Introducing the poets of Luminance who shine a light on a world gone wrong


BLOG WRITERS2A UNIQUE new book has brought together a collection of amazing and diverse poets to shine a light of words on a world gone wrong.

While global warming, poverty, homelessness, the refugee crisis and warfare dominate world news, the poets of LUMINANCE turn a spotlight on the frailty and hope of humanity.

The writers include a 32 year-old mum of four, a 16 year-old school student, a haiku writer, a freedom fighter, a 62-year-old grandfather, a modern day minstrel, a novelist and a self-proclaimed ‘mystic’.

Their poetry is breath-taking in its style, its range and its subject matter, falling nimbly into the categories: Darkness and Light, Heaven and Hell, Love and Theft, and War and Peace.


Most of the writers have, until now, only seen their work published on social media.

They live and work 11,000 miles apart, across 18 time zones, in Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Palestine, Japan, England, Scotland and six different states of the USA. Their writings display the diversity of their home cities and cultures and form the unique nature of the book.

The writers of LUMINANCE are:

Austie M Baird is a 32-year-old mother raising four young children in rural eastern Oregon, USA.

Sophie Bowns, 25, from Cumbria in England, is a trainee teaching assistant and a fiction author, with four published books to her name.

Hanalee is a 17-year-old American gardening enthusiast from Phoenix, Arizona, who plans on attending college at the University of Iowa in the autumn.

Bridgford Hashimoko, 52, is an EFL teacher in Tokyo, Japan, who is fascinated by the many forms and variations of Haiku.

Annabel James, from Oklahoma, USA, writes poetry as a positive outlet to manage a chaos of emotions and thoughts into a form that she can share.

Anjali Love is a mystic, poet, writer, storyteller, artist, and tantric yogini, from Melbourne, Australia and is a lover of life with insatiable wanderlust.

Heather Lynn Matthews is a married 30-year-old mother of two, from Ontario, Canada, who loves to write poetry and short stories.

Joseph Nichols is a graduate of EKU’s Bluegrass Writers Studio, and lives in Kentucky, USA. By day, he works for the state transportation cabinet; by weekend, he is a minstrel with A to Z Productions Mobile DJ.

Nic Outterside, from Wolverhampton in England spent almost 30 years in newspaper and magazine journalism. He discovered the therapeutic power of writing poetry following a nervous breakdown in 2013.

Brotibir Roy is a 16-year-old and a 10th standard student in Dhaka, Bangladesh, who writes to pacify his mind and to play with words.

Megan Taylor, 21, is an English and Film student currently studying at Aberdeen University in Scotland.

Troy Turner is born and raised in Los Angeles, USA. Nothing has captivated him so much as the written word and the interaction between author and reader.

Zanita is a 36-year-old college lecturer from Gaza in Palestine. When not teaching, she publishes books and leaflets to support the liberation of her country from the control of Israel.

Nic Outterside is the publisher of LUMINANCE.

“I have edited many publications over the years,” says Nic, “But none has been as challenging and exciting as this.

“I was lucky to have so many amazingly talented and beautiful people contributing to this hugely diverse project.

“Their writing alone is breath-taking, but it doesn’t stop there… they were all brimming with ideas about the book, its publicity and ways to reach more readers than I ever believed possible.

“And we all hope you enjoy and share their end result… we think it has all been worthwhile.”

Stay tuned for more news about LUMINANCE in the run-up to publication on Monday 30 April 2018.


New book unites 14 poets to shine a light on a world gone wrong


A UNIQUE new book has brought together 14 diverse poets to shine a light on a world gone wrong.

While global warming, poverty, homelessness, the refugee crisis and warfare dominate world news, the poets of LUMINANCE shine a blinding light on the frailty and hope of humanity.

The writers include a 32 year-old mum of four from Oregon, USA, a 16 year-old school student from Bangladesh, a haiku writer in Japan, a freedom fighter from Palestine, a 62-year-old grandfather, a novelist living in England’s Lake District and a self-proclaimed ‘mystic’ from Melbourne, Australia.

