Thursday, April 17, 2014

"Your chance to design an action plan for your town centre" - Highland Council release publicity for Nairn Charrette

The information leaflet (first page shown below) states: 

"Your Nairn, Your Town Centre gives you the opportunity to make a  difference to the future of Your Town Centre. This public event will help  the Council prepare a plan that will identify short, medium and long  term actions for the Town Centre, including issues that require testing,  funding and delivery."

You can read the entire information leaflet online here. 

The event will take place at The Court House, High Street Nairn
Wednesday 30th April, 9.15am-7pm & Thursday 1st May 2014, 9.15am-7.30pm

Those unable to attend can fill in an on-line questionaire here. Any Gurnites got any ideas for the town centre? Your chance is coming up. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Planning for Nairn town centre regeneration - a two day opportunity with the Charrette on Wednesday 30th April and Thursday 1st May

Basically the 2-day charrette will be about town centre regeneration but it appears from what has been said at Community Council meetings recently that areas a little further away from the traditional "High Street" concept of a town centre will be discussed. Can we collectively come up with a plan that would outline changes to the built environment that would benefit and transform the town centre? Do we know what we really want anyway - can a shared vision emerge? Is there even unanimity within the business community in the town on how best to proceed? 

How exactly would the mechanics of a regeneration transformation work? Where would the money come from in these continuing times of austerity? Many, many questions but do any of us have potential solutions, or crumbs of ideas that might collectively work towards solutions? And if we do have ideas, will enough of us attend the charrette anyway?

The Gurn has been sent a copy of a set of questions that the Highland Council think the Charrette should address, it comes in the form of an e-mail sent by principal planner Brian MacKenzie to interested parties in Nairn. Click the read more tab to browse them and please give us your thoughts on how things might move forward when it comes to town centre regeneration. Will you be going?

Curlers find time for a bit of gurning in Beijing

Another image has emerged of the trip to Beijing by members of Nairn Curling club to see the World Championships.

Foyer Capital Hotel before going to Capital Arena. Ali Cruickshank, Ali Asher, Michael Green, Hamish Clark, Ross Cope

Nairn beach bathing water only at minimum standard

Recently Nairn had the accolade of being listed in Tripadvisor's 10 best UK beaches. Today the Inverness Courier has a front page column that reads:

"BATHERS at Nairn's beaches have a significantly greater risk of picking up an infection from the sea water than those taking a dip at other tourist hot spots in the Highlands according to a new report."  

The paper reports that the local beaches only meet the mimium testing standards and goes on to quote further information from the Marine Conservation Society's Good Beach Guide. Courier reporter Donna MacAllister quotes from Society staff and also from Scottish Water: "studies showed improvements to its sewage treatment works and other assets were not needed."

The good beach guide page for Nairn East Beach is here and Nairn Central Beach here. 

The Alton Burn - A lot goes away with the rubble. 2

“Do you best, and rejoice with those who do better” seems to have been the motto of the school or at least the magazine (two surviving copies of which have kindly been loaned to the Gurn by Mike Ross and form the basis of these articles and extracts). The issues are from Jan of 1932 and 1936 respectively, when many fateful events were unfolding in Europe that would lead to another catastrophic World War only 21 years after the end of the First one. In our present day terms that would be a gap of time between 1993 and the present day.
In 1932-6  events and memories from the first conflict would still be raw and as we suggested in the last article, impacting on the life of those boys at the school. 

Across the world the great depression was in swing and it will have affected life in Nairn. Down at the end of the Alton Burn Road though there would have been an institution that would have been perhaps immune to the effects of the world economy as young boys were being educated for, according to the mentions of aulumni, middle-class roles in the world including the military and the empire. There are mentions of former pupils winning blues at Oxford and Cambridge. The Alton Burn School was a fairly new institution itself but it had wasted no time building up its own traditions and had iconic former pupils that new boys could aspire to emulate. This image of the school diary below (click to enlarge) gives a snapshot from September to January 1936. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rocking on again on Saturday the 26th over at the Community and Arts Centre

David Shaw told the Gurn:  

"Once again it is time for the Rock Garden Club show in the Community and Arts Centre. This event is proving increasingly popular with the local community. The event will follow the same pattern as in previous years and the Nairn Athletics Club will provide the refreshments - this helps with their own fund raising activities.
Plant sales will be provided by Rumbling Bridge Nursery, Fife; our local Ardfearn Nursery, Munlochy and the members club stall.

