SPECIALISTS are cleaning up the oldest war memorial in Inverness after complaints that some soldiers’ names on it are unreadable.
Moss and algae on the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders’ Memorial in the city’s Station Square had severely discoloured the stonework.
Workers began cleaning the statue this morning using high-powered jet sprays.
Campaigners are delighted the action is being taken, particularly during the Year of Homecoming when the Highlands expect a large influx of tourists, many from overseas who may be researching their family history.
The monument was put up in 1893 to mark the centenary of the Cameron Highlanders and later became a war memorial for campaigns in Egypt and Sudan.
It bears the names of 142 soldiers from Inverness and surrounding areas who lost their lives in these conflicts.
Specialist contractors are required to do the work because the monument, a statue of a Cameron Highlander on a plinth with the names, is made of Portland Stone, the same as the Cenotaph in London.
It was originally light grey in colour, but it had been badly covered in green algae and moss. The work will cost around £3,000.
Retired police officer Dave Conner, a member of the online forum which raised the matter with the council, said: “I was gobsmacked when I looked at it. It is such a mess. To see the names partially, or in some cases completely, obliterated by moss, I was disgusted.
“I understand you can’t have someone there cleaning it all the time, but it is important it is cleaned up sufficiently so people coming from overseas, particularly in the Year of Homecoming, perhaps looking to see a relative’s name, should at least be able to see it without all the mess.”
Colonel Angus Fairrie, convenor of the Cameron Highlanders’ Association, said: “Lots of old Cameron Highlanders are very proud of it and like to see it kept in sound condition.
“The council has been jolly good and always do their bit when they can.”
Inverness Central councillor Richard Laird said: “It is quite right to raise this and reasonable to expect all our memorials to be kept in better condition.”
A new Cameron Highlanders memorial was unveiled last summer at Old High St Stephen’s Church commemorating lives lost in the first and second world wars.
Last week, Highland Council approved £200,000 over the next four years to support the refurbishment of Highland war memorials in recognition of the centenary of the start of the first world war.
The funding of £50,000 per year will allow the authority to make bids for additional funding of £110,000 from external sources, including the Scottish Government’s Centenary Memorial Restoration Fund to repair and refurbish 175 war memorials for which the council has responsibility.
It was agreed that if the council was not successful in securing the funding it would consider meeting the £110,000 shortfall.