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


By Features Reporter

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Crowds enjoying glorious sunshine at the County Show in Wick in 2013. Organisers will be hoping for similar weather at Thurso East this weekend as the show returns for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Crowds enjoying glorious sunshine at the County Show in Wick in 2013. Organisers will be hoping for similar weather at Thurso East this weekend as the show returns for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

No subsidies for herring trade

From the Groat of July 14, 1922

News that the government had rejected pleas for subsidies to support fishing communities had dealt a further blow to hopes of a resurgence in the herring industry.

A Groat editorial stated: "Dependent as Wick so largely is on the prosperity of the herring industry, it goes without saying that the town is meantime passing through one of the most serious periods of depression in its history.

"If it were not for the unemployment benefit which is being doled out weekly it is difficult to see how a large part of the population could possibly subsist.

"The community, it is true, is struggling bravely with the difficulties of the situation and if there was any prospect of an early recovery in the staple industry, the standing of the town as one of our principal Scottish fishing ports might yet be retained."

Meanwhile, in Thurso, the town council had received a letter from Donald Shearer, of Sir John's Square, asking the councillors "to consider the desirability of constructing an underground lavatory in Sir John's Square Gardens, and in the event of the work being gone on with promising a contribution towards the expense".

Councillors agreed it was a "most generous" offer and the proposal was to be further considered.

Jubilee show at Latheron

From the Groat of July 14, 1972

Members of the Latheron Landholders Show Society were preparing for a historic day in their calendar – their 50th show.

The first show was held in 1911 and the society had "continued with success throughout the years".

Due to be staged at Latheronwheel Mains, the event was expected to attract entries from all parts of the county from "occupiers of land with rental not exceeding £100".

A little further south, Dunbeath Athletic Club had arranged "a most attractive programme" for its 121st Highland Games.

The opening ceremony was to be performed by Lord Thurso, who had already been chieftain of the Caithness Highland Games and was due to be chieftain at the Halkirk Games a week later.

Residents in Thurso were looking forward to their jubilee gala, which was to feature a visit from HMS Gavinton. In Wick, the forthcoming gala also offered a wide range of competitions and attractions.

Caithness Agricultural Society's County Show was to be staged at the Riverside and Westerseat grounds with more than 750 livestock exhibits.

Show night dances were being held in Mackays Hotel and the Rosebank Hotel as well as in the marquee on the showfield.

Wick's tourist figures slump

From the Groat of July 18, 1997

The number of visitors calling in at the tourist information centre (TIC) in Wick had fallen by 50 per cent.

The shock downturn had baffled the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board (HOST), particularly as its TICs in Thurso and John O'Groats had recorded higher visitor levels over the same period.

HOST believed that bad weather during May and June could not be to blame because the figures had not been repeated at other TICs. It also doubted whether the closure to traffic of part of High Street to allow work to convert the Market Square area to a pedestrian precinct could have had such a big impact.

B&B owners throughout the town spoke of a "big drop" in bookings, with one admitting she had given up on tourists altogether and was concentrating on long-stay business guests from the hospital.

Elsewhere, Thurso pensioner Ted Dowding was "sitting on a potential goldmine" after chancing upon letters sent by his aunt who survived the sinking of the Titanic. The 18 letters, the first on Titanic stationery, had been sent to Ted's mother at her home in Bournemouth after her sister, then 31, left to start a new life in the United States.

The precious correspondence had been found by Ted as he rummaged through some of his father's papers.


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