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


By Features Reporter

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This Halley mail car, owned by R S Waters, ran between Wick and John O’Groats from 1913. The driver was Daniel Mowat.
This Halley mail car, owned by R S Waters, ran between Wick and John O’Groats from 1913. The driver was Daniel Mowat.

Shop improvements in Wick

From the Groat of July 28, 1922

The old property in High Street which belonged to Mrs Campbell, Crown Hotel, and renowned as having been occupied by the infamous Pirate Gow "in the old days", had been reconstructed into a large and commodious shop.

A plate-glass front and glass-bayed doorway had been installed and a large tearoom created on the first floor.

The work had given a "much-needed improvement to the congested end of High Street".

The premises were occupied by the Washington Soda Fountain Company.

Further along High Street, the building owned by William Banks and occupied by George Davidson, confectioner, had been gutted out, the floor excavated to the street level and the back wall of the shop removed.

The entire front had large plate-glass windows installed along with a bayed doorway with double pilasters at the sides and moulded corbels over, "making in every way a most up-to-date confectionery shop and tearoom".

Meanwhile, in Lower Dunbar Street, Peter Sutherland, baker, had carried out a considerable amount of improvement work on his shop and had also installed plate-glass windows and a bayed glass doorway. Improvements had also been made on ice-cream vendor Mr P Cardosi's property at the Harbour Breast.

Wartime defences spoiling beach

From the Groat of July 28, 1972

Wartime defences at Sinclair's Bay were spoiling the amenities at Reiss sands, a popular spot for locals and visitors.

Local MP Robert Maclennan was supporting the move to have the beach defences demolished and the concrete blocks removed, and had raised the issue with the Minister for the Army, Geoffrey Johnson Smith.

Mr Maclennan had been informed that there was little chance of the work being done that year but that the army had the task "on their books".

Mr Johnson Smith explained that there were no regular Royal Engineers units resident in Scotland, and the nearest troop could not get to Sinclair's Bay and return home in a weekend and allow time for the necessary demolition work.

He added that the unit that had carried out the initial reconnaissance at Sinclair's Bay had been on a training exercise at the time and had since been deployed overseas.

Elsewhere, Dr Ken Swanson, who had worked for the UK Atomic Energy Authority at Dounreay since 1958, had been awarded an Authority Personal Appointment to research manager level in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Dr Swanson, who lived at Westfield and who had become a JP the previous year, was the son of Mrs M Swanson and the late Magnus Swanson of Thuster, where his brothers John and Magnus were farmers.

Setback for village centre plans

From the Groat of August 1, 1997

Plans for a high-tech learning centre in Dunbeath had been dealt a serious blow by villagers who objected to a lack of public consultation.

A local group, South East Adult Learning (SEAL), had applied to the National Lottery for £295,000 to convert an annexe at Dunbeath Hotel to a "family learning and information resource".

The proposed centre was to have computer links to college and university courses and was seen by its supporters as a catalyst for economic growth in the area.

However, the group said its application for funding had been ruined by an anonymous letter sent to the lottery charities board drawing attention to public concern about a lack of consultation and the financial interests of those involved.

SEAL had been formed in 1994 to pilot community education courses but had decided that the area needed its own purpose-built centre to overcome a shortage of computers and accommodation.

It had intended to wait until funds were in place before calling a public meeting to unveil its plans, but the discontent in some quarters resulted in an "open afternoon" taking place. It attracted 30 people to the local hall to hear the details.

Residents had told the Groat that no-one objected in principle, but some believed the lack of consultation had bred "suspicion and mistrust".


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