Last year the Gurn went to the event and took some pictures of the marvellous plants that were on Display - images from the 2013 show here. 

The Alton Burn - a lot gets taken away with the rubble. 1

Soon there will be no trace of the former Alton Burn Hotel building. Proof perhaps of how transient so many things that are all around us are. There have been quite a few dramatic changes in the Nairn landscape in recent years - some of them connected with the changing pace of the local hotel business. Changes that may well continue post the forthcoming charrette should a cohesive plan for the town centre and its environs emerge.

So another former hotel has gone and many Gurnites will have thought perhaps of a function  they attended there as they browsed images of the recent demolition. Let’s spare a moment or two however to think of the Alton Burn building in its heyday as a private school. This webpage here based on census returns gives names to the masters and pupils at the Alton Burn School in 1911. There’s a flavour of Empire given in some of the places of birth recorded by the census enumerator. In all 16 pupils and two masters, the family of one of the teachers and then a handful of non-teaching staff were living in the building on the day of the census. 

Thanks to Mike Ross letting the Gurn have a look at two old School magazines from January of 1932 and 1936 respectively it is possible perhaps to visualise some of the events of the past. Outside the school the Great Depression was causing misery and dark political forces were gaining strength in Europe. There will have been very few families that hadn’t lost someone in the First World war and barely 18 years after that catastrophic event those losses will have still been  raw for many people. The pupils will have all been born after the event though but it surely would have cast a shadow over their lives too. The school marked armistice day every year. The magazine states in its 1936 edition: 

“We had breakfast at 8.30 and then reading as usual. At 9,30 Mr Pearson spoke to us about the Armistice Day and we shortly went into the drawing room to listen to the service at the Cenotaph. It was very grand and we heard different tunes played by the Irish and Welsh bands. After this we had the two minutes silence and then “God save the King.” At 11.15 we had a half hour break and then a period of War History which went on till 12.45. After lunch we did not have the usual golf competition but had rugger instead owing to the match on the 16th. 

At 4 0’clock the bell went and the War competition started. It lasted for an hour and a half and consisted of about 150 questions on places, ships, generals etc., all mixed up. There were seven that stumped us all, Albert, Carpenter, Evan-Thomas, Hohenzollern, Martin-puich, Pershing and Sandford. Peason and Wrangel came out top with Kynoch-shand and D. B. Gordon not far behind. 

At 5.30 we had tea and then prepared the front class-room for war slides of 1918. The War slides finished at 6.45. At 8 the seniors listened in to the British Legion at the Albert Hall. It was also very good and we again heard some bands playing. Unfortunately we could not hear all of it as we had to go to bed at 8.30.

News of the old boys of the school features in the magazine and it’s not all about careers, again from the 1936 January magazine:  “D.O. Forbes looked in on his way home after dancing at the Inverness meeting till 6.30 a.m. “

Military service loomed large for some former pupils: “ At the War Office are, or more recently, Major M.A.B. Johnston (1903-05), Major S.C. Kirkman (1906-10), and Major D.N. Wimberley (1905-09). Colonel F.H.N. Davidson (1901-06) left the war office early in 1935 and is now at the Imperial Defence College. 
C.W.M.I. Ritchie paid us a very short call in November, on leave after manoeuvres. W Sommerville (Gurkhas) and A. Cameron (Gunners) are still in India. We heard a rumour that the latter had been in action somewhere in the north-west, and H.W. Cairns is almost within sound of the Duce’s guns. He is at Khartum with the Camerons. There is also a rumour that G.R. Glendinning has got it into the Metropolitian Police.” 

