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Caithness featured at 'very successful' Independence festival in Golspie

By Gordon Calder

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A THREE-day Independence festival, which featured poets, musicians and speakers from across Scotland, including Caithness, was "very successful," according to the organisers.

The event was held last weekend in Golspie in the shadow of the statue of the Duke of Sutherland, who played a key role in the Highland Clearances and is know locally as the Mannie. The Clearances resulted in the brutal eviction of tenants from their homes in the 18th and 19th centuries and is said to have contributed to many of the problems facing the area today.

The organisers – Yes Caithness and Yes Ross Sutherland – decided to stage the festival, called Manniefest, in the Sutherland town which nestles below the duke’s statue on Ben Bhraggie. There have been many calls for the statue to be removed over the years because of what it represents to many people.

The Manniefest parade in Golspie was part of the three-day festival
The Manniefest parade in Golspie was part of the three-day festival

Ian Sinclair of Yes Caithness said: "We had a very successful Manniefest and it was nice to see some familiar faces there, including poet and whistle player, Johnny McLeod and writer, George Gunn, both from Caithness."

Gunn was one of around 50 people who climbed up to the statue to unfurl a number of saltires, the largest of which was 70x50 feet. A piper played at pibroch at the top of the hill and drone footage captured the event.

"It was a hard slog up the hill with some of the saltires weighing more than 20 kilograms but they did it," said Sinclair.

He added: "The march down Fountain Road with the Saor Alba Pipes and Drums and huge saltire was well attended. The evening ceilidh was a sell-out with a crowd of 200 plus. The music and poetry all went down well and actress and folk singer, Dolina Maclennan, who toured the Highlands with the The Cheviot, the Stag and Black Black Oil in the 1970s, recited Island Funeral by Hugh McDermott. We have raised funds for the local foodbank and they will be handed over when we have the final total."

The saltires were laid at the foot of the statue of the Duke of Sutherland
The saltires were laid at the foot of the statue of the Duke of Sutherland

The event was held from Friday until Sunday and attracted a number of well-known figures such as broadcaster and journalist, Lesley Riddoch and Professor Alf Baird from Orkney.

Also taking part were The Graham Brown Band, Steve Eaglesham, Eddie Reid, and Arena along with Indy poet, Paul Colvin.

Caithness was represented by George Gunn and Johnny McLeod as well as the Addie Harper Band, Barracuda and some young poets.

Sinclair said an event like Manniefest had not taken place before in the Highlands.

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