It’s a sad state of affairs that it takes someone from abroad to encourage me to see something under my nose. I try to be good at making the most of the amazing scenery and history on my doorstep, but in the case of the Fyrish monument, about half an hour north of Inverness and overlooking the Cromarty Firth, I’ve been lazy. I’ve meant to go and see it for years, and was vaguely aware it was built as a folly, just to give people some work. Beyond that, though, I wasn’t sure of its story. It was just one of those places I told myself I should get around to seeing one day.
It took some Indian people living locally who I know to put me right. They had been to visit it recently, spurred on by a connection to India, and specifically a place near where they came from. It was built by Hector Munro, a native of the area who served in the British army in the 1700s (and who, in a prime example of how the Scots are historically their own worst enemies, was a major figure in the battles against the Jacobites).
But it was inspired by a gate in the Tamil Nadu port of Nagapattinam, a strategically important place taken from the Dutch in the colonial wars India was unwilling host to. Munro had served there and in fact rose to be Commander in Chief of India in the 1760s before returning to Scotland.
The Fyrish monument was built not only, no doubt, with a sense of nostalgia for his time in India, but also apparently to generate work for local people (who had of course been evicted from their land during the clearances). Hearing about it from our Indian friends inspired us to go and visit it last weekend.
It’s an impressive structure, all the more so for the hour or so’s walk it takes to reach it from the main car park. When we were there, it was cold, grey and overcast, which actually added to the atmosphere and made black and white shots quite appropriate. There was still, despite the weather, a good view over the firth with its moored rigs, the towns of Evanton, Alness and Invergordon, and right out to sea.
Although an “alien” design, it rather suited its context, I felt. It would be nice to return on a clearer day, or perhaps at sunrise. You can read more about it on Wikipedia.