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

By Features Reporter

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The world’s biggest luxury cruise liner – called The World – stopped off outside Wick harbour this week in 2011 as part of a global tour. Hundreds of people turned out to see the 644ft ship.
The world’s biggest luxury cruise liner – called The World – stopped off outside Wick harbour this week in 2011 as part of a global tour. Hundreds of people turned out to see the 644ft ship.

Loan debacle delays house lets

From the Groat of June 16, 1922

The Prime Minister was to be petitioned to intervene in a financial dispute which had affected the letting of newly built houses in Wick.

The decision was made at a joint meeting of Wick Town Council and Wick Harbour Trust after members struggled to find a way to resolve the problem caused by the government's Loan Board which had linked the finances for a housing scheme with a loan made for work at the harbour.

As a result of the financial impasse, contractors had not been properly paid and the houses, many of which were complete, could not be let to tenants.

A Groat opinion column described the situation as "nothing short of a scandal as far as the government is concerned".

The writer stated that no reasonable explanation had been given as to why the loans had been set up in a way that was unique to the town.

But the result was that houses were unavailable for occupancy, even though "eligible tenants were clamouring for housing accommodation".

It was hoped the Prime Minister would see the "reasonableness of the request that the Housing Scheme funds should be immediately provided without any regard to the Town Council's obligations under the Harbour Trust loan".

Housewives to aid Pulteney plan

From the Groat of June 16, 1972

As part of the redevelopment of the Lower Pulteneytown area, a research team from the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture in Aberdeen was to interview around 50 municipal tenants, as well as some of those on the housing waiting list.

The information obtained would "not only assist in the redevelopment of Lower Pulteney; it will enable the School to furnish the Town Council's architects with a report that will help in the production of future housing design plan layout".

Central to this was bringing up to date the records of what housewives regarded as essential in the planning of the home, particularly the kitchen.

Each member of the research team was to carry a kit of parts, tiny models of rooms and miniature pieces of furniture that the interviewee could put together to help determine which layouts would work best.

"Behind the research scheme is the theory that though an architect can design a house, only a housewife really knows what is needed in the kitchen."

The town council's housing committee heard that, at a recent public meeting about the redevelopment, "speakers expressed themselves forcibly regarding the dilapidation of properties which needed attention and of houses which had no water, light or ventilation".

Probe into contract wrangle

From the Groat of June 20, 1997

The Scottish Office had launched an investigation into how a Caithness building firm whose finance director sat on the board of a local enterprise company was given exclusive access to a lucrative contract in Thurso.

Officials acted after a complaint was received from a rival firm which accused Caithness and Sutherland Enterprise of acting unfairly by not seeking tenders for the £1.5 million office development.

Fellow CASE board members of David Mackay had agreed in April that the contract should be offered exclusively to his firm DM Geddes.

Parent quango Highlands and Islands Enterprise was in the process of negotiating a price with the company amid allegations that it was not the first time DM Geddes had been favoured by CASE.

The local enterprise company defended the arrangement, claiming it would have been unable to meet a deadline from a prospective tenant if the work had been put out to tender. DM Geddes had previously won contracts for other office blocks at the business estate near Burnside.

But despite the urgency, no contract had been let and HIE was under pressure from local MP Robert Maclennan to pull out of the negotiations and open the contract to competitive tender.

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