The project has been pulled together by a retired newspaper editor.

Most of the writers have, until now, only seen their work published on social media.

Now, LUMINANCE is providing a professionally produced anthology of their poetry and prose for worldwide publication at the end of April.

This “family” of contributors live and work up to 11,000 miles apart, across 18 time zones, in Melbourne, Dhaka, Ontario, Gaza, Hong Kong, Tokyo, England, Scotland and six different states of the USA. Their writings display the diversity of their home cities and cultures and form the unique nature of the book.

“As individuals we are all so very different; different cultures, ages, races, genders, but as writers we have been able to form an incredible bond that reflects the many ways that, as humans we have common needs, hopes, dreams and hearts,” says mum Austie Baird from Oregon.

“This project has provided an incredible opportunity to see the way that different voices can come together from around the world to carry forth unified sentiments of hope, hurt, suffering and support.

“Together, I believe our words are shining a blinding light on the reality of being human, in a world of seeming chaos.”

Zanita, 36, a college lecturer in occupied Palestine is effusive about the project. “We are all voices in the dark until others react and in doing so shine a light on our words,” she says.

“I think of myself as a poet and a freedom fighter for my beloved country… but we are all freedom fighters for our own faith for a better world.”

Retired newspaper and magazine editor Nic Outterside from Wolverhampton, England is the editor and publisher of LUMINANCE.

“I have edited many publications over the years,” says Nic, “But none has been as challenging and exciting as this.

“I am so lucky to have so many amazingly talented and beautiful people contributing to this hugely diverse project.

“Their writing alone is breath-taking, but it doesn’t stop there… they are all brimming with ideas about the book, its publicity and ways to reach more readers than I ever believed possible. Their excitement is palpable.

“My working day is unlike anything I have ever known… one minute I can be chatting with a writer who is eating sushi in Tokyo, the next I am swapping emails with another in Oklahoma or taking a voice message from a poet in war torn Gaza.”

  • Stay tuned for more news about LUMINANCE in the run-up to publication on Monday 30 April 2018.

Charles Kennedy (1959- 2015)

DURING my 28 years in journalism I lost count of the number of MPs and other political animals that I interviewed or met.

As a breed, politicians are a disparate and often unsavoury lot of people. While some are true ‘public servants’, many more are egocentric single-minded careerists lining their own pockets and those of their politically like-minded friends.

There have been a few I have admired for their honesty and political integrity… Tony Benn, Alan Simpson, Dennis Skinner, Caroline Lucas, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon all spring to mind.

But there are even fewer that I have warmed to as human beings – the sort that in another lifetime you might regard as close friends. One was the late and lovely SNP MP Margaret Ewing, another her husband and MSP Fergus, and the third the wholly wonderful Charles Kennedy MP.

This morning I woke at 7am to read the news of Charles’s sudden death, less than four weeks after he lost his parliamentary seat in Ross, Skye and Lochaber – a seat he had held since 1983 – during Scotland’s SNP landslide, or the ‘Night of the Long Sgian Duhbs’ as he called it.

His political legacy is immense.

Mr Kennedy led his party the Liberal Democrats to its best-ever election result in 2005, on the back of his opposition to the Iraq War two years earlier, but he resigned early in 2006 after revealing he had been receiving treatment for a long-standing alcohol problem.

In 2010 he was the only leading Lib Dem MP to openly oppose his party’s coalition with David Cameron’s right wing Tories.

Yet he was admired right across the political spectrum for his honesty, friendliness and integrity.

So this morning I was left numb and cast about on the internet for news of his death.

Among many tributes I found one which touched me immediately. It was written by Charles’ long-time friend and soul mate, Tony Blair’s former strategist Alastair Campbell.

I am no fan of Mr Campbell or his New Labour politics, but his words have a resonance at this time: “Charles Kennedy was a lovely man, and a highly talented politician. These are the kind of words that always flow when public figures die, often because people feel they have to say those things, and rightly they are flowing thick and fast today as we mourn an important public figure, and a little bit of hypocrisy from political foes is allowed. But when I say that Charles was a lovely man and a talented politician, I mean it with all my heart.”

