Published: 23/02/2012 02:00 - Updated: 22/02/2012 17:15

Bottleneck mystery solved

Have you ever wondered why there’s a bottleneck at the junction of Fassifern Road and Gordon Square? Well, here’s your answer - from the best part of a century ago. Iain Ferguson’s picture (the 2012 one!) replicates the area where work is ongoing at the s
Have you ever wondered why there’s a bottleneck at the junction of Fassifern Road and Gordon Square? Well, here’s your answer - from the best part of a century ago. Iain Ferguson’s picture (the 2012 one!) replicates the area where work is ongoing at the site of the former Grand Hotel/McTavish’s Kitchens.

Tornaments of rain!

OUR Lochaber weather was more than acceptable – up until teatime on Friday.

"Then", as Pop Hughes used to say, "the rain came down in tornaments!" And has continued to do so since.

SO it was a bit ironic, as I was driving towards Achintore – in the driving rain – on Tuesday evening, to see the familiar illuminated A82 sign proclaim "Heavy rain forecast for Wednesday"!

Forum discussion

WENT to the Fort William & Ardnamurchan South Ward Forum on Monday evening.

Largely because, as I mentioned last week, Fort William High Street was down/up for debate, along with the Community Safety update, the SSE and Scottish Water reports on the December Storms, and the young persons’ perspective on Ward matters in general.

The agenda item purported to provide "an open discussion about how people can work together to improve the shopping experience on Fort William High Street, and to make the outlets more sustainable".

The meeting, of course, came in the wake of the closure this month of Black’s Outdoor Clothing emporium and the Extreme Photography Camera Shop.

Forty people were in attendance, the majority being councillors, community councillors and officials.

Councillors Murphy and Foxley were the elected members present and the anticipated skirmishing ensued – the two of them striving to respond to questions from the floor.

Stewart MacLean was a prominent inquisitor, and the exchanges were shall we say, "lively, and never less than interesting". Indeed the differences continued to be aired by email next day, and will assuredly figure in print as well.

But, as ever, when a major topic like the "High Street Experience" is sandwiched in among several other items – instead of an open meeting being convened on that subject alone – it was all pretty inconclusive.

But there were a few positive contributions which could lead, hopefully, to a public forum embracing all interested parties from the commercial sector, Chamber of Commerce, OCUK, the Council – and a couple of homegrown "creative companies" which have fresh ideas on the potential regeneration of Fort William High Street.

Indeed, one of the subsequent emails from Cllr Foxley stated: "I will follow up all agreed, with the council chief officers and the leadership. The options will be considered by a small committee group from the council and the private sector".

May force be with us

IN tandem with the setting up of the proposed "Police Service of Scotland", our own new Police HQ – on the Blar – could be ready for occupation before the end of 2013.

I keep thinking that Fort William, the largest town in the Highlands, should surely have a central Police Station as, indeed, it has had for over a century – on a par with the other "county towns" in Scotland.

THE Polis were, if you’ll pardon the expression, "out in force" in Lochaber and elsewhere as of yesterday (Wednesday), "concentrating largely on those drivers who were risking their own, and others’ lives, by speeding and by driving inappropriately".

It was all part of a Scotland-wide campaign.

A bit of light relief

You’ll note that "James the Barber" will be retiring soon, after the best part of half a century standing behind the chair.

I remember one occasion during those 50 years, when I came up from London, went along to Station Square for a haircut, and was met with a notice on the door which proclaimed "Gone To Wembley"!

There has always been a humorous touch to the MacDonald Salon, from the days of James’s father, "Ronnie the Barber".

About the time James was starting in the trade, I was in there one day when Rusty and Doichen were "wielding the irons".

Rusty and I were "talking football" and he was half way through my "short back and sides" when in came a rather hirsute local worthy.

Rusty looked up, and sighed: "Hello Hughie! This your annual visit? Have you brought your piece?"

Doichen, meanwhile, had put the "plank" across a chair to accommodate a wee boy with golden curls, who was in with his mother.

Just then two or three more An Gearsasdanites arrived.

Doichen engaged his young customer in conversation: "What does your father do, son?"

"He’s a joiner".

Looking meaningfully around the salon, Doichen said to him: "Well you go home and tell your dad he’s not the only one who works on wood".

Dear Roamer

Could we please make an appeal on behalf of the Lochaber Music Festival. This year’s event takes place from March 16-21 and the Festival Committee would like to remind last year’s prizewinners to return their trophies to the Lochaber High School Office before the end of February.

Many Thanks,

Margaret MacMaster,

Lochaber High School.

In the past

WEE Jessie Jamieson’s Diary - for February, 1959.

February 21. Today is Ember Day, and the cat’s fur got burned when it went too near the fire.

February 22. It was a dry day but there is nothing doing. I made myself chips.

February 23. Mum’s birthday today. We gave her a box of chocs and a card. Went to Red Cross, and then to the Pictures

February 24. It was a wet day. We made custard in cookery. Mum and Dad went to the Old Folks Concert in the Braxy.

February 25. It was a wet day again. Cycled to school – and the ferry boat sank.

February 26. It was a wet, wet day. Some of our neighbours got TV. I got the bus - to school. We made shortbread in the evening.

February 27. It was a dry day. I took the bus to school. Helen went to the Braxy.

Four in one

THE March meeting of Lochaber Local History Society offers four local speakers in the one evening.Leading off the "Ten Minute Talks" will be Roddy Mainland, on "Mark of the Viking", updating members on his strange coastal discoveries on Skye.

Then Colin Neilson will be speaking on his "Early Days in Fort William".

Next, Ken Johnston will take "The Road from Corran to Fort William" and, finally, Bill Cameron and Ian Abernethy will give a resume on "The activities of FOOF - Friends of the Old Fort".

Something for everyone at the Alex on Thursday, March 1.

News bulletin

AND here’s a selection of items which made the news – the Lochaber News – towards the end of February, 1982.

Lochaber District Council hosted a meeting of "several interested parties" to promote the Caledonian Canal.

Lochaber High School Operatic Society presented "An Evening with Gilbert & Sullivan".

Two climbers were killed on Ben Nevis and another in the Glencoe mountains.

Stewart MacLean’s Ben Nevis Exhibition was given the go ahead for 18 months, on the site earmarked for the new Fort William Library.

Charles Kennedy won the Observer Mace – the UK’s most prestigious debating contest, emulating the feat of Russell Johnston who telexed (telexed) Charles with this greeting: "From one Inverness-shire winner to another. Congratulations!"

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