Published: 08/06/2018 10:00 - Updated: 06/06/2018 15:12

Wick's Bremner monument gets a facelift

Written byJean Gunn

A MONUMENT at Wick in memory of wreck-raiser and civil engineer James Bremner has been given a facelift.

The refurbished James Bremner monument in Wick with Callum Miller (centre), his son Mikie (right) and (from left) Wick Paths Group chairman Allan Tait, secretary John Bogle and member Charlie Bain with his dog Jet. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Stu
The refurbished Bremner monument with Callum Miller (centre), his son Mikie (right) and (from left) Wick Paths Group chairman Allan Tait, secretary John Bogle and member Charlie Bain with his dog Jet. Picture: Robert MacDonald / Northern Studios
The memorial overlooking the town’s harbour has been refurbished by John Hood & Son (Sculptors) and paid for by local building firm MM Miller.

 

The Wick Paths Group, which was instrumental in getting the work at the memorial under way, plans to place an interpretive panel at the site telling people about the work Bremner carried out.

Group secretary John Bogle said: “There are a wealth of stories about James Bremner. I’m sure there are a lot of people who won’t know them.”

He explained that only the base of the memorial, which was erected in 1903, was still to be refurbished with the interpretation panels set to complete the whole project.

The path along by the memorial is on the Wick section of the John O’Groats Trail, a 147-mile route from Inverness.

Mr Bogle pointed out that interpretation panels were already in place on the stretch of the trail through Wick, with one at the Trinkie. However, two existing panels are being moved to the Braehead and North Head.

He said the paths were already proving popular with local people and visitors and the group is keen to provide information about the area.

Mr Bogle added that the civil engineer’s gravestone – in the graveyard of Wick St Fergus Church – had also been tidied up recently.

Wick Harbour Authority chairman Willie Watt MBE said: “For me James Bremner is one of the unsung heroes of Caithness. He is just an amazing character. Nothing was too difficult for him and he treated everybody he worked with the greatest of respect. He was a great leader and motivator.”

Mr Watt pointed out that one of the Wick engineer’s greatest achievements was the refloating of the SS Great Britain – the largest ship of its time – when she ran aground off Ireland in the 1840s.

He said that Mr Bremner was sent for from Wick, along with a few of his men, when other engineers had failed in one of the biggest salvage operations of that era.

James Bremner (1784-1856) was born at Stain, Keiss. He was an apprentice in a Greenock shipyard and returned to Wick to establish his own shipbuilding business, constructing over 50 vessels in as many years as well as designing and building many harbours. He was involved in the construction of the breakwater at Wick harbour.

A local author, John Mowat, once described Mr Bremner as “the Ulysses of the north” and “our greatest Caithnessian”.

Mr Bremner is still remembered in Keiss with a plaque at the harbour erected by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

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