Mr Campbell goes on to outline his close and enduring friendship with Charles Kennedy.

He finishes by saying: “He was great company, sober or drinking. He had a fine political mind and a real commitment to public service. He was not bitter about his ousting as leader and nor, though he disagreed often with what his Party did in coalition with the Tories, did he ever wander down the rentaquote oppositionitis route. He was a man of real talent and real principle.

“Despite the occasional blip when the drink interfered, he was a terrific communicator and a fine orator. He spoke fluent human, because he had humanity in every vein and every cell.”

Read more at:

I had no such close friendship, but like most Scottish journalists always regarded Charles – or Charlie as we called him – as a ‘good chum’ and someone you could trust.

I first met Charles at a Highland Press ball in Inverness in January 1992. He was a young and dynamic MP who was steeped in Scottish journalism. With a glass of whisky in one hand and obligatory cigarette in the other, he exuded warmth, humour and conviviality – first impressions, and I warmed to him.

There followed a two year hiatus before our paths crossed again.

Then over a period of about six years he was a first port of call whenever I needed a chat or quote on any Scottish political issue. He always obliged, often returning my call late at night, with a chuckle, a whisky soaked slur and a “How are things, Nic?”

Charles was always warm, took time to listen and gave compassion, insight and humour at almost every turn.

I recall bumping into him almost daily during the campaign for the first Scottish parliament in 1999. On one occasion we literally did collide outside a hotel toilet in Edinburgh… he was exiting with lit cigarette in hand, puffing smoke and chortled: “Hello Nic, where are the other guys?”

He gave a cheeky wink, patted me on the back and hurried up to the waiting news conference.

Our final conversation was via telephone in 1999. I was working for the Press and Journal in Aberdeen, had called his London flat for a comment on a story I was writing and left a message on his answerphone. Sometime around 10pm he returned my call and finished with: “Get down to London Nic and we can share a few beers and chat over what’s happening up there.”

Sadly we never did.

Others knew him much better.

His predecessor as Lib Dem Leader Paddy Ashdown said: “In a political age not overburdened with gaiety and good sense, he brought us wit, charm, judgement, principle and decency.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It’s a dreadfully sad day for Scottish and UK politics. The news about Charles Kennedy is stunning and absolutely tragic. Charles was one of these rare things in British politics, he was a brilliant and effective politician, perhaps one of the most talented politicians of his generation. And yet somehow he managed to be universally liked.”

Former First Minister Alex Salmond added: “Charles Kennedy was by far the most generous person I have ever met in politics. Sad loss of a great politician and, above all, a great man.”

David Mundell, the new Secretary of State for Scotland, said: “I have known Charles for over 30 years. He was an outstanding Scottish and British politician who was deeply committed to the Highlands and held in high esteem across the political spectrum for his judgement and principles. He was a genuinely nice man and his sense of humour and fun will be hugely missed.”

Former Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik says he was “not surprised” by Mr Kennedy’s death, saying politics was “his life” and losing his seat last month would have been a major blow.

“He had a hunger to serve people – 32 years of it,” he says. “I thought that he needed to get into the House of Lords quickly because that institution was enormously supportive.”

Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy said the UK has lost a “political giant”, adding: “Although we came from different political traditions, Charles was a man I was proud to call a friend.

“When I was first elected to the House of Commons back in 1997 as a young 29-year old, Charles was one of the first people to offer me support and guidance. He didn’t have to, but he did. That’s just the kind of man he was. Despite the sadness, those of us who knew him will remember the good times. We will look back at Charles’ wit and good humour. In years to come we will remember with a smile the delight in knowing him, his huge contribution to politics and a life lost too soon.”

And former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg summed him up: “Charles Kennedy on form, on a good day when he was feeling strong and happy, had more political talent in his little finger than the rest of us put together and that’s why everyone just felt, and still of course feels today, that it was just so tragic to see someone with such huge gifts also struggle as many people do with the demons that clearly beset him and the problems that he acknowledged he had with alcohol.”

