By the time our final news story is published on Thursday this community news site will have brought over 2000 stories to our readers in 2015 – today we continue a three-part review of “our year in Moray”.
The month began with Bank of Scotland customers being reassured over the closure of their branch at Burghead, one of several in a year when major banks switched from fixed branches to mobile visits.
Moray Council were claiming Scottish Government backing for their Elgin West Approach road plans – it had been rumbling on for years and still shows little sign of vanishing from our news headlines any time soon. Moray Leisure banned Paralympian Jim Gault after an affray at their ice rink – that raised a few eyebrows but a ban later in the year was to raise a fair few more.
Hollywood start Tilda Swinton was full of praise for the Drumduan Upper School in Forres that she helped form, saying the ‘pressure-free’ education system it employed was a joy. We featured a new Café that was opened at Covesea and soon had customers flocking through the doors – Aroma has proven to be a massive hit since.
A Scottish Government committee said that the public interest was not served by a military inquiry into the deaths of three RAF Lossiemouth airmen in 2012. A Moray school had to close because there was no drinking water for pupils, and of course there was the General Election – as expected the SNP swept the board in Moray and throughout Scotland.
Residents in Aberlour were invited to inspect road work plans that would cause major disruption in their community – the plans subsequently went very, very wrong and are still causing disruption. We revealed that the failed Spaceport bid might lead to new MPA aircraft being based in Moray (something that proved spot on with a major announcement later in the year).
A summit in Elgin heard how a new Sports Centre would be created in the town ‘for all of Moray’, while Moray Councillors gave the go-ahead to the creation of beach huts in Findhorn – that sparked fury in the local community and a date at the Court of Session with a decision announcement expected early in 2016.
There were only two finishers in a gruelling new ‘Cairngorm to Coast’ challenge – both RAF Lossiemouth servicewomen. The Paterson family were thrilled to reveal their appeal for funding for toddler Eilidh had reached £70,000 – a single ‘mystery benefactor’ then boosted the fund to the brink of its £100,000 target.
Local councillor Douglas Ross used the pages of insideMoray to hit out at the “afraid and lazy” SNP group for their failure to seize control of the local authority. The Lossiemouth branch of the SNP meanwhile had to close their Twitter account after it made national headlines for a ‘shameful harassment’ attack on Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael.
The month began with the Elgin Museum revealing that they may be forced to close if a £44,000 funding bid lodged with Moray Council failed – it subsequently did, but the Museum insist they will fight on.
It was revealed that funding was in place for a ‘world class’ university research and teaching centre to be formed in Forres. Morayvia were able to announce that their bid to retain a Sea King SAR helicopter had been successful.
High winds halted the annual Hopeman Harbour open day – it was postponed and subsequently held later in the summer. Councillors approved a £55,000 bid to restore the ‘Muckle Cross’ in Elgin.
There was widespread condemnation when insideMoray revealed proposals for Moray to return to the ‘special schools’ system for children with learning difficulties. Bulldozers moved in to Cooper Park in Elgin to create an ‘amphitheatre’ mound – effectively, a way of moving debris from the flood alleviation scheme.
We revealed that Lossiemouth firm Grampian Furnishers were planning to build a new store in Elgin, while Moray’s Council Leader Allan Wright insisted it was the administration’s ‘culture of prudence’ that saw a £5million underspend. The Fochabers Institute is handed over to the community – a ‘great result’ according to local councillors.
TV star Ben Fogle made an unscheduled emergency landing at RAF Lossiemouth when his aircraft faced an emergency – he was not the only surprise visitor to the RAF base, more on that later.
A community library formed in Hopeman in the wake of Council cut-backs closing the local branch was itself forced to close after a permanent home could not be found.
Around 3000 people endured a damp start but still enjoyed a fantastic day at the European Pipe Band Championships in Forres, in the week that SEPA was accused of breaking the law by litter campaigners in a bitter and long-running dispute over refuse being dumped in Moray’s rivers and foreshores.
Former Lossiemouth fisherman Campbell Thomson was named as the new head of the Aberdeenshire and Moray division of Police Scotland – on January 1 he will take another step up as he takes charge of the new joint force after the division amalgamated with Aberdeen City.
The sun shone on Lossiemouth’s Seafest – the second running of the annual festival drawing thousands to the town, while in Elgin thought were already turning to Christmas with £50,000 funding package announced to help pay for new lights.
We reported how a petition had been raised in protest to the loss of jobs at the Northern Scot, with the parent company outsourcing work to India – reports that were, understandably, not run in the Northern Scot!
Police were having to increase patrols in New Elgin when carpet tacks were repeatedly being laid on the road causing nightmares for local motorists. The Sea King rescued by Morayvia went on a ‘meet the people’ tour of Moray ahead of it being placed at its permanent Kinloss home.
We told the story how a Moray swimming trainer had started a surf school for Autistic adults and children – with the month ending with a bang on a Moray beach when bomb disposal teams had to deal with a WWII explosive device found on Burghead beach.
We were on the spot when a cavalcade of classic cars took to the Moray roads and raised thousands for a local cancer charity, while in Forres the long awaited World Orienteering Championships arrived accompanied by live television cameras.
We exclusively reported a second guest passing through RAF Lossiemouth – none other than international superstar Lionel Ritchie, who arrived at the base late at night to catch his private jet home to the United States. Lionel had time for a quick ‘Hello’ with a shocked RAFBF Lossiemouth chairwoman Karen Cox.
Only five teams managed to finish Lossiemouth’s annual Raft Race amid comic carnage when the assorted makeshift rafts turned the river into an incoming tide and high wind.
The final link in the massive Elgin Flood Alleviation Scheme was completed this month, while a by-election date in Heldon and Laich was called to find a replacement for Eric McGillivray, who quit his post.
There was relief for Rothes FC fans as their club’s struggle for survival ended with the arrival of a benefactor to pay off their tax debt, while Councillors took a quick first-look at progress on Moray’s new dredger.
Moray is praised for its part in the ‘best ever’ World Orienteering Championship that ended with no Scottish medal winners but massive praise for host communities. A galaxy of football’s finest took to the pitch at Borough Briggs for a tribute match for Fernando Ricksen.
Moray Council announced the start of a new regime of ‘open news and comment’ – this also meant, for the first time, insideMoray being provided with press releases by the local authority. We announce that Dennis Slater would contest the Heldon & Laich by-election – and our editor threw his weight behind Dennis after he had promised to be a “true and non-aligned independent councillor’.
Burghead hosted a moving tribute to the men of the ‘Shetland Bus’ who were based in the community during World War II. Several hundred turned out for a dedication ceremony for a new monument in the town.
We exclusively revealed how Lossiemouth had been named as one of the UK’s most popular coastal tourist destinations, while the Princess Royal arrived in Moray at the end of this month in her capacity as president of the Riding for the Disabled charity.
To be continued.