The person who had the idea to erect a monument to Neil Gunn was Kerr Yule, Chemistry teacher at Dingwall Academy. Kerr and his wife, Ann, were both enthusiastic readers of Neil Gunn’s books. One Saturday morning the couple were sitting on the banks of the Skiach River, a few hundred yards to the north and west of where the Monument is now situated on Heights of Brae. Ann had just been reading The Shadow by Neil Gunn. There is a scene in The Shadow where two men are quarrelling and fighting: Kerr and Ann were wondering if the scene they were looking towards could possibly have been the exact spot where the fight had taken place.
It was then that Kerr suddenly said “Why don’t we erect a Monument to Neil Gunn” – and so the project was born.
The first thing needed was to find other local people as keen to take part in such a project as Kerr and Ann were.
The first person that Kerr approached was Allan Haldane, who taught Art at Dingwall Academy. Kerr thought that Allan’s artistic skills would be very helpful in launching the idea.
Next Kerr decided to approach Douglas Murray, a local architect, who Kerr had met very recently and been impressed by him.
Then Bob Davidson approached Kerr in the library in Dingwall, having read the article in the Ross-shire Journal indicating the proposal of a Monument being erected on Heights of Brae above Dingwall. Bob was keen to be involved in such a project – our one volunteer.
Alison Wilkie, who worked for the BBC and, at one time, had her own programme, was the next person to be approached, as Kerr reckoned that we would need a lot of publicity to interest others in what we intended to undertake.
Finlay Macrae, forester and piper, was the last person to join the team of seven local people, each with a different talent.
The first meeting of the Neil Gunn Trust was held in April, 1983. Kerr was appointed as Chairmen, Allan as Treasurer and Bob as Secretary, with Ann, Alison, Douglas and Finlay as Trustees.
Over the years the seven trustees worked well together as a team, with the result that the Neil Gunn Monument was unveiled in 1987 by Sorley Maclean, renowned Gaelic poet, and Jessie Kesson, author, on the last day of October.
Since that time the Trust has been involved in many projects, including a photographic competition, donating a plaque to the Strathpeffer Games for a running race, organising a Neil Gunn Writing Competition in partnership with Ross & Cromarty District Council, whose suggestion this was, every second year and organising a Neil Gunn Lecture in the intervening year.
Over the years there has been change in the Trustees. Ann Yule is the present Convenor of the Neil Gunn Trust, Douglas Murray is now the Vice-Convenor and Charlotte MacArthur is the Administrator of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition and the Trust’s Treasurer. Marilyn Sneddon was the Trust’s Treasurer for many years; she continues as a Trustee and Minutes Secretary. The Trust’s most recently acquired Trustee is Alisdair Stewart, a forester, who also looks after groups of Community Payback offenders; this has proved to be very helpful regarding the maintaining of the Neil Gunn Viewpoint area.
Bob Davidson is now the Managing Director of the publishing firm, Sandstone Press, but still assists the Trust by sponsoring the biennial Neil Gunn Lecture.
Colin Ferguson was a Trustee for several years, with a particular interest in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition. He became involved with a project in Africa and stood down as an active Trustee at that time. His involvement in that project has now greatly decreased and Colin is now back helping to judge the Secondary Schools section of the Neil Gunn Writing Competition.