I will close this piece with timeless comments from Professor James Raven from Cambridge who says he was honoured to call Charles Kennedy a friend: “The death of Charles Kennedy is a devastating loss for British politics. It’s a tremendous shock. A man of the greatest integrity, he advanced the cause of social justice and liberalism with immense thoughtfulness and determination.

“He combined enormous personal charm with huge and self-deprecating abilities. He was so effective because he was so passionate and warm. I first knew him as a very young MP in 1983 and we campaigned together through the 90s and three general elections.

“I was honoured to call him my friend and have treasured memories of his personal and generous support. He was an immensely gifted leader. I suggested he took a sabbatical to overcome his problems. I think the party would have accepted that. I regret he stood down.

“In private he was quite a shy man. He was a good friend to people. He was a very proud highlander. He will be missed by everyone who cared for the future of this country.”

Rest in Peace Charlie.

Time is a jet plane

Soaring at 5,000 miles per hour through the night sky these unidentified flying objects could be a 21st century addition to NATO’s airforce. Radar stations at Prestwick, West Freugh and RAF Buchan may have tracked their movements as they fly between secret airbases and the Norwegian Fjords, but the Ministry of Defence and the US Air Force deny they even exist. Nic Outterside investigates (January 2000)

ALMOST invisible to radar, the F-117 Stealth fighter is one of the most sophisticated warplanes ever built.
But for seven years the US Government denied that the top-secret aircraft – nicknamed Nighthawk – existed.
Then, in 1991, 40 Stealth fighters were suddenly deployed for action in the Gulf War.
Ranging the night skies over Baghdad on 1,270 missions the Nighthawks struck the most heavily defended Iraqi targets to stunning effect.
Now from the cloak of X-Files denial comes a Stealth successor: more powerful, blacker, faster and even more secret.
Under the codename Project Aurora – which may be a wrap for several secret aircraft – the planes are classified within the US defence department’s black programme – one whose existence is not admitted by the authorities.
Experts claim experimental and prototype Aurora aircraft are using Scotland, the skies above the North Sea and the wilderness areas of far-Northern Europe as their testing ground.
Bill Sweetman, former technical editor for Jane’s Information Group and an author of three books on Stealth technology claims the areas are ideal proving ranges.
“It certainly keeps them out of the eyes and ears of the US observers,” he said.
He claims that after 17 years the US defence department is reaching the latter stages of trialing space-age military aircraft capable of astonishing speeds.
“There continues to be a huge black hole in what we know the Pentagon has spent money on,” he told the Press and Journal.
“In 1999 black projects accounted for £12.1billion of USAF research expenditure – that is almost 40% of the £32billion research and development budget.”
Advanced secret aircraft developed at highly classified Government facilities in the Nevada Desert almost certainly include both manned and unmanned hypersonic jets designed to perform strategic reconnaissance and other less conventional missions for the US Air Force and its NATO allies.
A number of these aircraft have been seen and heard by ground-based and airborne observers in the western USA and in northern Europe during the past 10 years.
Based on more than 60 eye-witness reports there appears to be at least three distinct types of vehicle:
One is a “triangular-shaped quiet aircraft” observed with a fleet of Stealth fighters several times between 1989 and 1995. This may be a demonstrator or prototype of the much vaunted McDonnell Douglas A-12.
Another is a high speed aeroplane characterised by a very loud, deep rumbling roar, reminiscent of heavy-lift space rockets. In flight it makes a pulsing sound and leaves a segmented vapour trail.
The final contender is a high altitude jet that crosses the night sky at extremely high speed and at altitudes in excess of 50,000 feet. It is usually observed as single bright light but no engine noise or sonic boom is heard.
Observations are augmented by many reports of low-pitched, rumbling sonic booms.
In one seven month period a small team of observers in California logged at least 30 sonic booms believed to be produced by the same unknown aircraft.
