operating from St Margaret's Hope and making use of the Groats pier with the aid of a 70ft pontoon.

The harbour scheme envisaged by the newly formed John O'Groats Harbour Improvement Committee would see the pier being lengthened into the deeper water with all-year-round protection provided by a breakwater.

Meanwhile, Sutherland's first swimming pool was to open for a restricted period on a Sunday afternoon, following a vote of 12 to seven in favour at Sutherland County Council.

Stoer Free Church minister the Rev Donald MacDonald dissented and called the decision a "breach of the Divine eternal law".

Science festival slimmed down

From the Groat of June 6, 1997

A lack of support from the private sector had led to large chunks of the programme being dropped from the third Caithness Science Festival.

The organisers cancelled some speakers from outwith the county after failing to reach their fundraising target.

However, they were confident the revised programme would be attractive and hopeful that more than 1500 schoolchildren would be fascinated by the scientific activities.

Coordinator Colin Allen explained that they had had "quite an ambitious programme up until Easter but the problem has been sponsorship and we were scared we were going to run in a great loss".

Despite the cancellations, about half a dozen scientists were to join local speakers to give talks on subjects as diverse as the physics of ice cream, wave energy and the climate.

Elsewhere, a £250,000 investment by a bus company in Caithness was set to help secure existing local jobs and improve its service to the public.

Highland Country Buses Ltd had confirmed that seven vehicles which operated on Caithness routes had been replaced, bringing in four express liners, two double-deckers and a 21-seat minibus, all five to six years old.

The move was described as "the first major investment of its kind in Caithness for many many years", and was good news for staff and passengers.


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