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A Guide To Historic Thurso

A selection of Thurso’s landmark buildings and natural attractions are showcased in a new booklet produced in March 2008.

The guide, written by local historian Alan McIvor, is the first of its kind to emerge for 30 years.

Its centrepiece displays a map of the town and highlights three suggested walks, which take in the 22 featured locations. Mr McIvor gives a potted history of each of the sites, which are also illustrated by photos taken by him.

While aimed primarily at visitors, the guide contains a collection of nuggets of information which will be of interest to local people. It, for instance, recalls how prior to the building of the main road bridge in 1800, townsfolk used to have to have to cross the river by boat. There is reference to a tragedy in 1749 when 17 on their way to a market drowned after an overloaded cobble capsized.

The guide also recounts how the town’s trading links with the Netherlands were responsible for the renaming of the Blackgutter as Rotterdam Street. It also tells the fascinating story of the town’s oldest house, the two-storey Turnpike in the Fisherbiggins area, which dates back to the 1600s and was sketched by L.S. Lowry.

The chequered history of Thurso Castle is featured, as is the town’s one-time thriving harbour, which in the heyday of the flagstone trade employed over 1000. Other sites include the historic Old St Peter’s kirk; the houses lived in by famous botanist Robert Dick and Boys Brigade founder William Smith; and the town hall and adjoining former Carnegie Library, which cost a total of £4500 to build.

Mr McIvor, who was assisted by friend and fellow historian Donald Smith, said it was not easy to come up with the final list. “The sites we chose are really just the tip of an iceberg,” said the 36-year-old. “We had a long list of 33 sites and we whittled it down from there.”

He embarked on the project after a number of people commented to him on the need to update the previous guides. He said: “The last guide was written 30 years ago by the late Henrietta Munro so it was definitely time for a new one.”

The £2000 cost of the first run of 1250 has been underwritten by Thurso Rotary Club, Dounreay Communities Fund and Caithness Horizons. Priced £3.50, it is being distributed for sale in local shops and tourist outlets. Proceeds will be ploughed back into a reprint and/or the funding of interpretative plaques on the featured sites.

Club secretary Trevor Williams, who proof-read the guide, said yesterday: “We’re very happy with the look of it. “It’s informative while not being too deep and the walks are well planned and can each be completed in about an hour.” The guide was laid out and printed by Thurso-based ROM-ART Computer Services.

The book will be available from Jim Bew’s newsagents, D. Sinclair’s, J. A. MacKay Grocer, Cards & Things, Reid’s Bakery and Chip shop, St. Clair Hotel and Tempest Surf Café.