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

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Runners lining up for a race during a Naver sports day in Thurso in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Jack Selby Collection / Thurso Heritage Society
Runners lining up for a race during a Naver sports day in Thurso in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Jack Selby Collection / Thurso Heritage Society

Memorials unveiled at Wick

From the Groat of November 2, 1923

With "befitting religious and military ceremony" Wick war memorial had been unveiled by General Lord Horne of Stirkoke.

And following on from that, the Seaforth Highlanders Memorial Tablet, which had been erected in front of the Town and County Hall, had been unveiled by Major-General A Buchanan Ritchie, commander of the 51st Division.

It was reported that "happily the weather conditions were favourable, and both ceremonials, arrangements for which had been carefully made beforehand, were carried out in a manner creditable and satisfactory to all concerned, and in presence of thousands of townspeople and many who attended from various parts of the county".

The town monument was 8ft 9in in height and was a robed figure representing Victory and Peace.

Meanwhile, Wick Town Council had set the date for a temperance poll which had been instigated by those who wished to have the No-Licence result in the town revoked. The number of signatures required for the temperance requisition was 322 and it had been signed by 655 people.

In an advertisement on a following page it was stated that there were "none so blind as those who won't see", and what they didn't see was that "prohibition means re-enthronement of the reign of bigotry and coercion – black memories of the middle ages – which the forces of freedom have fought hard to overcome".

Readers were urged to "redouble the struggle for liberty – check intolerant prohibition".

Workers strike at Dounreay

From the Groat of November 2, 1973

More than 1000 men had stopped work at Dounreay after a dispute with the management over the suspension of two process workers.

Trouble at the plant had started the previous week when the men were asked to clear seaweed from pipes in the cooling system. This involved crawling up pipes two-and-a-half feet in diameter to remove the obstructions by hand.

Shops stewards had met with management claiming that the work was outwith process workers' normal duties and asking for a 27p an hour increase. The management offered 11p, which was turned down by the men.

Two workers who then refused to carry out the task were suspended without pay for an "indefinite period".

Shop stewards asked that the suspensions be lifted to allow normal working to continue but were told that unless the men returned to work and accepted the 11p an hour offer they would not be reinstated.

As a result 50 men from PFR walked out and the following day the remainder of the industrial workers at DERE decided to walk out in sympathy with their two suspended colleagues.

Elsewhere, Wick seine-net boat Enterprise sank a short distance from her home port as she was being towed back to harbour following a collision with another vessel. The three-man crew had been saved before their vessel went down, by "leaping on to the decks of other boats which had rushed to the rescue".

Jail threat was 'persecution'

From the Groat of November 6, 1998

Highland Council's planning manager in Caithness had been accused of being "over-zealous in the pursuit of people who fell foul of planning legislation".

The criticism had been made after Stephen Bell told a resident of Argyle Square in Wick, who had installed a new door contrary to conservation area rules, that he could be jailed for up to two years.

Mr Bell had wanted councillors on the planning committee to refer the householder to the procurator fiscal for criminal proceedings but instead they granted him retrospective planning permission.

Councillor Jim Oag explained that the householder had applied to replace a leaking old front door with a new mahogany-effect uPVC one and had gone ahead with the work after mistakenly believing that permission had been granted.

Councillor Oag pointed out that had the householder put in a traditional door he would have "been in a minority" in the area.

He then rebuked Mr Bell, saying: "We are using these threats too freely. The man really was in a state because he was threatened with prosecution. It's persecution as much as prosecution."

Meanwhile, councillors had U-turned on a plan to lease a site in Thurso for a mobile phone mast.

A petition signed by almost 300 residents living near Naver playing fields had persuaded councillors that they had made a mistake when they accepted an offer of £4000 in rent from Orange.

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