Claims have surfaced that booms from Aurora test flights are responsible for sudden avalanches in Norway and an earthquake in the Netherlands as well as unexplained radar blips, eerie noises and isolated UFO sightings in Scotland.
Reporters from Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten say they have received numerous complaints of sudden bass-like booms from isolated fishing communities and farmsteads between Trondheim and Narvik, followed by sudden avalanches of snow.
They say that recently released information suggests that a 1986 avalanche in the Troms area of northern Norway, which killed 16 NATO soldiers, may have been triggered by early tests of a secret supersonic jet.
The P and J understands that Norwegian Government officials are now concerned about Aurora flights, damage caused by sonic booms and the lack of consultation from their US NATO allies.
An Oslo-based Government spokesman said they were carrying out long-standing research into the causes of avalanches and they were aware of the concern over test flights by military aircraft from the UK.
“We always receive a number of complaints from people over low-flying aircraft and sonic booms – and it is probably true that some sonic booms cause avalanches,” he added.
However, he refused to comment on the existence or activities of the Aurora.
Dutch scientists have meanwhile blamed the secret jet for causing a sudden earth tremor which jolted the north coast of the Netherlands.
A North-east RAF base recently traced a very fast radar blip across the North Sea. But when the incident was reported to RAF Buchan, superior officers denied all knowledge of it.
Oceanic Air Traffic Control at Prestwick also tracked fast-moving radar blips. It was claimed by staff that a “hypersonic jet was the only rational conclusion” for the readings.
Experts claim the Aurora has probably flown out of RAF Machrihanish airfield in Argyll while hi-tech tracking equipment at Benbecula, RAE West Freugh in Galloway and Fylingdales monitor its progress.
There have been reports of unidentified night-time aircraft noises from Machrihanish for a number of years.
But with the Kintyre base now downgraded to a care and maintenance position, experts are puzzled about the location of the Aurora’s new European test base.
Maryland journalist Lee Hickling has studied Aurora sightings in great detail.
“The information currently available shows Scotland and the North Sea are used extensively for the testing of these aircraft,” he said.
Mr Hickling, who for nine years covered science and manned space for the Gannet Newspapers Washington bureau, added: “I believe it is extremely likely that the aircraft – test beds for hypersonic engine and control technology – would be unmanned, because human bodies could not stand the G forces generated by manoeuvres at hypersonic speed.”
But last night Bill Sweetman said high speed – such as at Mach 7 or 8 – would not exclude manned aircraft. “It is only when you manoeuvre an aircraft at that speed that G forces come into play,” he said.
Mr Sweetman said the development of the Aurora within the US defence department’s “black projects” was a natural progression from the Stealth fighter, which first flew in 1982.
“They would not have sat still for 17 years,” he said.
“The evidence is strong that high speed propulsion and aerodynamics are at the cutting edge of this new development and the long runways at Groom Lake (USA) and Machrihanish would be ideal to fly the plane from.”
He said the skeleton staff at the “care and maintenance” RAF Machrihanish would be a perfect cover for further trialing of Aurora aircraft.
“One of the missions of high altitude supersonic aircraft was to operate over the North Atlantic as a reconnaissance strike system against the Soviet Northern Fleet and it would be natural to continue that test range despite the end of the cold war.”
The ultimate in aerodynamics the aircraft could reach anywhere in the world in three hours, he claimed.
However a MoD spokesman said last night: “There are no United States Air Force prototype aircraft based at British airbases and no authorisation has been given by Her Majesty’s Government to the USAF – or any other US body – to operate such aircraft within or from the United Kingdom.”
A spokesman for the US defence department denied any knowledge of Aurora or “Deep Black” aircraft. Mr Sweetman said it was natural for British and US military spokesman to deny the existence of the plane.
“Put it this way,” he said, “In 1988 the US Air Force had 50 F-117 Stealth aircraft operating in Nevada and still denied they existed.”