Lots of pupils seem to have gone on to private schools further afield, there is mention of Rugby and Marlborough for example. Perhaps the Alton Burn would get you a bit up to speed for those establishments? In the 1932 January edition again military mentions and much of the sporting achievements of old boys but also more local stuff in comparison:

“J Pearson is in a C.A office in Aberdeen and spends all his spare time fishing.
J.E. Young is farming at Tarrel, his father’s farm.” 

Flashes of Alton Burn School life around eighty years ago, easier to imagine perhaps when standing outside the former school building. Now it’s all gone, perhaps some images remain somewhere (a quick search on google finds none) and there may be other material beyond the two school magazines but something that would have seemed so permanent to those pupils and the young men that had not long left the establishment back in the thirties is now little more than dust and rubble being pecked over by JCBs. More from the magazines soon. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nairn curling club members in China to see World Championships - pictures

A busy weekend in Gurnshire and a few articles up this weekend, scroll down the page to see them all.
And finally this evening, thanks to the curling crew for these two images of their visit to China. Click on the images to enlarge. 

 At the Great Wall of China from left to right Hamish Clark (President Nairn Curling Club) Michael Green, Ali Cruickshank, Ali Asher and Ross Cope.

Foyer Capital Hotel before going to Capital Arena. Ali Cruickshank, Ali Asher, Michael Green, Hamish Clark, Ross Cope

Nairn 1 Buckie 0 - pictures from Donald Matheson

The wind played havoc with this game and diminished it as a spectacle of football but things improved in the second half and both keepers no longer looked so lonely. A second half goal for County with a cross from Adam Naismith being headed in by Stuart Leslie but furious Buckie players were maintaining that the ball had gone over the line on the wing just seconds earlier. 

A good crowd at the last County home game of the season - a crowd augmented by two bus loads of Buckie fans including the Northampton Buckie Thistle supporters club. There were fifteen of them up, having flown from Birmingham, they were making a weekend of it, a trip they make once a year. 

Anyway some pictures from County Club photographer Donald Matheson - individual images here and full screen slideshow here. 

Migratory wheelie bins return to the River Nairn

Struggling to get further upstream beyond the Jubliee Bridge today where these two fine specimens of wild Atlantic wheelie bin. Thanks to Billy for the pictures. If they don't hurry they may be taken into captivity and forced to perform for the Highland Council at numerous public venues in Nairn. 

Sandown Lands go back to agriculture - ploughing begins this weekend - dog walkers lose a regular exercise spot

This weekend the southern field of the Sandown Lands has been ploughed and dung has been delivered to the other two fields in preparation for turning the soil over there too. 

One of our regular readers contacted us, he was quite surprised to see the tractors and said he thought a lot of people that walk their dogs on the fields would be upset to see the activity too. 

For some years now dog walkers have made use of all the fields during the period they have lain fallow and for some of them this may indeed come as a shock. Perhaps a couple of signs indicating what was going to happen may have been appropriate but now, instead of costing the Common Good money with a yearly cut the fields will at least be bringing in some revenue. 

In this article here posted around this time last year the Gurn wrote about the forthcoming prospect of an agricultural lease for Sandown. Finally it seems one has been agreed. That previous article was not without an hint of irony though as many of the problems associated with Sandown in the past stem from a previous agricultural lease, one or two Gurnites posted  comments on that article. 

Picture below, Larger image here (three tankers just visible in the Firth) and more pictures here .

Saturday, April 12, 2014

South Nairn "blowing in the wind" short video

Danny at the Craft Fair

Danny at the craft fair in aid of Nairn CAB earlier today. The event was held in the Nairn Community and Arts Centre. Thanks to Murray MacRae for the picture.

Danny à la plage

Danny was in town today at the Craft Fair in the Community and Arts Centre in aid of Nairn CAB. Looks like he got a chance to walk on the best beach in Scotland too.

80 trees plus shrubs to improve the eastern approach to Nairn?

