Skye to honour legendary Scots climbers with work of art

Its spectacular unspoiled landscape draws thousands of visitors to the Isle of Skye every week. And now the world-famous Cuillin mountain range is set to get a new attraction '“ in the form of a striking new work of art honouring two pioneering climbers.

How the sculpture will look on completion
How the sculpture will look on completion

The nine foot tall work will honour Skye-born John Mackenzie, Scotland’s first mountain guide, and his close friend and climbing companion, the explorer and mountaineer Norman Collie.

It is hoped the £320,000 venture, which will create the first major work of public art on Skye, will pave the way for the creation of a sculpture trail around the whole island.

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Its backers, who have spent more than a decade pursuing the project, have launched a final fundraising push in an attempt to have the bronze sculpture made and installed in 2017.

Its unveiling is being planned to coincide with a year-long celebration of history, heritage and archaeology, which has been instigated by the Scottish Government.

The trust behind the Collie and Mackenzie sculpture is trying to raise the final £125,000 to pay for the creation of the figures, which will be one-and-a-half times life-size.

The project has already paid for a new “Gateway to the Cuillin” car park, seating area, shelter and information panels at the proposed site of the sculpture at the mountaineering shrine of Sligachan.

It is hoped Creative Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund will back the creation of the sculpture, which has been designed by Skye-based artist Stephen Tinney.

The trust is planning to stage a new mountaineering and heritage festival at Sligachan, which has boasted an inn for climbers tackling the Cuillin mountains since the 18th century.

Mackenzie, who was born at Sconser, three miles away from Sligachan, began walking up the local mountains when he was just 10 years old.

He met Cheshire-born Collie, who was an internationally-renowned climber, on Skye after becoming a professional guide and the pair would go on to make ground-breaking climbs together, many of which were in the Cuillins, over a period of almost 50 years.

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The Collie Mackenzie Sculpture Group is currently promoting the project on Skye with a specially commissioned maquette made by the artist.

Chair of the group Morag Nicolson said: “All the landscaping and upgrading work at the site has been completed. We’re now at the stage of trying to raise the profile of the sculpture itself and secure the final funding to get it put in place.

“The idea is to do a mountaineering and heritage festival when the sculpture is unveiled. After that we would want to see a whole sculpture trail around Skye.”

“At the moment sites like the Fairy Pools and the Old Man of Storr are being saturated with tourists. We need to spread them more around the island.”

Tinney said: “There aren’t really any sculptures or works of art on Skye at the moment. The closest thing I can think of is the cracking war memorial at Glenelg just opposite Kylerhea on Skye.

“When I first pitched for this it was very much about the power of sculpture in the landscape.

“It takes on a whole new meaning when you put it in a rural setting, unlike most sculptures in Scotland.”

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Skye MP Ian Blackford said: “I was delighted to meet with members of the group to hear about the work they have done and are proposing to do which will see the bronze statue erected.

“What a tremendous vision they have had in devising a tourist trail that will link to the statue of these great, world renowned climbers and take people on a route which will show off some of Skye’s most beautiful scenery.”