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


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A traditional croft house at Sarclet, taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Jack Selby Collection / Thurso Heritage Society
A traditional croft house at Sarclet, taken in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Jack Selby Collection / Thurso Heritage Society

Thurso voters opt for No-Change

From the Groat of November 23, 1923

The enthusiasm for prohibition which had left Wick "dry" did not extend to Thurso.

The latest vote in the ongoing Temperance Act campaign saw people in Thurso opt to continue with the sale of alcohol in the town, with the voting mirroring the result of the original No-Licence poll in 1920.

Three years previously the No-Change lobby had won by 220 votes. This time round its supporters saw the winning margin increase slightly to 242 votes.

The result had been declared in the town hall at a "gathering that taxed every inch of the available accommodation".

Both sides had canvassed "energetically", and the prohibitionists had held four public meetings in the week before the poll, although the final one had attracted a "disappointingly small" attendance. The No-Change camp had held just one public meeting in the run-up to the vote.

News of the Thurso result had been "received with cheers and enthusiasm" at a meeting in Wick's Rifle Hall which was being addressed by two members of the Anti-Prohibition Campaign Council.

The citizens of Thurso may have been enthusiastic about the sale of alcohol but they were accused of being "lackadaisical about literature".

Few towns in Scotland of the same size and population lacked a reading room and literary society and "discerning Thursonians who are aware of this fact cannot but deplore the poverty of the town with regard to these valuable literary amenities", it was reported.

Sideshows to stay at riverside

From the Groat of November 23, 1973

The show people "who had been coming to the riverside every year as summer tenants for generations will continue to occupy their usual stance on the north bank of the Wick River, below the Glebe Park", Wick Town Council agreed.

However, there was to be a reduction in the volume of music at the fairground and it was to close at a specified time.

The matter had been discussed following a complaint about noise disturbing campers at the nearby caravan site.

During the debate, three sites had been mooted as possible alternatives, including ground north of Battery Road at South Head, but none was deemed suitable.

The secretary of the Scottish Section of the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain had written to the council saying that the show people wished to "maintain their good relationship with the local authority" and offering the concessions on noise and closing time. Aside from the few concerns about noise, the town council's main concerns were complaints about patrons of the fairground causing damage, not the fairground itself.

Bailie Margaret Robertson maintained that removing the fairground would not improve the riverside.

"I don't like to interfere with the show people who have been coming to the riverside for the past 50 years," she said.

Upgrade for Thurso town centre

From the Groat of November 27, 1998

Proposed improvements to the centre of Thurso costing up to £1 million had been made public.

Highland Council hoped the programme of measures would breathe new life into the commercial sector and make the area more shopper-friendly.

A senior official had admitted that similar plans carried out in Wick had not strengthened the economy, but David Richard-Jones, the area economic development services manager, was confident the proposals for Thurso would improve the town's trading position.

The proposals included new flagstone pavements throughout the pedestrian area, wider pavements and traffic calming, bollards to replace fencing at the town hall, improved lighting and lockable gates to prevent youth access to alleys, CCTV, a new town clock beside the museum, shrub and flower containers and the removal of the camber at the Central Café crossing.

Meanwhile, in Wick, fresh moves were being made to provide an all-weather sports pitch.

After wrangling over the choice of site in 1995 led to the proposal being scrapped, there now appeared to be a consensus that the pitch should be built at the high school.

Councillor Jim Oag said the need for the amenity had been reinforced by the poor summer weather and its effect on the grass pitches.

The all-weather pitch was part of Highland Council's capital programme, he was told, but funds were "under severe pressure".


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