Jim Clark letter up for auction

By Alexander Lawrie

A LETTER written by Scots racing legend Jim Clark just 18 months before his death is set to fetch over £1000 at auction next week.

Signed by Clark on his own personal notepaper, the letter is dated September 1, 1966 and in it the former World Champion exclusively reveals his plans to market new motoring shoes.

The Jim Clark motoring shoes were specially designed for the dangerous sport and were specifically produced to help drivers with pedal control.

The historic document, which is framed and comes complete with a black and white photograph, comes up for auction at Sotheby’s Olympia in London in November.

In the letter, Clark explains: “They have been specifically produced to take any of the requirements of pedal control, at the same time giving the wearer maximum comfort whilst driving…these unique shoes have tyre-tread soles and heels, designed by Pirelli of Italy.”

A spokesperson for Graham Budd Auctions said: “Although the ownership history of the letter is very vague, we are fairly certain this letter is a one-off.

“This is because the letter is signed J. Clark which is really unusual as he always signed autographs as Jim or Jimmy.

“We are expecting a lot of interest in this very attractive piece.”

Jim Clark worked on his family’s sheep farm before finding fame in motor racing.

He won his first world racing championship at the age of 27 in 1963, winning a record seven Grand Prix races during that season.

In 1965 he regained his title while also becoming the first non-American since 1916 to win the prestigious Indianapolis 500.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Clark’s death.

The Borderer was killed on April 27, 1968 in a Formula 2 race in Hockenheim, Germany when his car swerved off the track at high speed hitting a tree.

Mystery of the phantom piano player

By Alexander Lawrie

A NINETEENTH century piano once played by Fredric Chopin is spooking guests and staff at a historic Scottish country home.

Visitors, staff and even guest’s pet dogs have been left trembling as the ‘haunted’ piano plays by itself during the night.

And while residents are tucked up in bed and staff go about their duties at the stately house, no-one is quite sure who is tinkering the spooky ivories.

The antique Pleyel piano is housed in former home of the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton at Lennoxlove House, near Haddington, East Lothian.

Local legend has it that the piano was given by William Beckford to his daughter Susan, the Duchess of Hamilton, in 1828 and it is her who is playing the ghostly tunes.

Ken Buchanan, General Manager of Lennoxlove House, said: “It is very strange to be in the house when it is quiet and you hear the piano being played.

“There is no tune being played as such, it’s more the tinkering of the piano keys you can hear, but nonetheless it is a strange experience.

“Thankfully we inform our guests that if they hear music, then it’s nothing to be worried about.

“In fact, they think it’s all the more exciting as they hope to be the first to catch a glimpse of the mystery piano player.

“There was also an incident where a guest’s dog was really spooked by the room and wouldn’t go near the piano.”

The piano, which is situated in the home’s Blue Room, was once played by the Polish composer Fredric Chopin when he was staying at the nearby Hamilton Palace.

Described as one of Scotland’s premier historic houses, Lennoxlove underwent extensive renovation work last year to turn it into one of the country’s most exclusive places to stay.

One of the main attractions is a 16th century solid black oak bed which was reputedly slept in by Mary Queen of Scots.

Lennoxlove House is also home to the prestigious Hamilton Collection, which includes works by van Dyck, Raeburn and Kneller.

Also on display are various antiquities and curios which include Mary Queen of Scots’ death mask and a 15th century silver casket.

The house dates back to the 14th century and is steeped in Scottish history having been owned by the Maitland and Stewart families, as well as the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton.

It receives its name from Frances Theresa Stewart, the Duchess of Lennox and Richmond, who bequeathed the house to her nephew Lord Blantyre, with the dedication that the house should be known as “Lennox’s Love to Blantyre”.

‘Miracle’ abandoned ducklings survived

By Michael MacLeod

FOUR tiny ducklings left abandoned in freezing conditions have been hailed as a “miracle”

The baby birds are making a surprise recovery after being found shivering outside a health centre in Perth on Tuesday.