No frontiers

Andy is a plumber

He works from dawn till dusk

Barrie is a banker

Money fuels his lust

Colin is a carer

Looking after his old mum

Derek is a beggar

Seeking food to fill his tum

No borders

No nations

No class

No way


Edward is a baron

In a mansion cold and grey

Freddy is a homophobe

Though he is secretly gay

Gregory is a millionaire

Funding international genocide

Harry is his best friend

Knowing how he lied

No borders

No nations

No class

No way


Indira is a seamstress

Making dresses for the rich

Jakinda she sews trainers

One rupee for every stitch

Kondo was a warrior

But HIV has made him sick

Leandro he is starving

Earning a dollar for a trick

No borders

No nations

No class

No way


Mendel is a Rabbi

Living in the promised land

Noam is quite pleasant

Though no one sees his hand

Ovadia he buys weapons

For the IDF to fire

Pesach is an agent

With 20 guns to hire

No borders

No nations

No class

No way


Qasim is a builder

He works to earn some bread

Radi is an Iman

Saying prayers for the dead

Saha she smiles bravely

While burying her mum

Tasnim lost her legs

In the heat of the Gaza sun

No borders

No nations

No class

No way


Ursula is the Scottish wife

Of a paedophile parish priest

Vanora owns a town house

On a street in Inverleith

Willie wants independence

From the bastard English rule

Yolanda says he crazy

And a brainless Indy fool

No borders

No nations

No class

No way


While bombs rain down aplenty

On helpless Palestine

The yanks they start to blitz

The bloody ISIS line

The rulers keep us under

With lies and racial fear

They sip their Pimms and cocktails

And serve us promises and beer

No borders

No nations

No class

No way

Dr Filth is in charge of the cyanide hole

During the past three weeks I have republished six of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft, the fourth looked at big cats at large in the UK and the fifth was an investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae. The last piece looked at the extent of 40-year cover-up on exposure of British servicemen to A-bomb tests.
Today I reload a piece I wrote in 1995 about secret dumps of deadly Sarin gas in the sea waters off Scotland.

THOUSANDS of tonnes of the deadly Sarin gas are dumped in corroding drums off the Scottish coast.
Experts and environmentalists last night warned that it is only a matter of time before some of the nerve agent, buried in Scottish waters after the Second World War, could be washed ashore or trawled up by unsuspecting fishermen.
They also warn that the Japanese attack might encourage people to recover some of the nerve agent from its underwater repository for political extortion or terrorist activities.
The Nazis produced at least 300,000 tonnes of the substance during the war but never used it in battle. After the Third Reich fell, most of it was buried, burned or dumped in rivers, lakes, and the Baltic Sea.
Until the early 1980s, the US army had about four million litres of the gas in store in West Germany. It has also been produced in the Middle East.
Inhalation of just 0.5 milligrams of Sarin can kill almost instantly. The gas reduces the level of a key enzyme needed by the nervous system, causing difficulty in breathing, a decline in blood pressure, and contraction of the pupils. Survivors could still suffer nerve, brain, and liver damage.
German scientists said Sarin, 20 times as deadly as potassium cyanide, ranks as probably the world’s second most lethal chemical after a related gas called Soman.
More than 120,000 tonnes of chemical weapons captured from Nazi Germany were dumped by the British Government at sites in the North Channel, North Atlantic, the Skagerrak and the deep channel approaches to the Western Isles between 1945 and 1956.
The deep water repositories contain drums of Sarin, also known as GB, cyanide, the deadly blistering agent phosgene, and large quantities of mustard gas.
Official documents reveal that many of the dumps used to dispose of sarin between 1945 and 1947 are considerably shallower than the 1000 fathoms judged to be safe by 1956.
The Government remains adamant that the sites pose no threat to fish stocks or human life, despite fears raised by Irish politicians in 1986 of a link with an unusual number of birth defects.
Hundreds of dead birds and sea mammals have also been found, some of which displayed burns similar to those caused by nerve gases.
Two months ago, Greenpeace condemned plans by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to undertake exploratory fishing trials in deep waters off the Western Isles close to one of the dump sites.
Dr Rune Eriksen, a Swedish expert who sits on the Helsinki Committee for Chemical Weapons, said there had been more than 400 cases of Scandinavian fishermen trawling up pieces of solid mustard gas and other chemicals in the Baltic, where weapons were dumped by the Russians.
Many fishermen have been hospitalised and there have also been fatalities.
Dr Paul Johnston of Exeter University said it would only be a matter of time before Scottish fishermen suffer that same fate.
”These weapons are still active and potentially lethal,” he said, ”The drums are corroding and some may have punctured.”
He said chemical changes which may have occurred make Sarin ”even more corrosive and dangerous.
”It would be a triumph of hope over experience if there was not an accident before too long.”
However, he said of greater concern was that yesterday’s attack could give people the impetus to search for the drums of gas.
”It would be a highly dangerous enterprise but the gas could be used on the black market or for terrorist activities,” he warned.
Western Isles MP, Mr Calum MacDonald, said the Government must remain fully aware of the potential danger of the dump sites to fishermen and the general public.
He said he was also extremely concerned that members of the public might be tempted to search for the dumps. ”After what happened in Japan, there is quite an alarming prospect for the future lying off our coast,” he added.
A Greenpeace spokesman said: ”This tragedy in Japan proves how dangerous the gases are. We repeat our call made in January for the Government to conduct an urgent investigation into what exactly has been dumped and then to do something about cleaning it up or making it safe.”

