Forging Stronger Links with Durness

Published on 2 June 2016 by Mrs Fiona MacFarlane Categories: Senior School

The group beside the 'Hood' stonesOur S3 Project trip to Durness on the north coast of Scotland took part in a joint restoration project with the pupils from Durness Primary School, with their teacher, Meg MacRae, and the local Highland Ranger, Donald Mitchell, while they stayed at Smoo Youth Hostel.

Over many years the sailors of a number of boats and ships have used stones to spell out the names of their vessels, on the hillside some 300 feet above Laid on Loch Eriboll. They stretch over nearly half a mile of hillside.

They include those placed by the crew of HMS Hood, one of Britain's most famous battleships. As a collection they represent a very important piece of social history, but remain largely unknown to passers-by. With stunning views out to Ben Hope, Ben Loyal there can be few places more peaceful and fitting. 

They have been renovated infrequently over the years and some are in need of 'rescue' before nature takes over. 

Little did our pupils know that the day picked for this joint project, Tuesday 24 May, was actually the 75th anniversary of the sinking of HMS Hood by the German battleship, Bismarck. On that day 1415 crew lost their lives. 

The project group spent a number of hours in the sunshine. Lots of laughter, hard work and home bakes. The Primary pupils arrived fully dressed in their boiler suits ready for some hard work. They were fantastic. 

At the end, and with the Hood stones much more clearly visible from afar, they paid tribute to those who had lost their lives 75 years before, with Callum Robertson (S3) playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. 

William Sutherland, a committee member of the HMS Hood Association, said, "The Hood Association is most grateful for this fitting action, and I am particularly appreciative of John Coull's courtesy and forethought in letting the Hood Association learn of his plans to repaint the stones ... and if it had not been for the fact that I was at another ceremony in Portsmouth on the 75th anniversary of Hood's sinking on 24th May, I would have certainly attended this moving ceremony performed by staff and pupils of George Watson's College and Durness Primary School."

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