Invergordon has literally drawn on its own history in order to create a marvellous mural experience in the town.
Before their creation the biggest things around Invergordon were often the giant oil drilling rigs. Or perhaps cruise ships and huge wind turbines waiting for erection just off shore.
Although, the town has two local human hulks who are likely to the subject of any upcoming new creation. Celebrating now 20 years since the first one was painted.
The Stoltman brothers Tom and Luke who live in the town have held World’s Strongest man records and Britain’s No1 and Scotland’s of course too.
But now the focus in this small Easter Ross town beside the Cromarty Firth in Ross-Shire is the likely expansion of the outside art exhibition on those very streets.
Following on from an idea conceived on the other side of the world in Tasmania. A plan of multiple murals around the town was put forward.
Since 2004 murals have been created at key points around the town. And today the town boasts 11 major works with numerous small ones to hunt out too.
Professionally painted these works recall the town’s history, heritage and of course Highland life.
Start The Mural Trail Here
Starting point is generally from Invergordon railway station then to the High Street. A station with its own very interesting history. Connected as it was to the military of two world wars.
Also discover by strolling around the town and hunting them out for yourself is fun too.
This community led arts project has created a lasting legacy for tourism and visitors. Plus it has developed an improved community spirit too.
A tour of the murals will take around one hour to 90 minutes to complete. Something that the passengers of around 120 cruise ships per year also can experience.
Gable ends of houses and walls are now covered with colourful art works. Full of detail and telling stories of times gone by in Invergordon.
The first mural to be created was on the Albyn Housing building in the High Street. That work was started on April 2004.
This was once a really thriving Royal Naval fleet base. With the railway station playing an important role as it was very well connected to London Euston by the so called Jellicoe Express.
Direct trains brought numerous ship companies from the southern England to the tiny station in Sutherland.
The Fleet Crews Were Delivered By Rail
Delivering probably hundreds of thousands of Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines to their waiting ships and even going further north onto Thurso.
Where at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys the other fleet was based.
Called the Invergordon ‘Off The Wall Project’. The idea was kicked off by local resident Marion Rhind who had seen first hand in Tasmania what murals had done for the town of Sheffield there.
Following a string of meetings within the community in 2002 where some 17 groups in total were included the idea gained traction.
Artists were attracted to the project which was opened in 2007 by Princess Anne the Princess Royal.
There are multiple human stories behind the murals. In ‘The Way We Were’ by Steve Des Landes he included the town fountain. Also a Royal Marines band marching through the town and even added a local character who would ride his bike every day along High Street whistling as he went!
‘Pipes and Drams’ by Anna Starling features the pipe band of the local distillery. The Invergordon Distillery Pipe Band wearing the tartan of the Marchioness of Huntly for which special permission was granted.
Murals Gathering In Tourists
‘Gather Round’ by Alan Potter. The Highland Gathering was an annual event which coincided with the arrival of the Naval Fleet in September each year. Following a meeting the design was agreed and the end wall was prepared for the mural.
This required screeding and smoothing with sand and cement of the laundry building. Creating a suitable smooth surface on which the artist could then work.
The Seaforth soldiers can be seen pitting themselves against the Royal Navy at tug of war. A popular choice for ‘selfies’ by the visitors.
‘Volunteer Spirit’ which illustrates the work by the local RNLI volunteers. The men and women who turn out in all weathers to provide rescue services at sea.
The ‘Off The Wall Committee’ said: “We love the name of this mural, chosen by the men and women of the Invergordon RNLI. It could equally sum up the ethos of the whole mural trail.”
Jellicoe Express Station
As well as telling the story of the Jellicoe Express the station has a number of large and small murals under the name ‘The Long Goodbye’.
Part of the story of the 51st Highland Division The Seaforth Highlanders at St Valery-en-Caux. A battling rear guard action at Dunkirk was where the regiment was captured thus delaying the Germans. However, they were not the lucky ones rescued off the beaches as many others were.
The artist Tracey Shough even used photographs taken by German General Erwin Rommel during her research. At the Imperial War museum.
One of the most popular murals locally is ‘Our Legacy’. Which tells the story of the local wildlife. And the need to protect them and the ecosystems that support them all too. This is another work by Tracey Shough, assisted by local Primary school children and the Invergordon Environment Group.
Chairman Sonny Tells Of Pride And Partnership
Speaking of the pride in the town after the success of the murals Sonny Rhind Chairman of Invergordon Off The Wall said: “At one stage initially the town had 19 empty shops and the community needed to get together and the murals idea was taken up.
“It brought the community together by connecting the many diverse groups that existed in the town. Using art as a catalyst for that. With full consultation in the town the murals flourished and now there is a resurgence. For we plan for 3 new murals in the town. And certainly the Stoltman brothers mural will be a popular choice by the townsfolk.
“We are continuing working on publicising the town even more. And a crucial tourism style brown sign highlighting the town’s art trail will be a huge help. Pointing visitors driving on the A9 part of busy NC500 route into Invergordon.