Lettin’ the cat out of the cage and keeping a low profile

In the past fortnight I have republished three of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. One looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation and yesterday I reloaded a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft.
Today we are back down to Earth with an article about big cats at large in the UK. This was first published in 1999 and republished in 2009.

ARE they overgrown pussycats, the figment of over-active imaginations, or something much closer to jungle reality? The mystery surrounding Scotland’s big cats has grown to Nessie proportions. Now experts claim there may be 50 of them prowling our countryside
The eyes flicker gold against the dipped headlights. The bared fangs belong to a David Attenborough wildlife documentary. The coat appears a buff fawn. The shape is unmistakably that of a big cat – possibly a puma. But this is not Saskatchewan – it is Scotland.
It is a clear February night. My car is parked in a lay-by on the A712, a remote road which winds its way through the Galloway Forest. I have taken a short break from a 200-mile journey home from friends in the North. I am awe-struck. I move my left hand slowly across to the passenger glove box where I know my camera is loaded with flash and film. The plastic lock unclips and the camera drops into my hand. I look up – but the beast is gone.
Like many others before me I have my one and only brief encounter with one of Scotland’s mysterious big cats. No physical evidence, just what I saw with my own eyes. The mystery beast – possibly the famed Galloway Puma – could be one of up to 50 big cats roaming free in the UK.
During the past two decades thousands of people have reported sightings of big cats from Cornwall in the south to Caithness in the north. In Scotland, the Galloway Puma has cousins in Angus, Argyll, Aberdeenshire and Moray. Experts are now united in agreeing that the cats are real, may have been at large for more than 20 years and bred generations of offspring.
Marcus Matthews, who has researched big cat sightings since 1986, is convinced. His 165,000-word manuscript on UK sightings is set to become a definitive book on the subject. His study-bedroom is cluttered with 25 files and 5,000 letters he has collected on the subject.
“I have over 1,000 letters confirming sightings,” he says. “But for every reported sighting there are probably two or three others which have never been recorded. We are talking of maybe 50 big cats out there, ranging from black leopards to lynxes and smaller jungle and leopard cats. The evidence is there,” he urges. “For instance the skull of a puma found on Exmoor in 1993 was certainly genuine.”
In Scotland, a puma was caught in the hills north of the Great Glen in 1980, a leopard cat was shot near Jedburgh in the Borders in 1988 and another killed in Berwickshire a year later.
The Ross-shire puma was found in a trap by a Cannich farmer following an eight-month hunt during which he had lost many sheep and foals. The beast – suffering from chronic arthritis – was taken to the Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie, where she lived out her last years, dying in 1985. The origin of the Berwickshire leopard cat remains unknown, but the Jedburgh cat originally came from Edinburgh Zoo and had escaped from a private collection in Cumbria.
Last month, Buchan welder John Aitken revealed he had two encounters with a big cat within a year at Crimonmogate, near Fraserburgh. His sightings are part of a wave of new reports of puma-like creatures across the North.
Last year farmers in the Kiltarlity area in Highland blamed a big cat for a spate of sheep killings. Alan Syme, of the Scottish Agricultural College’s veterinary laboratories in Inverness, later confirmed that at least one of the sheep had been killed by “some creature other than foxes or dogs”.
Other sightings of big cats have been made near Stonehaven, Findhorn, Lochinver, Turriff and Huntly.