Gurnites will recall the recent controversial felling of some young trees on the periphery of the Balmakeith industrial estate. There were calls for the trees to be replaced. Following an on-site meeting of River CC, BEAR, Keeping Nairnshire Colourful and the Highland Council’s Forestry officer it looks as though a permanent solution to improving the appearance of that side of the eastern approach to the town may be possible.

Stephanie Whittaker, Secretary of Nairn River CC, told her organisation’s regular meeting earlier in the week that they had received a letter from Grant Stewart, the Highland Council’s forestry officer. She said that he had suggested that there should be eight landscape beds similar to those at Achareidh at the other end of town and each bed would contain five broad leaf trees and five evergreen trees and twenty lower growing shrubs. She added however:
“As we said last week, that depends on funding and whether BEAR will still be in position in August."

Friday, April 11, 2014

South Nairn reading material for the weekend - get yourself a dram/cup of tea and give it a go?

Another document on the behalf of the town's three community councils and the Nairn Resident's Concern Group has appeared in the public domain via the Scottish Government's DPEA site. Those Gurnites who are serious students of all South Nairn planning appeal matters will find it interesting and even those who merely pay passing attention could find this particular piece of correspondence very interesting. If the appeal Reporter seriously considers it and gives it some weight in the decision process, might it have implications for Highland Council beyond this planning appeal? It is a communication phrased in polite diplomatic language but could it have massive consequences? Click the read more to see a copy of the document text:

Ramp for the Firhall Bridge – delay as cash sought for another survey

At the River CC meeting on Wednesday night Murd Dunbar gave the community councillors the latest information on the Firhall Bridge. Let’s have a wee flashback for a minute or two however. Gurnites may recall an article from March of last year which suggested that Murd’s campaign for a ramp on the Firhall Bridge had succeeded. 

“Tonight it was different, so different, Murd finally had good news to share. Actually he didn’t make the announcement, he gave that honour to Liz who has been quietly active behind the scenes in recent months.
“Hold onto your seats,” said Liz. “I’ve had a communication from the army today that they are going to be doing the access improvements to the Firhall Bridge.” She had to stop for the applause, cheers and smiles that broke out. “So well done, Murd,” she added”.

More on this page here. The day after that Murd revealed that Gordons sawmill had offered to provide the materials for the ramp.  Here was a solution to the problem of improving access to the bridge that would not cost the cash-strapped Highland Council any money. Now fast forward one year and another problem has emerged. Murd said on Wednesday night:

“I e-mailed them (Highland Council) today and they told me they are waiting for another survey, the money is tight and everything. I know for a fact there have been two surveys done on the bridge.” Murd went on to say he it was just what he went through  three years ago and he wondered whether it was a delaying tactic. Later Murd told the Gurn of the content of an e-mail he had received from the Council’s Hugh Gardener which told Murd that the survey was an “intrusive” one and contained the following “The cost of this kind of survey is extremely high and as I type is being discussed with my colleagues in ECS. As you can appreciate budgets are under stress in today’s climate and every penny has to be justified.” Mr Gardener told Murd that his colleagues would be back to him with instructions later this week and Murd would be informed. 

There were no Highland Councillors at the River CC meeting so no opportunity there for River CC members or Murd to ask them what they knew of the further delay to the bridge project (apologies had been received from Liz, Colin and Michael however). Tommy and his colleagues are to write to Highland Council for information on the delay. 

A 17 page report by Fairhurst and Partners on Firhall Bridge accessibility  was presented to Highland Council in 2009. Gurnites can read a copy of that report here. 

UPDATE: this afternoon Murd spoke to MSP Fergus Ewing at his regular surgery in Nairn. Murd tells us that Fergus has written to Highland Council on his behalf to find why another report is needed. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Internet memorial to Alexander Sandy D Main, a Nairn man murdered in the Vancouver area whilst serving as a police officer in April 1900

Dave Conner, Highland branch secretary of the Retired Police Officers Scotland came across the following article on a forum he visits and thought Gurnites might be interested:

"Aberdeen Weekly Journal , Wednesday , May 9 , 1900


A cablegram has been received in Nairn from Vancouver , British Columbia ,
stating that Alex. Main , a policeman of that town, had been murdered by
Chinese while investigating a case of theft on the outskirts of the town .
He was missed for three days .
Two arrests were made .
Main is a native of Nairn , where he was a fisherman .
He left Nairn about eleven years ago , and was married."

