Having supported The Journey Through Elphin community wall-hanging. project through our Community Grants Scheme it was a pleasure to attend the unveiling of the finished wall hanging at Elphin village Hall.

Earlier in the year my six-year-old daughter had won the Elphin Chicken Day Painting Competition in school. She was now looking forward to counting the chickens on the community textile. We arrived just in time for the unveiling of the sewn artwork by the youngest member of the Elphin community to the delight of the Elphin craft group members who had created the hanging, other community members and visitors.

This stunning wall hanging is huge! It measures 2.5 metres by 1.2 metres. It incorporates stories and icons of Elphin on a stylized map. Such landmarks as the Elphin Tearoom and red telephone box orient the map for the observer and are interspaced with historic and personalised memories and locations. Community members explained the meaning of the image of the Elphin women arguing with the bailiffs that recalls the women’s successful actions to confound the township’s evictions during the clearances,, as well as the significance of the old post office building and the previous AA Call Box at Ledmore Junction.

Working locally, I was able to recognise the old Royal Observer Corp monitoring post, built underground to withstand a nuclear bomb, and my daughter was delighted to be able to count the chickens. All the features of the map are pictured in an assembled book, side by side with an explanation of their stories. As we asked about all the details on the hanging, we were struck by the waterfall Eas Dubh flowing from the Cam Loch into Loch Veyatie, where the children of Elphin used to swim.

Jan Kilpatrick, a local textile artist and who has lived in Elphin for 14 years applied for the grant for the project from the CALLP Community Grant Scheme. Jan coordinated the design and creation of the textile wall hanging through the local Elphin Craft Group and was delighted when other members of the community become involved.

She notes: “The creation of the wall hanging stimulated wider interest in the community to record the stories of Elphin. The ensuing legacy from the project is the creation of a website where community members can send images of their mementos and stories to document the history and traditions of Elphin for the wider community.”

After all the tapestry chickens were counted, and enough chocolate cake was eaten, we said our goodbyes. On our way out of the hall my daughter asked if we too could visit the nearby waterfall. With the afternoon still crisp and bright we followed the directions, “take the track to the fish farm and you will hear the falls before you see them!”

The falls are about 600m from the road and the roar of the rushing water easily leads you to the bridge that crosses the river above the falls. The Eas Dubh are substantial and on such a clear, frosty afternoon were framed by the heights of Cul Mor and the snowy peak of Ben Mor Assynt, tinted by the red of the low sun.

In the words of my daughter, on finding the Eas Dubh, “This is quite an adventure!”

Eas Dubh, Elphin © Boyd Alexander/Scottish Wildlife Trust
Eas Dubh, Elphin © Boyd Alexander/Scottish Wildlife Trust

The Journey Through Elpin is just one project that has been supported by our Community Grant Scheme, which is kindly funded by both the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Scottish Natural Heritage. Over the last three years grants totalling over £72,000 have been awarded to 10 individuals and 18 local organisations. These modest awards are matched by in-kind contribution and match funding for projects with a combined total worth, over the three years of over £225,000, allowing these heritage projects to have significant impact.

Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape

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