Looking Back – short stories from the John O’Groat Journal of yesteryear
Northerner killed in Canada
From the groat of August 25, 1922
Helmsdale-born William Murray, the eldest surviving son of Mr and Mrs James Murray, Dunrobin Street, died instantly in an industrial accident while working in a lignite mine in Manitoba, Canada.
The incident happened around 7.30am when a cave-in occurred in the shaft where Mr Murray was working.
It was reported that “a number of miners entered the shaft and, with difficulty, the body was reached. No one seems to know exactly the cause of the accident. More than a hundred tons of wood, etc. fell on the unfortunate, crushing in the damp earth and seriously mutilating the body.”
Mr. Murray, 36, had emigrated to Canada 11 years earlier. He was well known in the Jordan district, where he owned a farm west of the city.
Elsewhere, three blocks of new homes being built in Keiss were nearing completion.
“Located in the center of the village, the architectural style of the houses is markedly different from the old class of houses, and the interior layout is up to date,” it was reported.
John Flett, Water Seer, Milton, Wick, had located water very close to the buildings.
Midnight Movie for Youth Club Funds
Excerpt from the Groat of August 22, 1972
With the cooperation of the management of the Pavilion Cinema in Wick, the town’s youth club was to put on a late show “featuring two feature films that will be welcomed by discerning moviegoers”.
The first, The Lost Man, starred Oscar winner Sidney Poitier, while Robert Redford was the attraction in Tell Them Willie Boy is Here.
The dual function was scheduled to start at 11:15 p.m. and open the doors at 10:50 p.m.
“Thanks to the generous help of Caledonian Associated Cinemas Ltd and film tenants, proceeds from the evening will be donated to the Wick Youth Club Building Fund.”
Meanwhile, a party in the village square in Keiss had raised £176, which was enough to repay the £2,200 the local Church of Scotland congregation had borrowed to build their new parish hall.
The program had begun two and a half years prior, during which time the congregation had held three parties, three sponsored walks, several flea markets, two ceilidhs and a Burns supper as major efforts to clear the debt.
The room itself was the repurposed drafting office of a firm of contractors in Edinburgh. It had been reassembled and installed in Keiss largely by volunteers.
Drug Awareness Event
Excerpt from the Groat of August 29, 1997
The parents of an Essex teenager whose death has become a touchstone of drug addiction in Britain were due to visit Caithness to speak to children and parents.
Paul and Janet Betts’ daughter Leah died in 1995 after taking an ecstasy pill on her 18th birthday in Chelmsford.
Her death attracted national media coverage and led her parents to launch a drug awareness campaign based on their own experience.
They had traveled across the country to give presentations on the devastation that drug abuse can cause and to talk about the mistakes they had made in their attitude towards drugs and discuss the issue with their daughter.
The couple had been invited to come north by Robert Sutherland, the Crime Prevention Officer at Thurso Police Station, as part of a joint initiative with Highland Council’s Community Education Department.
The event was supported by local businesses, with the Royal Hotel in Thurso providing free accommodation for the couple, Dunnet’s Garage providing a free car for their use and North Scotland newspapers printing information packs.
Sponsors such as CASE, Highland Council, Norfrost and UKAEA helped offset the £3,000 bill for the visit.