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

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Fire training for UK Atomic Energy Authority employees beside Ormlie Lodge in Thurso. Jack Selby Collection / Thurso Heritage Society
Fire training for UK Atomic Energy Authority employees beside Ormlie Lodge in Thurso. Jack Selby Collection / Thurso Heritage Society

Let the ladies help in Caithness

From the Groat of February 22, 1924

In a letter entitled "Wick and its amenities", writer Optimist bemoaned the lack of progress being made to improve the town and pointed to what they believed was a "serious blank" when it came to getting things done – the lack of women representatives in the organisations carrying out the work.

The writer maintained that Wick was falling behind such places as Dornoch, Brora and Golspie when it came to beautifying its surroundings.

They acknowledged that there were schemes under way in Wick, such as that being carried out by the Riverside Improvement Committee, but they were were too big an undertaking for those already pledged to assist and further help was needed.

The writer said: "There is one society in town, the members of which are women, and which it would pay in more senses than one to have represented on the Improvement Committee. This is the British Women's Temperance Association... We all know how how they can work for the public weal."

The writer also pointed out that during Wick's gala day "the ladies are present in force, and how well they do their part of the work is seen in the financial returns of the day. If they can be of such assistance on one day of the year, why should they not be invited to help throughout the year and to take a decided and more practical interest in this manner? This is just the kind of work they are extremely well fitted for, and they only require to have an opportunity of showing this."

Election hopefuls busy in Caithness

From the Groat of February 22, 1974

The four candidates contesting the Caithness and Sutherland seat in the upcoming general election were making the rounds of meetings throughout the constituency.

Robert Maclennan (Labour), Alexander Sutherland (SNP), Michael Burnett (Liberal) and Susan Bell (Conservative) had a busy week ahead as they sought to persuade voters to give them their support at a time of national crisis.

Commenting on the contest, the Groat leader writer said it was likely that Mr Maclennan would win the seat again for Labour but "in an election held in such exceptional circumstances as this one, with great national issues at stake and with three opponents fighting the seat for the first time, the votes may not fall as expected".

In Caithness and Sutherland "the vital importance of North Sea oil and the great need of the two counties to participate in future developments" was high on the agenda, particularly with the failure of the Chicago Bridge oil scheme at Dunnet Bay.

Mr Maclennan pledged to push for developments at Wick and Scrabster harbours to facilitate development. Mr Sutherland said that without independence Scottish resources would be "ruthlessly exploited". Mr Burnett called for a parliament of Scottish men and women for Scottish affairs. Mrs Bell sought to absolve the Scottish secretary for the Dunnet Bay failure, saying that Chicago Bridge had treated the people of Caithness "in a rather shabby way".

Bus shelter destroyed in crash

From the Groat of February 26, 1999

A lorry loaded with timber crashed on the outskirts of Reay, destroying a bus shelter where just hours earlier children had been waiting to go to school.

The block-built shelter was crushed under tons of timber which also careered through a nearby garden wall.

No-one was injured and nearby residents expressed relief that people had not been waiting at the bus stop at Isauld Bridge when the accident occurred. "If anyone had been standing there at the time they would not be here today," a police spokesman said.

Residents had been concerned for some time about the danger posed by the daily convoy of lorries passing though the village with timber from Borgie Forest.

The accident occurred when the lorry overturned as it took the corner at the junction of the main A836 and the back road via Shebster. Its load smashed onto the bus shelter and carried on into a garden.

The householder stated that he had found one of the slabs from the bus shelter halfway up his garden.

He said: "Half a dozen children usually get the bus there and I dread to think what might have happened had the accident occurred earlier in the day."

Elsewhere, the loss of senior NHS posts at Wick was bemoaned by Wick and Thurso Trades Council. The seven executive-level posts were being wound up with the advent of a pan-Highland administration.

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