Mortal pox, hammering Spurs and autonomous vehicles – Highlands and Islands media highlights

Mortal pox, hammering Spurs and autonomous vehicles – Highlands and Islands media highlights.

Thanks for joining me again, for another skim through the media headlines about the Highlands and Islands that have caught my attention over the last few weeks. Once again there has been a real mix of technology and tradition and pretty much everything in between. As I start to write this I realise that the first few items are not exactly news – the first item actually took place in 1921, but it did appear in the media in the last few weeks!

The BBC carried a story on Inverness footballer, Peter McWilliam. The former Inverness Thistle footballer who became the manager of Tottenham Hotspur, and introduced possession football to the English league. In 1921, he took is team, who would win the FA Cup and come second in the league that season, to the Highland capital to play a joint Inverness Thistle and Caledonian team (a taste of the future merger perhaps?). The Highland team went on to win 6 – 3. Despite that setback, McWilliam became the longest serving Spurs manager and amongst others influenced two future Spurs managers and Vic Buckingham, who went on to manage Ajax and Barcelona. The current Inverness Caledonian Thistle, sit top of the Championship in Scotland just now!

Over the centuries there have been a number of families who became renowned as players and teachers of bagpipes with McCrimmon, the hereditary pipers to the chiefs of the clan MacLeod on Skye perhaps the most famous name. The Piping Press had a feature on another influential family though, the famous Rankin family of the Island of Mull. One of the family, so jealous of his reputation as a piper, fought and killed an Englishman, just in case he was a better player than himself! All pipers more than welcome now however! In fact, a visit to the Glass Barn café on Mull is highly recommended. The Herald published a list of twenty stylish places to eat drink and stay that included the Glass Barn Café as well as The Still; MacAllan Estates and The Quaich Bar all on Speyside.

Still looking back, on Youtube, you can find the fascinating story of The Shetland Weaver and the Mortal Pox. Posted by the Orkney Science Festival is the story of how an 18th-century Shetlander saved thousands of people from smallpox - with his own techniques. The islands, where there was no natural resistance, were at several times ravaged by the disease, but a Northmavine weaver, John Williamson, developed a technique of inoculation.

Orkney featured again as Orkney Island Council highlighted the latest tech pilot project taking place in the Islands. The project is exploring the use of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) for transporting supplies, luggage, parcels and so on. The project itself is led by HITRANS, the Highland and Islands Transport partnership with partners in Germany, Netherlands and Sweden.

Not everything culturally inspired came from the archives though. Metro, published a nice piece on designers, redefining traditional cultural clothing. Curated by Instagram, a group of young designers were selected who take inspiration from their roots and heritage, but give the designs a modern feel. Award winning Highland designer Siobhan MacKenzie was one of those featured. She was very clear on her inspirations: “My Highland heritage has been a firm inspiration throughout the brand” … “I come from a large, close-knit family in the most beautiful place called the Black Isle. I feel deeply connected to my roots and creatively explore that through combining my modern design thinking with heritage style.”

Anyone seen the film Whisky Galore? The original made in 1949 was filmed largely on Barra, the remake was made in 2016, and both are well worth watching. The film concerns a shipwreck off a fictional Scottish island, the inhabitants of which have run out of whisky because of wartime rationing. The islanders find out the ship is carrying 50,000 cases of whisky and set out to rescue as much as possible. In reality the SS Politician hit rocks off the island of Eriskay in 1941 with 22,000 cases of whisky and Jamaican banknotes worth around £3m. Spotted in the Stornoway Gazette that bottles from the SS Politician will be up for auction at Charles Miller Ltd, from the private collection of a former Royal Navy diver. The bottles are expected to sell for £1500 each.

Next up, wildlife - how the region balances economic development and growth, but maintains the natural environment as well. The Guardian had an article on an extremely ambitious rewilding project. The Affric Highlands initiative aims to increase connected habitats and species diversity over an area of 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres), incorporating Kintail mountain range, and glens Cannich, Moriston and Shiel. Plans include planting trees, enhancing river corridors, restoring peat bogs and creating nature-friendly farming practices. Not everyone spoke of Highland wildlife quite as positively though. The BBC featured an interview with James Bond actor, Daniel Craig. Once again, some of the filming for the recently released Bond film, took place in the Highlands, and the interview talks about the experience of filming here. He does however admit that even 007 has met his match facing the Highland midge!

Written by Iain Hamilton

Head of Creative Industries, Highland & Islands Enterprise (HIE)


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