Much has been made of the robotic space rover Curiosity heading towards a Martian rock formation, now christened Glenelg.
Several reasons have been advanced for Nasa giving it the same name as that of a West Highland community.
None is definitive, although it has been observed that Glenelg spells the same backwards and forwards, a fact which may be useful in a pub quiz, but is unlikely to have impressed the best brains at Nasa.
Whatever the reason, it is cause enough for Scotland's Glenelg to organise a party.
Village residents have decided to host a twinning ceremony on October 20 to mark Curiosity's estimated time of arrival at the other Glenelg.
Scottish-American astronaut Bonnie Dunbar is due to appear to take part in a candlelit walk and a ceilidh. Astronomer Royal for Scotland, John C Brown, is also among the guests invited.
It has all gone to kindle great Caledonian interest in the events on the Red Planet and there is now much informed discussion about Curiosity’s journey to the Martian mountain, Mount Sharp.
But as we have become more knowledgeable about planetary geography 350 million miles away, there has been the odd lapse closer to home, with one report placing Scotland's Glenelg in Ross-shire, and another moving it to Lochaber. It is, in fact, in Inverness-shire.
It’s best known today as the crossing point for the ferry to Skye which, from spring to autumn, plies across the channel of fierce tidal water separating island from the mainland at its closest point, Kyle Rhea.
That took its name from the Fingalian hero Reatha who, in the third century AD, tried - with a fatal lack of success - to vault the kyle using his spear.
A little confusingly, the Skye landing point is Kylerhea, the single word denoting a land-based location, just as Loch Carron is the loch and Lochcarron the village on its shore
Coming from the east to Glenelg involves driving over the challenging 1116ft Mam Ratagan.
The views are often spectacular, but the trip can be quite a time-consuming challenge, particularly in the winter. Rarely, however, does it last the eight months it took the spacecraft to get Curiosity to Mars.
Cromarty talk no more
The East Church in Cromarty on the Black Isle was packed on Thursday for the funeral of Bobby Hogg, the last fluent native speaker of the Cromarty fisher dialect.
The Herald broke the news this week that Bobby had died aged 92, ending a linguistic tradition that had stretched back centuries.
According to the minister at the funeral, the news of Bobby’s death subsequently reached 191 countries.
Bobby’s grandson, Iain, said that the family had received messages from Holland, Italy, Mexico, USA, Brazil and Jamaica.
David Alston, the deputy leader of Highland Council who wrote an acclaimed history of Cromarty, was in Poland at a conference where people were talking about it.
He said the idea of knowing who the last speaker was and being able to record the death of the dialect so exactly had fascinated several there.
Mr Alston was close to Bobby Hogg, an important tradition-bearer. He said: “Bobby’s death robs Cromarty of a very important link to its past. But it is more than that. His personality was just such an asset to the community.”
It wasn’t just his linguistic heritage that had been important. Bobby Hogg’s late wife Helen had been a direct descendant of Cromarty’s most famous son, the polymath Hugh Miller. Their home was a place where anyone could drop in for a cup of tea or a dram, but most importantly for the craic, as this writer can testify. It was the first port of call for many who wanted to learn about Cromarty and its people.
Bobby had watched how the community had changed. How when he was young in the fishertown every house along its two streets and all its lanes and vennels had a connection to the sea through fishing or the Royal/Merchant Navy. He would lament: “Now there is not one person there who goes to sea.”
He recalled there were six people with the name James Watson. So nicknames or bynames had to be used all the time.
He himself was called Bolt. He didn’t know why but knew it had Shetland origins. Meanwhile his son was called, Koka, after his great, great granny.
Bobby had been fond of saying: “Our folk have been fishermen all the way back to Galilee.”
But he himself had begin work as a mechanic in a garage in Dingwall and had served in the RAF as a fitter during the second world war and then went on to be become an engineer working across Britain. There was a tale for every turn his life took.
According to the records, there were Hoggs in Cromarty in the 16th century when they were boatmen and fishermen. Bobby’s son (and, for that matter, his daughter too) is still in Cromarty, and, yes, he has a boat.
A naturally attractive survey
Full marks to the John Muir Trust for a fine piece of PR footwork earlier this week.
The wild land charity published the findings of a new survey of public attitudes to Scotland’s wild places, be they mountain or glen, moorland or forest.
The Public Perception Survey of Wildness in Scotland was meat and drink to the organisation, particularly in its ongoing fight against wind farm developments that impact on Scotland’s rural landscape.
But it wasn’t actually the JMT’s report. It was commissioned jointly by Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, the Cairngorms National Park Authority and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Although you can, after a bit of research, find the report on their websites, these bodies didn’t make much of it.
But it was too good for the JMT to leave it at that because the report found that 81% of us visit the outdoors at least every few months; 72% consider it very important that Scotland has wild areas; 60% feel that wild areas in Scotland are under threat; 77% believe it is very important to protect wild areas ; and 86% believe further action is needed to preserve wild land in Scotland.
The survey shows people value wild land for its wildlife, its connection with Scottish culture and heritage, its natural beauty, its contribution to the diversity of our landscape, its recreational use and its international renown.
Of those who believed that further action is needed to protect Scotland’s wild land, the most widely supported measures were, in descending order of popularity: specific 'wild land' designation; effective planning control for wind turbines; effective planning control for buildings; effective planning control for telephone masts and pylons; and reintroductions of species. Each of these measures was supported by at least a third of those surveyed.
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, said: "This survey confirms that the vast majority of us believe that protecting wildness is essential. Scotland has some of the most magnificent wild land in Europe, which attracts visitors from across the globe and people are worried it is being industrialised and lost.
"These figures should provide politicians from all political parties with the confidence to take immediate action and put protection measures in place.
"It shows that the John Muir Trust and other conservation charities are in tune with public opinion when we say that our wild land is more than just a resource to be exploited for commercial gain, but a precious, priceless asset that needs to be protected for future generations not yet born."
Helen McDade, head of policy for the John Muir Trust, added: "The proportion of wild land left in Scotland is shrinking at an alarming rate. In 2002, 41% of Scotland’s landmass was free of any visual impact from man-made structures; by the end of 2009, that proportion had shrunk to just 28 per%.
"In the past three years, if anything the destruction of our wild land has accelerated as industrial-scale wind farms spread across some of our most scenic and ecologically sensitive landscapes.
"The John Muir Trust has already lodged a petition to the Scottish Parliament seeking a new wild land designation, as the most robust means of ensuring the protection of our finest wild land. It is heartening to see that there is widespread public support for this action."
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