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!”

Casinos set for bumper weekend thanks to Bond

By Kate Smail


THE stakes are high at casinos around the country this week – thanks to the release of the latest James Bond flick.


Quantum of Solace will hit screens today (Friday) and casino bosses are rubbing their hands in glee at the increase in custom in the run up to the release.


And they say that they owe it all to the glamourous gambling scenes that have become synonymous with Bond.


As fans try to desperately emulate the Bond image, casinos are cashing in.


Paul Rety, venue director at Alea in Glasgow says they have seen an increase in custom over the past few weeks and hopes the rush continues.


He explains: “As well as gadgets, fast cars and glamorous women, casinos have always been a big part of the James Bond persona. As a result with the release of the new film, interest in the casinos increases.


“I’m sure that the launch of Quantum of Solace will inspire more Scots to look for a taste of the James Bond lifestyle.” 


And marketing manager Nicola MacKenzie agrees: “Guys up and down the country want to be just like him and dream about having their own Bond Girl on their arm, while girls envy the looks and attitude of each new Bond girl.”


The weekend is now set to be flush with Bond-themed events in casinos everywhere, including Gala’s Riverboat Casino in Glasgow.


Joanna Smith, an organiser at Glasgow’s Riverboat Casino, said: “We did a whole week for the last film and are hoping we can do something similar again this time.


“It was great fun for all the staff to get dressed up in tuxedos or as Bond girls and we have Bond style poker games.”


The capital’s casinos have also enjoyed a business boost off the back of the tuxedo-clad hero.


According to Pauline McNamara, manager of the Circus Casino in Fountainbridge, a new Bond release is the surest ways to pack out the roulette and poker tables with clients trying to emulate their favourite spy.


David Black, Chairman of the James Bond International Fan Club, thinks it’s easy to understand the allure of the casino.


He said: “Most of us live a boring 9-5 existence. We can’t afford an Aston Martin and we certainly can’t pull a Bond girl. We can, however, drink a Martini and visit a casino.


“We’d all like to be hard as nails and living that exciting lifestyle, going to a casino is just an easy way of buying into that glamorous image.”

But if the casino starts to leave you shaken not stirred then gambling charity Gamcare advise you to get in touch.


A spokesperson said: “Gambling can be enjoyed responsibly and a one off night as entertainment can be harmless.


“But if you are spending more money or time than you would like to get in touch and we can help either with face to face counselling, over the phone or online.”

Boy, 4, wanders half a mile after being left home alone

By Paul Thornton


A FOUR-YEAR-OLD boy crossed a busy dual-carriageway himself and wandered for over half a mile after he was left home alone.


The youngster was spotted by concerned drivers who stopped to check he was okay when they saw him walking down the side of a road.


Police were called, and when they returned with the boy to his home, they found an empty house and no responsible guardian.


After waiting for an hour-and-a-half, the woman meant to be looking after them – Marie Watson – showed up.


She claimed she had gone for “messages” and left the boy in the care of his big brother.


Yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Watson admitted child neglect over the incident on July 4 this year.


Fiscal depute Kate Mulligan told the court how a couple, who were driving on Silverknowes Road in Edinburgh, had pulled over after seeing the child walking alone at 2.30pm.


Miss Mulligan said that to get to where he was found on Silverknowes Road from the address where the boy had been he would have had to have crossed Muirhouse Parkway – a busy dual-carriageway with a 30mph speed limit.


The couple pulled over and flagged down another driver before asking the child if he was lost.


But the boy ignored them and continued walking until they contacted police and held on to him.


Despite his young age, he was able to show officers back to the flat where he was being looked after, saying that Watson was at work.


The police officers waited at the address, in the Muirhouse area of the capital, and at 4pm Watson showed up.


She told them that she had left the boy in the care of his eight-year-old brother and that she had explained to both boys that she was going to buy messages and would be back in an hour.


But the elder of the two boys was found playing with local children after being separated from his brother.


Sheriff Kenneth Maciver deferred sentence for reports and Watson will learn her fate next month.

Roses from Chick-kick MSP 289

By Michael MacLeod

A BUNCH of red roses is on its way to Chick Young – from the team of MSPs who kicked him off the park during a charity football match.

A cheeky peace offering was made after MSP John Park left the BBC TV pundit worried he had a broken ankle.

Park’s Labour party colleague Councillor George Redmond plans to meet up with Young at the weekend to “kiss and make up.”

He said: “Hopefully the flowers will be received in the manner they’ve been sent and will help Chick to get well soon.

“I’m sure he’ll put them to good use and find a nice wee vase to put them in and think of me with fond love when he looks at them.

“I’ll be at Chick’s charity game with Dukla Pumpherston at the weekend to kiss and make up.

“Maybe we should all take a look at ourselves and not live in fantasy football land thinking we’re better than we actually are.”

The flowers – signed ‘With all our love’ – were sent after Calton Cllr Redmond teamed up with Frank McAveety MSP, who was also playing against the football writers’ team.

McAveety said Young should “grow up and be a man.”

He said: “We’re all big boys and we should all shake hands.

“I hope Chick is on the mend and he deserves a big bouquet of red roses.

“We’ve sent him flowers to show this is all in good humour.

“It was a robust challenge, nothing different to what you see on parks up and down the country on a Saturday.

“Chick should grow up and be a man, shake hands and forget about it.”

Redmond strongly denied leading the Holyrood squad out with a battle cry of : “Lets get into these ****s.”

And he said he was disappointed not to get a chance to shake Young’s hand after the match.

He added: “It was a charity game, there was a good bit of banter and everyone was shouting.

“Chico went off after a wee challenge and nobody saw him again.

“I hope it’s not put him off football completely.

“I’m laughing at some of the coverage in the papers of the game, but it’s showbiz and you have to pick yourself up and get on with it.

“However, I want it made clear I never use the C-word and I’m not happy about how it came across.”