Stunned Scottish SPCA inspectors say they have never heard of ducks being born in late October – up to eight months after they usually hatch.

Experts say the baby Mallards would have died if they had not been saved from Scotland’s recent cold snap.

They are now being kept warm in an incubator at the Society’s wildlife rescue centre.

Manager Colin Seddon said the three-day-old ducks were very vulnerable when found.

He said: “They probably wouldn’t have survived had they been left out in the wild. Given the recent weather it’s a miracle they survived at all.

“The mother left about nine ducklings altogether but unfortunately we couldn’t save all of them. The ones we did manage to save are really doing well.

Inspectors believe the mother duck was unable to take them to water so flew off, leaving them alone at the un-named health centre.

But concerned staff spotted the tiny chicks and quickly alerted the Scottish SPCA.

The four remaining fluffy fowl will be among 700 birds released from the centre next spring.

The charity hope this will allow them to develop normally despite being born at the wrong time of year.

Mr Seddon added: “It’s very unusual for them to be born this late in the year – maybe they have been born early. I have seen them born in January but I’ve never heard of anything like this before.

“We have just come into a cold snap so they were very vulnerable indeed. You get some animals that don’t make it despite your best efforts but I’m confident we can help these little ones pull through.”

The ducklings will be released in Fife where they will receive supported feeding.

Wicker man amongst scariest films of all time

By Alexander Lawrie


SCOTTISH movie The Wicker Man has been voted one of Britain’s top ten horror films of all time.


The classic cult movie is set on the island of Summerisle, and tells the story of a Christian police officer in search of a missing young girl.


The residents of the island turn out to be Pagan worshippers who conduct human sacrifices.


Highly regarded by critics, the film has been described as the “Citizen Kane of Horror Movies”, and in 2004 it was voted the sixth best British film of all time by the magazine Total Film.


The film has now claimed the number nine position as the scariest film of all time as voted by the customers of record store HMV.


Topping the horror list is the 1973 classic The Exorcist, with Jack Nicholson’s The Shining coming in at number two.


Ridley Scott’s Alien – the first installment of the deep space trilogy – makes up the top three.


The Exorcist, featuring signature performances by Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow, has emerged as a landmark in modern cinema.


The terrifying movie received more votes than any other in the HMV survey, with over 6000 customers responding to the online poll.


Jonny Scurfield, HMV Buyer, said: “Over the last few years we’ve seen a significant upsurge of interest in this genre – probably more than for any other movie category, with younger customers in their late teens and early twenties leading the way.


“It’s a phenomenon we wanted to assess properly by asking our customers for their top film choices, and it s evident that Horror is now a legitimate film genre, a category that can embrace everything from the psycho terror of Saw  and The Shining, to the chilling silence of Nosferatu .


“In the past it s likely we would have seen many of the romantic horror films – the Dracula’s, Frankenstein’s and Hammer Horror’s – figuring strongly on the list, but with the advent of DVD a decade ago there s been a greater interest in more contemporary types of horror, such as Psycho, Terror and Slash movies directed by the likes of Eli Roth.”


The oldest film in the Top 50 is the enduring 1922 classic Nosferatu, while the most recent titles are Masayuki Ochiai’s Shutter, Frank Darabont’s The Mist and Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Orphanage, all of which were released this year.

Greyfriar ghosts caught on camera

By Kate Smail

TWO pals claim to have captured mysterious ghostly images on their mobile phones after an unsupervised visit to a graveyard dubbed the most haunted in Scotland.

Damien Kielty and Steve Greenwood were in what is considered the spookiest graveyard in Scotland – the covenanters’ prison in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard.

The pair felt nothing as they looked around the spooky vault, but took some pictures just in case before they left.

And they couldn’t believe their eyes when they looked back on them after and discovered two ghostly figures lurking in the background.

The photographs show the outline of a woman and a young girl to the left of the picture, apparently just hovering in mid-air.

Damien says: “It wasn’t until we saw the pictures that we even realised we’d been in the presence of a ghost.

“Neither of us saw a thing at the time and what freaks me out most was that I must have walked through the apparition immediately after taking the picture.

