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Nwicker60
09-Feb-12, 18:15
What price a deserted Bridge Street Church... a rallying "Let’s party" invitation... and, finally, a belated Burns-style poem, Wood you believe...

I SEE that Wick’s Bridge Street Church is on the market with an asking price of “offers in the region of 100,000.
I know that the Kirk is strapped for cash but I think they are maybe confusing prices in its home base of Edinburgh with those in the Far North.
I can’t see 121 George Street counting many bundles of crisp 20 or 50 notes and not just because such transactions are electronic these days. The obvious buyer would be a contractor who might be interested in turning one of the town’s landmarks dating back to 1865, into flats.
However, I would not have thought that, given the bleak state of the economy, builders would be queuing up to in shell out that kind of ‘dough’ for the church, considering that they would have to spend possibly, the same again on refurbishing it. Then, who would be able to buy the flats, again given the difficulties many are facing at present?
Few, if any, would be able to buy the kirk and leave it on the back burner and there’s the state of the building to be considered. The building will deteriorate – I have seen a crane being employed to carry out repairs, on occasions.
If 121 get rid of Wick Bridge Street, at the upset price, it will be nothing short of a miracle. A bird in the hand, is worth two in the bush and if they have to wait for a sale, repairs they will have to carry out – even wind and watertight ones – will eat into their final sale profit.
Another fly in the ointment is the fact that Wick Bridge carries a “B” listing, so a new owner won’t be able to do too much by way of altering facade. Would-be buyers will be required to check with Highland Council as to whether approval for a change of use would special permission. No fitments can be removed without prior approval of the authority. Further factors that make the church a less-than attractive proposition.
I seem to recall that the kirk’s trustees were empowered to have a say on the future use, but I may be wrong. It’s been a few years, since the church closed –I covered the final service there for the Groat, in March 2008.
If I have interpreted the present position correctly, then bidders will not be breaking down the doors of the church, metaphorically speaking, to begin refurbishment work.
The church is an enigma. The obvious and speedy solution is for the church to slash its asking price and make it a more attractive or irresistible proposition, in other words take what they can get, as opposed to what they think it’s worth, and run. A basement bargain might just attract a speculator.
The trouble is that unless buyers,have access to a substantial capital or is in a position to put his change-of-use plan into cold storage, until the present financial situation thaws, the church will lie, cold and unwanted.
Wick doesn’t need another empty building, particularly in its town centre.

THE Aberdeen city garden controversy rumbles on and I heard former Caithness Courier editor, Peter Mitchell interviewed on STV on Friday night as a champion of the project.
Favouring the multi-million pound project, Peter called for action and drew a rather curious parallel with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Euro championship win with Aberdeen F.C. highlighting the famous manager’s decisiveness and determination. “Go for it!” says Peter.
I couldn’t disagree more with Peter. The garden area is an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of city life, commanding a unique, sub-level situation. Via a series of steps down to the green sward and you could be, give or take some traffic noise, in a rural setting. In summer, it’s a haven for tourists and office workers enjoying a break from their labours.
What has this dear green place got by way of commercial attractions?....well, none really. But, therein lies its worth. It’s a simple oasis with some seats. I sincerely hope that when the referendum is held on the issue, city folk will vote overwhelmingly to leave it like that!


I applaud Alan Farquhar’s bid to revive Wick’s Hogmanay Street party but would hasten to clarify one of his views regarding the post mortem of its death. (this week’s Caithness Courier-Fresh bid to revive Wick street party)
He says that “nobody really took the previous committee seriously when they said that they needed volunteers, last year to keep the party going,”
I don’t agree. Party organisers H.A.P.P.Y. (Hogmanay and People’s Party Yearly) regularly made appeals during its 10 years stint and their cries for help fell on deaf ears.
The truth of the matter is that the public were quite ‘happy’ for the small band of people to struggle on year after year and leave them to do all the work. Even pleas for helpers on the night fell on stony ground and the organisers were left to soldier on, getting home to pick up the threads of their New Year celebrations at 2am in the morning.
Personally, as a committee member, I would have pulled the plug on party much earlier to demonstrate that we meant business, but my fellow H.A.P.P.Y. members always agreed, despite repeated warnings that the street celebrations would fold if support was not forthcoming, to struggle on and keep the annual celebration going. The threat became meaningless because the public realised that it was an idle one.
There may have been disappointment but not as Alan claims, disbelief, when the organisers decided to hang up their H.A.P.P.Y. hats. The public were warned often enough. Anyway, I reckon that 10 consecutive years of organising the party, is a fair crack of the whip.
The bottom line, as I said, was, that townspeople were happy to enjoy the popular event, as was evident from the excellent turnout year after year, but were not prepared to do anything to do anything to ensure its success and its future. All that was required would have would have been a pool of some 20 souls and you could have operated a rota to avoid people being on duty every year.
I wish Alan every success (and luck) in reviving the party. There’s surely no better way of bringing in a new year. Just remember, it might be feasible to attract enough support to bring the party back to life on a wave of enthusiasm, for the first year. Sustaining it, with the minority giving up their Hogmanay, every year, so that the majority can enjoy themselves, will be another matter.
I remain to be proved wrong.

THE story about the killer beast which is attacking sheep in the Bettyhill area put me in mind of a similar hunt back in the 1960s, nearer to home.
Crofters’ sheep came under attack, in the Munsary area, in particular Edward Darmady. The dog, which I think had originally been a pet gone wild, was eventually tracked down from the air, with policeman Jimmy More dispatching it with a twelve bore, aboard a helicopter.

PAT on the back for Highland Council workmen for relaying the flagstones near SemiChem in High Street.
The flags had become uneven causing a few folk to trip.


SOME time back, I used this poem in my weekly column in the Groat, Wicker’s World. It was penned by Margaret Wood during the wheelie bin controversy, a few years earlier. It sings the praises of our refuse collection operatives, and is as relevant today as it was then. I reckon it would have won the approval o’ wur Bard, Rabbie Burns.

To a Scaffie

O thou, wha empty a’ oor bins
Wha teem the remnants o’ oor sins
The evidence o’ double gins
An’ sic indulgence,
Ye dae it a’ wi’jokes and grins
O’ pure effulgence.

Yir lot is tae mak frequent forays
Twixt gairden gate an’ yellow lorries
The target o’ marauding scorries
And sic like chielies
But, faith! Ye’ve foiled them o’ their quarry
Wi’ bins on wheelies

Hear,me, most noble council scaffie
While I’m still clad in goon and baffies
Ye trachule roon in the most affae
Rain and sleet
Ye canna nip in tae a cafe
Tae get a heat

There’s nane o’ us that truly hungers
Tae wear yir gloves and orange dungers
Tae gaither up fae local mongers
Their foossome doin’s
Weel are ye worthy o’ a Youngers
Or a McEwans