Death of Holyrood Architect
Enric Miralles, the visionary Spanish architect of the new Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood, died in Barcelona this week. He was convalescing after an operation for a brain tumour. He was only 45. Mr Miralles was chosen unanimously by the selection panel from a number of contestants in a design competition for the future home of the Scottish Parliament. Donald Dewar, the First Minister (who is recovering from a heart operation) and Sir David Steel, the Presiding Officer, were amongst those who paid tribute to the architect's work. Officials at the Scottish Executive emphasised that most of the design work had been completed earlier this year and that the tragic death will not affect the building programme.
Arise Sir Sean! The Queen Knights Agent 007
Sean Connery was in residence at his favourite hotel, the Caledonian, this week. He must have felt very much at home; after all, in his youth, he did a milk round in Fountainbridge, not far away. Sean was in the city of his birth for a very special reason. At long last, on Wednesday, he received his knighthood from the Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and officially become "Sir Sean". After his investiture (where he wore formal Highland dress, including a kilt in McLean of Duart tartan) he said "It is one of the proudest days of my life. I think it is a great honour for Scotland." Although he was not nervous, he said he was moved by the occasion. In other words, stirred, not shaken. To mark his 70th birthday on 24 August, there will be open-air screenings in Princes Street Gardens of his best-known Bond films, including Dr No and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as part of the 54th Edinburgh International Festival.
Majority of Population Now Have a Mobile Phone
Stronger than expected sales figures for mobile phones this year has meant that the industry has passed a new milestone - more than 50% of the total population has one of these devices. Since "total population" includes babies etc, the percentage of adults is even higher. Though as the age gets lower all the time at which youngsters at school are getting today's "must have" fashion statement, the section of the population excluded is getting smaller all the time.
Scientists at Edinburgh University are to investigate why there are so many red-heads in Scotland, Ireland and Wales and whether natural selection confers any benefits on those with a russet hair colour. There are theories that the paler skin of red-haired people meant that they fared better in areas where sunlight was in short supply. An estimated 6% to 10% of Scots and Irish have some degree of red hair, a level not seen anywhere else in the world.
Licenced to Drink
The number of premises in Glasgow licensed to sell alcohol rose by 25% last year. Even so, Glasgow has one of the lowest number of licensed premises per head of the population anywhere in Scotland. Glasgow has 28 licences per 10,000 people while Edinburgh has 42 per 10,000 and Argyll and Bute has 79. The illustration is of the Scotia Bar in Glasgow, reputed to be the oldest bar in the city.
Tyson Fight Lasts 38 Seconds
Fight fans turned up at Hampden Park stadium to see Mike Tyson demolish Lou Savaresi in all of 38 seconds. The referee was also knocked down as he tried to stop the fight and Tyson ignored him. With ringside seats costing 500 pounds (US$750), and with heavy showers of rain before the fight, spectators were feeling hard done by. And the promoter, Frank Warren was none too happy either. Despite earlier optimistic claims, only 15,000 seats were sold in a stadium which could have accommodated 50,000.
Ban on Hosepipes as West of Scotland Dries Out
West of Scotland Water has appealed to consumers to use water carefully over the next few months. Rainfall was above average in many parts of Scotland and the UK (with flooding in the south-east of England). But in parts of the west of Scotland rainfall was well below average in April and May. Reservoirs are holding 20% less water than at this time last year. If dry weather continues, it may be necessary to ban the use of hosepipes for washing cars or watering gardens. There has not been such a ban for 16 years.
Firth of Clyde Action Plan Launched
A plan which aims to promote appropriate and sustainable development for the Clyde estuary was launched this week. It tries to strike a balance between demands from industry, recreation, national heritage and wildlife. It has been created after input over the last five years from a large number of organisations and individuals. There are 62 proposals for the management of the stretch of water which runs from the centre of Glasgow to the Mull of Kintyre in the west and Loch Ryan in the south. There are also a number of sea lochs and the islands of Bute, Arran and the Cumbraes. The illustration is of the "Tail of the Bank" at Gourock where the river takes a left turn into the Firth of Clyde.
Scots Love Affair With Fish and Chips
A survey published last week shows that 70% of Scots visited a fish and chip (french fries in some parts of the world) shop in the previous three months, compared with 59% in London. In the south, increasing numbers of ethnic takeaway food shops (selling anything from sushi to Thai cuisine) has resulted in a decline in the traditional "fish supper" but not in Scotland. While Chinese and Indian foods and italian pizzas have made considerable inroads into the Scottish takeaway markets, some food experts suggest that the continued popularity of fish and chips is just because the fish is so much better in Scotland. (And before you ask, my last fish supper was bought last week in Auchterarder, on my way back from Glamis castle from a shop which claims to be in the "Gourmet Guide to Fish and Chips").
Top Tourist Attractions
While places like Edinburgh Castle top the league table for tourist attractions which charge an entry fee, there is a different list for those which have free access. Kelvingrove Art Gallery (pictured here) has once again come out top in that list with over a million visitors. That makes it the most popular free attraction in the UK outside of London. Across the road from Kelvingrove is the Museum of Transport which has over 600,000 visitors, putting it in second place.