In South-west Scotland, the existence of the so-called Galloway Puma was recently given credence when three Canadian tourists staying in holiday chalets at Newton Stewart reported seeing the cat. They said it was identical to animals “back home” in Vancouver.
Sightings in the Forfar, Dundee and North Perthshire areas of the black-coloured “Angus Big Cat” have been reported for many years.
In 1994, Tayside Police followed their Grampian counterparts in appointing an officer to investigate reports of a predatory big cat roaming the rural areas and killing sheep.
And the big cat story is getting bigger:
First there was the Beast of Exmoor and the Surrey Panther.
A swamp cat was run over by a car at Hayling Island, Hampshire.
A Devon farmer shot a South American leopard.
The history of big cats in Scotland can be traced back to the 1920s when three lynxes were killed in traps set at individual points in the Highlands. Alford vet May Crossling says she first saw a big cat 20 years ago while driving in the Montrose area. She believes the most likely explanation for continued sightings is that a number of “panther-like cats” were released from private collections and have successfully bred in the wild. It is a view shared by others.
Malcolm Moy, former owner of the Argyll Wildlife Park in Inveraray, has long espoused the existence of a number of puma-like cats at large throughout Scotland. “It started when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was introduced in 1976,” he said. “Before that you could even buy these things in Exchange and Mart and many people had them as exotic pets. But after the Act local councils told owners to either get a local authority licence and provide secure caging or have their pets put down. Many couldn’t afford the expensive cages and couldn’t bear to have their cats destroyed, so dumped them in remote places in Wales, south-west England and Scotland.” Other beasts escaped from insecure small zoos and careless owners.
Mr Moy’s conclusions were confirmed by another expert. Police big-cat tracker Steve Ashcroft claimed there were an “alarming number of big cats now living wild in Britain”. He said there could be as many as 50. Mr Moy added: “By now some of these cats would have got together and produced litters.”
A puma’s usual prey is rabbits, roe deer or young red deer. But it will also attack stock. “We had a panther in Argyll and one farmer lost 18 sheep to it after the local rabbit population got myxomatosis,” he added. New sightings in mid-Argyll have added weight to claims that a family of panthers may be roaming the area. A recent sighting at Ford near Loch Awe was the 36 th catalogued by police in Lochgilphead since 1984. The animal was caught on video tape and the film corroborated by a local SSPCA officer.
Terry Moore of the Cat Survival Trust believes the estimate of 50 big cats at large may be a little high. But he is confident there are as many as 24, from seven different species, living on the mainland of Britain.
Fears over an increase in big cat numbers have been made by zoologist Quentin Rose, who has investigated sightings for seven years. Mr Rose claims to have identified 27 reliable reports of leopards, 32 of pumas and 18 smaller members of the cat family – jungle cats, leopard cats and ocelots – in Scotland, Wales, the West of England and East Anglia. He believes the known reports are just the tip of the iceberg. And he warns that if nothing is done, the big cat population could explode, posing a threat to indigenous wildlife, livestock and humans.
Bob Fotheringham, chief game warden at Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, is less alarmist but still believes there are big cats at large. “Every three or four weeks we get phone calls of sightings of big cats,” he said.
“There are currently a lot in the Fife area and close to Balfron. We know there are native Scottish wild cats, but they are only seen rarely because there is such a vast area of Scotland in which they can lose themselves. For similar reasons I personally believe there are big cats out there.”