Dave also found a link to a memorial page for the murdered officer who had risen through the ranks to be the Chief in Richmond, a city separate from Vancouver at that time, at the age of 35. The page can be viewed here. 

Dave also told the Gurn that he checked his records of the old Nairnshire Constabulary and found that Alexander main did not serve in that force before emigrating but became a police officer in Canada. Dave has an online museum of Northern Constabulary images here on flickr. 

Massive wildfire near Glenferness yesterday evening (Weds 10th April)

Press Release from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service:

"Around 40 firefighters and 40 estate workers battled to bring a wildfire under control after flames took hold over four square kilometres of grassland, heather and forestry in the Highlands.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) crews were mobilised around 4:45pm on Wednesday (9 April) after a 999 call reported a wildfire had crossed a roadway in the Glenferness area of Nairn.
Five fire engines were sent from Grantown, Nairn and Carrbridge in the Highlands along with an all-terrain vehicle from Elgin and a sixth fire engine from Forres in Moray.

Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) Robert Scott, the director of service delivery in the north of Scotland and chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, said: “This was a significant wildfire that took hold over a wide area.
“Teams of firefighters used hand-held beaters, specialist all-terrain vehicles and multiple lines of hose to tackle the fire from several locations across one-and-a-half square miles.

“Our crews worked very closely with staff from seven estates in the area, who also arranged for a helicopter to deploy large volumes of water from the air.
“This incident involved wholetime, retained and community volunteer unit firefighters operating side-by-side with estate workers and demonstrated the strong partnerships that are key to protecting communities throughout the north.”

Land managers work closely with SFRS to tackle fires that occur in and around estates, with the ongoing partnerships also seeing them develop fire plans to reduce the number of wildfires.
Firefighters were called to deal with hundreds of wildfire and grassfire incidents across Scotland last year, placing a significant demand on SFRS resources.  This is something the Scottish Wildfire Forum will be working on to reduce during 2014 and beyond.

ACO Scott added: “There are a number of things land managers can do to help prevent wildfires, including strict adherence to the Muirburn Code, which applies to the controlled burning of heather within the permitted season.
“Members of the public also have a key role to play. Fires can often start through discarded smoking materials or barbeques.
“As the weather starts to improve and we enjoy longer periods of dry weather we would ask that everyone does their part to protect their surroundings from fire.”

“I would like to thank the SFRS fire crews and estate workers for all their efforts in bringing this fire under control and preventing further damage.”
Efforts to extinguish the fire continued throughout the night and into the morning. A single SFRS appliance from Carrbridge remains at the scene as of 10:30am on Thursday (10 April).

Group Manager Garry Burnett, the SFRS wildfire project manager, is determined preventative messages will reach those who live, work and socialise in rural countryside
He said: “This incident is a timely reminder of the heightened risk to rural parts of Scotland at this time of year.

“The overall improvement in weather brings large numbers of people to our beautiful countryside and this, along with increased land management activities, makes wildfire a higher risk.
“We all need to think about preventing fires from starting whenever we are in remote and rural environments.
“Preventing uncontrolled wildfires will not only improve things for our natural environment but significantly reduce the burden on firefighting resources. Most importantly it will benefit public safety.”  "

Conversion and extension of former Vet Surgery into 3 affordable flats

River Community Council members seemed very impressed with the plans for the former Vet Surgery in St Ninian Road. Gurnites can view them here on the Highland Council's e-planning pages.   Chairing the meeting, Tommy Hogg made reference to the supporting information supplied by John Donald in connection with affordable housing and the parking issue. See copy below. 

