Thieves steal £8,000 plaque from hill on ‘crime-free’ isle of Colonsay
An historic bronze plaque valued at more than £8,000 has been stolen from a remote and virtually crime-free island in the Hebrides.
Commissioned in 1936, and unveiled two years later, the metal plaque has been prised out of its setting, at a listed national monument on the 136-metre high summit of Beinn nan Gudairean, on Colonsay.
Inscribed to show the direction of surrounding landmarks, from Ben Nevis to Ben More, it includes a unique pointer to the “Irish Free State” – a term that became obsolete during its manufacture.
Islander Kevin Byrne appealed for the culprit to return this important piece of island history.
“The theft only came to light when the five primary school children from Kilchattan School on Colonsay went up Beinn nan Gudairean with their teacher to take a brass rubbing and found it wasn’t there,” he said.
Islanders are still trying to establish when the theft took place.
“I was leading a fun run of the 21 Colonsay hills over 300ft high – we call them our MacPhies – on 9 April, and we didn’t notice then that the plaque was missing. But we took a photo for the records, at the top of every summit, and when we checked the photos we saw that it had gone.”
He said the 30-inch plaque was important in its own right but also had historical significance. It was funded by a group of friends, who regularly visited the island, with help from the then Baroness Strathcona.
Mr Byrne said: “They were friends from Glasgow who were regular summer visitors to Colonsay after the First World War. They had a fun club, known as the Colonsay Thiefs, and they gave many things to the island.”
The theory on the island is that someone has stolen the plaque to keep for themselves.
Mr Byrne said: “Although the police have suggested that this could be a metal theft, whoever took it has taken the wood nest it was in as well, so I think, with luck, it hasn’t been ground down.
“I think it was just high jinx that it was taken away. I have been on Colonsay for 34 years and there has been virtually no crime in that time; this is very unusual, the last crime was a minor theft a couple of years ago.”
The plaque, designed by Glasgow-based town planner James Macaulay, was set within the confines of a monument that marks the location of a look-out post thought to date back to the time of the Lords of the Isles.
Mr Byrne said: “It’s a big loss to Colonsay and it’s pointless to anybody else. The plate is irreplaceable, but in view of its distinguished provenance its intrinsic value is considerably in excess of eight thousand pounds.”
A Strathclyde Police spokesman said: “Enquiries are continuing, we will be liaising with the community.”
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