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LOOKING BACK – news from the John O'Groat Journal of yesteryear

By Features Reporter

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Winners line up for the camera at Thurso Ornithological Society’s annual show in 2005, held in Thurso Town Hall. Picture: Alan McIvor
Winners line up for the camera at Thurso Ornithological Society’s annual show in 2005, held in Thurso Town Hall. Picture: Alan McIvor

Appeal made for 'the hungry bairns'

From the Groat of January 25, 1924

Owing to the lack of funds "to purchase the necessary victuals", there was a possibility that the Wick Soup Kitchen would shortly be compelled to close down.

"Such an occurrence would be an ill-timed blow to some 170 bairns who daily receive a free substantial meal and the effects of which will become noticeable as time goes on," the paper reported.

It was noted that "unfortunately the harvest of the fields has this year fallen far below the normal and the usual contributions of turnips and potatoes from farmers have been sorely missed.

"The townsfolk, too, have not responded as freely as formerly, and when it is considered that the expenditure exceeds £10 weekly it is not surprising to learn that the promoters complain of financial anxieties.

"We feel, however, that these facts have only to be made known to ensure needy children of one decent diet per day and to enable the promoters to carry on the good work during the lean months which are yet before us."

Elsewhere, football followers in Wick and Caithness generally were pleased to learn that Mr T Farmer, late centre forward of the Academy FC, had joined the London Caledonian Amateur FC and had already played two matches in the Middlesex League.

"The officials have been favourably impressed with his play on each occasion," it was stated, "and if his present form is maintained, early promotion to the Reserve XI of the first team may be expected."

Protest strike postponed

From the Groat of January 25, 1974

A planned one-day strike in protest "at the county's loss of 700 jobs" following the decision of CBI Constructors, formerly Chicago Bridge Co, to build oil production platforms at Killala in Ireland instead of Dunnet Bay, had been put on hold.

The strike had been proposed by Dunnet Bay Action Group to add weight to its telegrams of protest sent to the prime minister and the energy minister and its call to the local MP, Robert Maclennan, for a public inquiry into the loss of the development.

However, the plan did not meet with the approval of the county's civic leaders.

The call for the county-wide day of action had been condemned as "harmful and misguided" by Wick town councillors.

While sympathising with the feelings of the action group members, councillors considered that a strike would result in "a significant amount of damage to the county's prospects of obtaining oil-related industry in the future".

However, the strongest condemnation came from George Mackie, former Liberal MP for Caithness and Sutherland and chairman of a number of companies in Caithness. He called the proposed strike "stupidity verging on lunacy", adding that "all sensible people know that this sort of irresponsible action can only harm future employment in Caithness".

Council stands firm on parking charges

From the Groat of January 29, 1999

Thurso Community Council had turned down a request from the Highland Council to withdraw its formal objection to the introduction of parking charges at local car parks.

The community council believed that the plan should be shelved pending the outcome of negotiations between Highland Council and the Scottish Co-op for the sale of the car park at Meadow Lane.

Highland Council had offered to sell the car park to the Co-op "in the belief that its transfer would make the introduction of charges at other car parks in Thurso unviable".

However, council transport official David Cotton had written to community councillors to say that suspension of the charges would undermine the local authority's negotiating position with the Co-op and asking them to withdraw their objection.

The community councillors decided to stick to their guns, stating that "unless the sale was confirmed before the introduction of charges... the Highland Council would spend taxpayers' money on installing meters and erecting signs which would then become redundant".

Meanwhile, what was believed to be the oldest family business in Wick was set to close its doors.

Shoe shop proprietor Graham Dunnett had decided to bow out after almost half a century's service to the community, ending an outstanding 160-year link.

Mr Dunnett, the county's Lord-Lieutenant, said the decision to call it a day had been a sad one. He said that he would be 70 years of age in a few weeks' time "and, while I feel fit enough to carry on to 80 or 90, you have to retire sometime".

The shop in High Street was being taken over by the Highland Hospice.

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