Caithness Conference June 2018 planning underway

Planning for the 2018 conference in Caithness is in progress. Below we mention some of the things which may be included but we cannot at this stage confirm the status of any arrangements. Final details will be released later.

A striking feature is the large range of industrial heritage in Wick and elsewhere in the Caithness area. Wick was a major centre for the herring fleets, which at its peak filled the harbour. This industry was supported by the fish market and makers of ropes, nets and barrels. There was also kipper smoking. All these industries are represented by surviving buildings and by artefacts in the significant local history centre and in the Johnson photographic archive.

Much of Wick was laid out as Pulteneytown to a pattern proposed by Telford in the 1700s, centred on Argyle Square. Water for the town was provided by the laid, which brings water from Loch Hempriggs some 5 Km to the Pulteney distillery, which still uses this water source.

Works by Thomas Telford include two major roads with associated bridges. These are the routes of the A9 following the East coast and then to Thurso. In addition he designed many of the harbours, some quite small and a number of churches and associated manses, all to standard designs.

The slate industry’s products, mainly paving and monumental work, were exported worldwide, including to South America and Australia and New Zealand. The works at Castletown are now incorporated into a heritage centre while Caithness Flagstone has an extensive works at Spittal where large slabs of slate are split, sawn and polished for a wide range of uses as well as paving.

Local industrial history includes the Kildonan Gold Rush of 1868, the development of sheep grazing and the introduction of the Cheviot breed following the Highland clearances. Notable local people were instrumental in the development of the electric clock and the fax machine. The experimental nuclear power installation at Dounreay has led to the need for high quality engineering services by businesses near Thurso and a brand new national nuclear archive at Wick. Another high tech company is Subsea 7, with its 8 Km railway that places cable into pipes and launches them into the sea.

The current plan is for the conference to include the option of a start in Inverness on the morning of Friday 22 June. Delegates would then travel by coach to Wick, stopping en route to see items of interest, like the oil platforms moored in the Cromarty Firth, or could go straight to Wick by other means.

Saturday would have the AGM, Rolt lecture, local visits and the Conference Dinner. Sunday and Monday would feature tours in Caithness with talks on local topics in the evenings. Tuesday we plan a full day to Orkney where we will see sites connected with the Navy, the scuttling of the German fleet and its raising for scrap and the Churchill barrier, a major war-time engineering achievement. A possible alternative tour might visit the popular tourist sites of Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, Kirkwall and its cathedral and the Italian Chapel. Wednesday will offer a return to Inverness with further visits en route, or an opportunity to stay longer in the Highlands and Islands or choose other means of transport. For example a sleeper connection from Thurso to London, which is planned to start in 2017.

Keep a watch on IA News and the website for further updates.

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