Brora Heritage Centre, in Brora on the East coast of Sutherland, hosts a small community museum packed with displays and objects relating to its fascinating and unique Highland History.
Home to Britain’s most northerly occurrence of coal, it was worked intermittently from 1529 to 1777 to fuel a salt-making industry on the shore. From 1810 a 240’ deep shaft was sunk to exploit the coal and, for this phase in the industrial history of the village, the coal fuelled a further salt-works, a whisky distillery, a brickworks and, later, a woollen tweed mill.
Sadly, the distillery is the only industry which has survived, but the stories live on in the museum, alongside many other incredible local stories from a village which has always punched above its weight.
The centre is operated by Clyne Heritage Society on behalf of Highlife Highland and is open daily, 10.30-4.30, from Good Friday to the end of October. The Society is pursuing plans to open its own heritage centre and museum in the redeveloped, currently semi-derelict, Old Clyne School on the main A9 on the north side of the village.
Strathnaver Museum has taken a major step forward in realising their vision for creating a world class visitor attraction on the north Sutherland coast after securing £113,157 from Museum Galleries Scotland’s Recovery and Resilience Fund.
As well as supporting the future aspirations and recovery of the popular visitor attraction the funding will help cover operational costs during the 2020 closure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project Manager, Fiona Mackenzie said “Strathnaver Museum secures 76% of its income from admissions and retail sales so the closure of the museum has had a significant impact on our income generation over 2020. The closure could have had a significant impact on our reserves which have been built up over many years to help fund our much-anticipated refurbishment programme. This welcome funding from MGS will ensure that we enter 2021 in a strong position and are able to carry forward our essential refurbishment programme”.
The funding granted towards recovery will enable Strathnaver Museum to undertake crucial survey work to progress plans for the refurbishment and repair of Strathnaver Museum. The development project will make much needed repairs, improve access to the site and its collection, create additional spaces for community projects and help the Trust to improve its sustainability.
Lucy Casot, CEO of Museums Galleries Scotland said:
“We are pleased to support Strathnaver Museum through the Recovery and Resilience Fund. They have faced severe difficulties caused by the pandemic, but none the less have continued to make exciting plans for their substantial refurbishment programme to become a heritage hub for North West Sutherland.
We are delighted that this fund will support the museum to continue their development as an important hub for regional heritage and an asset for their rural community.”
Strathnaver Museum’s building dates from the mid-18th century and is an important part of the Highland Clearances story. From the pulpit which still dominates the main room, Rev David Mackenzie read out eviction notices to his congregation. Later in 1883 crofters and cottars gathered to give evidence to the Napier Commission which eventually led to them gaining security of tenure.
Strathnaver Museum have secured £1.06 million of the £1.9 million capital funding costs which will secure the building, create a new agricultural annex building and see new interpretation installed across the site. The group are awaiting the outcome of a number of funding applications and have launched a Crowdfunder to help meet an anticipated £30,000 funding gap.