The other top attractions (in order of visitor numbers) are:
- Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
- Royal Scots Regimental Museum, Edinburgh
- Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow
- National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
- Botanic Gardens, Glasgow
- Antartex Village, Alexandria
- New Lanark Village
- Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre
Queen Mother's 100 Scottish Years
In a message read at the spectacular pageant on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade this week, which marked the Queen Mother's 100th birthday on 4 August, the Queen Mum referred to her family's 600 years in Scotland. In 1376, Sir John Lyon, whose ancestry may even have originated in earlier Celtic times, married Princess Joanna, the widowed daughter of King Robert II. Sir John was granted the feudal barony of Glamis and the family has lived there ever since. Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, who was to marry the future King George VI, spent much of her childhood at Glamis and in 1930, Princess Margaret Rose was born at Glamis Castle, the first royal baby in direct line to the throne to have been born in Scotland for 300 years. You can read here an illustrated biography> of the Queen Mother - with a Scottish slant.
Siege of Caerlaverock Castle
Historic Scotland have organised a re-enactment of the famous siege of Caerlaverock castle by King Edward I (the "Hammer of the Scots") when he invaded Scotland in 1300. 200 performers will recreate the noise and colour of the occasion. Hopefully, the siege engines will not do any more damage.
Survey of Culloden Battlefield
The first intensive archaeological survey of the Culloden battlefield got under way this week. Radar and electronic detectors will be used to establish the precise distribution of the troops. Historians views are sometimes overturned by such investigations but as there are good eye-witness accounts of the defeat of the Jacobites and Prince Charles Edward Stewart (illustrated here), this is unlikely here. As the leader of the survey work says "Prince Charlie will still have lost by the time we have finished, much as we would have liked to reverse the decision..."
Viking Skeletons in Your Gene Cupboard?
Scientists from University College London are looking for volunteers from areas of Scotland where Vikings may have settled 1000 years ago. Using genetic analysis, the researchers want to establish the extent to which the Norse visitors infiltrated Scotland. They are looking for inhabitants of areas where it is known the Vikings settled, such as Stornoway, Durness, Stonehaven, Kirkwall, Lerwick and Oban to give DNA samples via mouth swabs. This will allow them to determine the extent to which the Vikings brought their families or settled down with the indigenous population. The results of the study are to be published as part of a new BBC series "The Blood of the Vikings" to be shown next year.
Museum of Flight Takes Off
40,000 spectators turned up for the launch of the Air Week at the Museum of Flight at East Fortune in East Lothian which commemorates 70 years of aviation history. A Spitfire landed at the airfileld for the first time since 1945 and many other aircraft were on display in the hangars and in the static park outside. The illustration is of a "Blue Steel" rocket which was intended as a stand-off bomb for the RAF "V-Bomber" force.
World Heritage Status for New Lanark?
The restored 18th century mill village of New Lanark is the only Scottish location being put forward this year by the UK government's culture secretary to UNESCO for consideration as a World Heritage site. Over 50 million pounds have been spent over the last 25 years restoring the village and it is now a popular tourist attraction with over 400,000 visitors every year. There are restored mill workers' homes, a working textile mill and a village store. Nearby is the Corra Linn waterfall on the river Clyde which cascades 85 feet, making it one of the largest waterfalls in the UK. The village was built for David Dale, an entrepreneur but later became known for Robert Owen's experiments in social and educational reforms. It had the world's first nursery school and the basis for the co-operative movement was established there.
Robbie Causes Telephone System Crash
Glasgow City Council's telephone system crashed and was out of action for three hours when tickets for the concert starring Robbie Williams went on sale this week. It was a repeat of the farcical breakdown when the Candleriggs Ticket Centre tried to cope with the sale of tickets for the Scotland v England football match last year. The concert, at the Scottish Exhibition and Concert Centre, takes place on October 16 and 17. When the system recovered, the 18,000 tickets were sold within five hours.
Aberdeen On Breadline As Boss Removes Toaster
Like many provincial clubs, Aberdeen Football Club are short of cash these days and cannot compete in the market to buy million-pound players. But the club's chief executive surprised the remaining players by announcing that the machine for toasting bread in their dressing room was to be removed this week and that the players will now have to pay for their own cups of tea and coffee. Needless to say, the players found the moves hard to swallow and they had faces as red as their jerseys. And the move immediately ignited all the old jokes about tight-fisted Aberdonians. But the club boss was adamant that they would have to run the club within their means or go bankrupt. The club lost 1.8 million pounds in the last six months of 1999.
There was a crumb of comfort later in the week, however. The tabloid Daily Record newspaper calculated that the annual saving from removing the toaster would be just over six pounds a year. So the paper had a scoop story by presenting the club with a large, new toaster (emblazoned with the Daily Record logo), a toast rack and ten pounds to cover running costs. Unfortunately, the club owner (reputed to be worth 55 million pounds) was not able to take in the newspaper's gifts himself - he was getting toasted by the sun in Spain.
Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright
As expected, Tiger Woods won the Open Golf Championship at St Andrews last Sunday. He was eight strokes ahead of his nearest challenger, with an 19-under par score of 269. His winning margin was the largest in the modern era of the Championship. He also became the youngest golfer to achieve the "Grand Slam" of golf by winning all four major golf championships (The Open, US Open and PGA Championships and the Masters), following in the footsteps of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus. The attendance record for the Open was smashed with a total of 230,000 spectators over five days, compared with the previous record of 208,000 set in 1990, also at St Andrews.