Tommy went on to say: "I have no objections and thought that it was a well designed property and the front of the thing looks fantastic."

Tommy's fellow members agreed with him and there was support from the public benches from Murd Dunbar who said: "Well we need houses don't we."

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Nairn 2 Fraserburgh 3

Stuart Leslie rushes to retrieve the ball and return it to the centre spot after scoring his second half equaliser. County efforts were not enough though and the Broch took the points at Station Park. On present form it will be hard to see County get back into second place and no doubt Les Fridge will be looking for a more watertight performance at home to Buckie this Saturday afternoon. 

Despite the rival attraction of a Euro game on TV there was still a sizeable crowd at Station Park including a good contingent of Broch fans who had made the journey through from the east - some of them were staying overnight in the town before returning home this morning, they certainly would have had enjoyed their late night pint before retiring. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Soccer latest – Millbank 6 Alton Burn School 0

The recent images by Kenny MacLeod of the demolition of the Alton Burn Hotel prompted M Ross to dig out two copies he possesses of Alton Burn School magazines from January 1932 and January 1036 respectively. Here's the first of a few wee extracts. Image of the old Alton Burn School logo below too. 

Match report from December 12   1931

  “Millbank were a strong combination – light fast, and clever with their feet. They showed up our slow lumbering heavy-weights, and more or less ran circles round them.

   Our attack was completely bottled up except for two periods of a few minutes
in each half when a score might have come with a little luck. Not only was J Sleigh kept in check, but D Sutherland, whom we naturally look on as our strong wing, could hardly get going at all. The two inside forwards did very little, and Dudgeon was often helping the defence. Our wing halves were quite unable to cope with our opponents’ speed and G Sutherland found the inside trio too much for him. This threw a great deal of work on the backs and they played well together. Gordon saved the situation time after time and was certainly the best
player on our side. Ingram made some good clearances, but gave away the first goal by a mis-kick after ten minutes play, and at least two of their later goals were due to the failure of the backs to move to the ball at once. Neither Gordon nor Ingram has any idea of covering up the goal-keeper. With a larger and more practised goal-keeper we might have saved some of the scores, but Scott cannot be blamed. He is not yet ten, and has only once or twice kept goal in ordinary games; so he did well to make as many saves as he did. More than once he save the original shot by falling on the ground, but failed to clear or even give a corner. His own inexperience was largely responsible for this, and also the lack of protection given by the other defenders, but most of all the great speed and dash show by the Millbank forwards, who certainly gave us a lesson on keen play. 

Good turnout for launch of Nairn Friendship Club in the Community and Arts Centre today

South Nairn planning appeal hearing cancelled

The South Nairn planning appeal hearing, due to start in a fortnight’s time has been dramatically cancelled. On Saturday the town’s three Community Councils, the Nairn Residents’ Concern group and Joan Noble sent a joint letter to the Scottish Government’s DPEA (Department of planning and environmental appeals). The letter again outlined local concerns about new material submitted to the planning appeal by the appellant who wishes to build on the South Nairn site. Here is a taste of the content of that letter:

"There is a wider point here.  It is an issue of openness, transparency and good faith.  We referred in our earlier message to “moving the goalposts”.  The question remains as to whether it is fair and acceptable for key evidential documents to be replaced, rewritten or superseded. From the perspective of the local community, we are becoming increasingly disturbed – and in some respects confused - by what appear to be efforts to get the Appeal process, and the Reporter, to examine a proposal, and evidence, which differs from that originally put forward."

Yesterday an e-mail was also sent to the DPEA case officer by Leadingham Chalmers, the representative of Gordons sawmill, and they too outlined serious concerns over the new material.

Today all parties concerned in the hearing appeal received a copy of an e-mail to Emac Planning, the consortium’s representative, from the DPEA, informing them that the Reporter has decided to cancel the proposed Hearing Sessions on 22 / 23 April 2014 to allow more time for other parties to assess the new information and revise their Hearing Statements.
Click the read more tab to see a copy of the text of the letter sent by the three CCs etc,