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


By Features Reporter

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Overcome by gas

From the Groat of February 8, 1924

"An alarming occurrence" had taken place in Wick as work was being carried out on a gas main.

Sinclair Manson, manager at the gas works, Mr Edgar, plumber, and Angus Forbes, labourer, had been overcome by gas as they sought to repair a joint on the main outside the shop of James Reid.

It was reported that all the men had lost consciousness "for a few minutes".

"Artificial respiration and restoratives were administered by Dr Jolly and Dr D W Gunn, and after walking about in the fresh air for a short time the men were able to resume their task, apparently none the worse for their unfortunate experience."

Meanwhile, in Lybster, there were again no offers for the Station Hotel in Main Street.

The property, the sale of which included an adjoining house and a shop in Jeffrey Street, had been "exposed for sale by public roup" on two previous occasions without success and still no buyer could be found on the third attempt, even though the price had dropped from £800 to £200.

There was better news in Halkirk where Bridgend House and the adjoining six acres of land had been sold for £990 to the Halkirk Parish Council.

The property was to be used as a doctor's residence.

Teacher recruitment to continue

From the Groat of February 8, 1974

Members of the Caithness Education Committee agreed to ignore a Scottish Education Department missive that no extra secondary school teachers should be recruited unless there was a significant increase in pupil numbers.

The councillors decided to continue to advertise for staff to fill vacancies at Wick and Thurso high schools and said the idea that they should stick to their present staffing levels was "nonsense".

The education department circular revealed that around 3000 new teachers were expected to qualify over the next year, with up to 1500 needed to fill vacancies resulting from retirals, gradings and deaths. The remainder would be available for general recruitment.

Committee chairman Mr T W Pollok said the local authority in Caithness had no intention of over-staffing, while George Bruce accused the department of an about-turn – having assured them there would be plenty new teachers, the department now wanted to limit recruitment.

The Rev R R Sinclair advocated taking "no notice at all of this document".

Elsewhere, James Williamson, of Achingale Place, Watten, had distinguished himself by winning the James D M Currie Trophy and Medal for session 1972/73 at Leith Nautical College.

Ha had gained the top marks in the Deck Boy Course.

He was meantime employed by Shell Tankers UK aboard the Melo.

Work on controversial mast

From the Groat of February 12, 1999

Contractors had arrived at Thurso's all-weather sports pitch to begin work on a new communications mast.

Campaigners against the development had condemned the move which they claimed posed an unacceptable risk to the health of children in the surrounding housing estate.

The mast was being installed at the council-owned enclosed pitch at Naver playing fields as part of Orange's programme to improve coverage in the far north.

Pennyland Action Group and Thurso Community Council were spearheading the protests but their pleas for the company to develop an out-of-town site had fallen on deaf ears.

Ironically, the work to dismantle one of the six floodlighting pylons and replace it with the mast got under way the on the same day Highland councillors voted for a clampdown on the erection of such masts on their property

Elsewhere, Wick Players had scored a success with their Christmas production, Marc Camoletti's Don't Dress for Dinner.

It had gone forward to the Scottish Community Drama Association's full-length play competition and taken first place.

The only other competitor was Lhanbryde, but adjudicator Alan Nicol gave Wick 92 points – the highest mark he had ever awarded in his 42-year career.

It was the second time Wick Players had won the competition. They had taken the top spot in 1990 with Arsenic and Old Lace, while in 1998 they won the British final for one-act plays.


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