“I was so scared I didn’t sleep for two nights, I was petrified that the ghosts may have somehow followed me home.

But the brave pair were intrigued and they decided to risk going back to the vault with a friend who had an interest in the occult to see what they could discover about the mysterious figures.

He sensed that the smaller apparition was that of a young girl called Alison Greer, who had died when she was just eight to ten years old.

The vault originally belonged to a well-to-do Edinburgh family, the Shairps, who descended into poverty after being caught scamming a bank.

It is thought that the tall woman – who looked to be wearing a light-coloured dress – may be the mother of the family, and Alison her maid.

Damien should be used to dealing with spooks, his brothers John and Gerry run some of the ghost tours on the Royal Mile.

He said: “My brothers John and Gerry even had a show at the festival this year telling the tales of the hauntings at Greyfriars Kirk.

“Their show won the Spirit of the Fringe Award, but now I’ve had my very own spirit experience, I’m not so sure it’s something I want to repeat.”

Model boat sparks Coastguard ‘rescue’

By Alexander Lawrie

COASTGUARDS had to laugh when flashing red and white lights in the sea caused panic – but turned out to be a birthday message in the shape of a model boat.


An off-duty police officer reported he could see three of the strange lights off the beach at Staffin Bay in the north of Skye.


But the rescue team arrived at the scene around 7pm on Wednesday evening, the lights were still visible, but no vessel could be found.


And members of the Duntulm Coastguard were in for a shock when they discovered it was an eight-inch long model boat – with “Happy 42nd Birthday Ollie. XXX” written on the yellow sail.


Martin Collins, Coastguard Watch Manager, said: “This one had everyone baffled as to what these lights were attached too.


“It could have been anything from lifejacket lights from a vessel that had sunk or a liferaft, to marker lights for fishing gear. No one expected to find a model boat that seems to have been launched as part of a birthday celebration.


“I’m sure that Duntulm Coastguard and the Portree Lifeboat crew would join us in wishing Ollie a Happy Birthday and we hope that it was an enjoyable one.”


The off-duty cop, and a member of the public who had also spotted the strange lights, contacted Stornoway Coastguard around 6.30pm on Wednesday.


Both feared a vessel could be in trouble and a coastguard team and a lifeboat crew immediately rushed to the scene.


Fortunately, the rescue team could see the humorous side of the incident, but warned of any similar incidents in the future.


Martin Collins said: “If anyone is thinking about using a similar method for any celebration then please think about what it may look like from a distance, especially at night. This also includes the likes of Chinese Lanterns and, especially at this time of year, fireworks.


“If you are planning any celebration close to the sea then call your local Coastguard station and let them know what you are planning. It may save us having to send Lifeboats and Coastguard teams out to investigate.”

WRI swaps baking for a gladitorial battle

By Kate Smail

TWO Gladiators faced their fiercest competitors yet yesterday (THURS) – a group of ladies from the WRI.

Tornado and Enigma arrived at a tiny hall in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders to put the elderly women through their paces in an active aerobics class.

The group – aged up to 85 years old – managed squat lunges and push ups during the hour-long class.

The one-off event was organised by Sky TV to promote the digital switchover which is taking place in the Borders next week.

And the two – in particular Tornado – proved popular with the 25 ladies who attended.

Irene MacFadzen, 57, representing the WRI said: “The gladiators are so out of our league in terms of fitness that we weren’t really taking it seriously.

“We all worked harder than we thought we would and the view certainly made it worthwhile!”

And puffed out Helen Johnson, 62, said: “It was really hard work, I gave up half way through.”

Undeterred by their unusual audience, both Tornado and Enigma said the ladies were some of their fiercest competitors yet.

Enigma said: “These women were really inspiring. They ranged in age from 55 -85 and they were doing push-ups and squat lunges.

Tornado added: “These women were really up for it and prove you can stay active at any age.”

Lucille Macleod, 67, a participant said: “It was great fun but to be honest I’m too old to be impressed by a man in lycra!”