On the way home from Inverness on Thursday we made a detour and headed up the hill to the Fyrish Monument. It is a relelntless uphill walk of two miles each way, on a forest path but the end views are worth it.
"A story of the compassion by a rich man towards the less fortunate, seasoned by an element of vanity, lies behind a structure that dates back to a dark time in the history of the Scottish Highlands.
The Fyrish Monument was built in 1782 in Fyrish near Alness, Easter Ross, on the authorisation of Sir Hector Munro, 8th laird of Novar and a British soldier who served in India and became Commander in Chief of India from 1764-1765. Sir Hector was a native of Fyrish during a period in when local Highlanders were being driven off their land by landlords unable to make a good enough living from poor tenants. The process was known as ‘The Clearances.’ It was a time in Scottish history when the Highlands of Scotland were hostile and the land too barren to support the production of crops in sufficient quantity or quality. This left crofters and farmers unable to pay their rents and the landlords were not happy.
Violence and hostility amongst the Highlanders was a common practise and some landowners burnt down crofts to force the tenants to move out so they could rent the land for grazing. The Clearances were a consequence of economic change that had a huge impact upon many lives and changed the Highland way of life forever.
Sir Hector showed compassion to his workers by extending the time that it took to build the monument. It is said that he ‘ordered’ rocks and boulders to be rolled by hand down the hillside one by one to slow the process down.
The design of the monument represents the gate of Negapatam, a port in Madras, which the General had taken for the British in 1781 after returning to India. This is an unusual monument as most are built for a specific reason but the Fyrish Monument appears to have been erected as a personal ‘trophy’ to Sir Hector by Sir Hector. It is also unusual in the way it was built. It is a natural assumption that anyone paying for labour would want it finished quickly to keep the cost down. However, Sir Hector prolonged the construction work thus having to pay his workers more. Could this have been a ‘protest’ against the harsh and barbaric treatment dished out to poor crofters by some of his fellow landowners?
That could be a very romantic way of looking at this ‘perceived’ charitable act. Sir Hector might have had other reasons for wanting to ‘prolong’ the building work. At the time any relief afforded to the starving and destitute was only provided in return for labour. It was feared that to feed people without them working would promote laziness and the construction of the monument was tasked to the local destitute." [Source: britainexplorer.com]
Looking down into the Cromarty Firth with Invergordon in the centre. Invergordon was an important base for the Home Fleet during WWI. A battelship was sunk there and sabotage was suspected but in the end it turned out to be faulty ammunition that caused the blast.
Left: Ben Wyvis (3,432ft) Right: Little Wyvis (2,503ft); seen from the monument.
Reflctions in a hillside lochan