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

By Features Reporter

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Pigeon racing enthusiasts from Wick Homing Club pictured in front of Wulldag Miller’s loft in 1947.
Pigeon racing enthusiasts from Wick Homing Club pictured in front of Wulldag Miller’s loft in 1947.

Bellman put forth his views

From the Groat of November 9, 1923

Under the headline "An amusing incident", it was reported that the town bellman was a familiar figure in Thurso "where his stentorian vocal advertisement of local public meetings is not infrequently heard".

It was his duty to "broadcast notice that an anti-prohibition meeting was to be held in the town hall in the evening" and John, who, it was apparent to discerners, was in very "good form", "carried out the job with a thoroughness that raised laughter (and applause) in nearly every part of the town.

"The bare intimation of the meeting did not satisfy his ardour, for he proceeded to express his own views on the burning question of No-Licence.

"If any of the inhabitants of the town were previously ignorant of the views entertained by the bellman on the question, they should now know all about these views."

The report concluded that "it is not every 'wet' who can claim such an opportunity of giving public expression to his opinions".

Meanwhile, a lady candidate standing in the municipal election in Thurso had failed in her bid to become a councillor.

Harriet Innes had been the first female to stand in the elections for the town council. With three seats available and four candidates, she had polled 45 votes fewer than the third-placed candidate.

It was reported that she had taken news of the result "quite philosophically".

Electricity blackout threat

From the Groat of November 9, 1973

The east coast of Caithness, including Wick, was on a rota of areas threatened with electricity blackouts.

The North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board had stated that if industrial action by Electrical Power Engineers' Association went ahead it would be "necessary... to interrupt supplies to consumers".

It was expected that prior notice of the interruptions would be given for the following day via the press, television and radio, but that last-minute changes may have to be made.

It was reported that "the board regret that, with these arrangements, it will be necessary to switch larger blocks of load than in 1972, when supplies were last affected at the time of the mineworkers' strike".

The periods of disconnection were not expected to last longer than three hours but it was possible that the same consumers might be without supply for more than one period a day.

Elsewhere, the county education committee had agreed to make efforts to acquire land on which to build houses in a bid to attract more teachers to the area.

Staxigoe, Ackergill, Watten, Scrabster, Castletown and Glengolly were all earmarked as places where such land could be bought and it was agreed that plans should be drawn up for the building of prefabricated houses on the proposed sites.

Memorial desecration outrage

From the Groat of November 13, 1998

The Royal British Legion had expressed outrage at the desecration of the war memorial in Thurso just hours after veterans and community leaders had gathered to pay their respects to townsfolk lost in battle.

A thief had removed and discarded 20 poppy wreaths hung around the foot of the memorial and stolen the brass hooks.

The incident had shocked townsfolk who only hours earlier had stood in silent remembrance on what was the 80th anniversary of the World War I armistice.

Municipal head gardener John Ross had noticed the wreaths were missing as he drove to work past the memorial at Sir John's Square. He said he found the wreaths scattered behind the memorial and saw that the hooks had been stolen.

"I was really hurt when I saw what had happened, This really is something hellish," he said.

Mr Ross and his colleagues in the parks department immediately set about replacing the wreaths which had been laid during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony.

New hooks, costing 8p each, were bought from a nearby ironmonger's shop and used to reposition the wreaths, none of which had been damaged.

Thurso's Legion branch secretary Lionel Sutherland described the incident as "an outrageous act of desecration", adding: "We all feel disgusted by it."

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