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Hopes to refurbish Wick monument after RBLS failed to take project forward

By David G Scott

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A striking war memorial overlooking Wick Bay will hopefully be refurbished after the local community council agreed to help with funding initiatives.

During Monday evening's online meeting of the Royal Burgh of Wick Community Council (RBWCC), vice chairperson Alan Farquhar said that a "comprehensive package would go out to tender" to take the project forward.

"There's a considerable amount of project management involved in the job," he told members.

Soldier's Tower at the North Head of Wick Bay. Picture: Alan Hendry
Soldier's Tower at the North Head of Wick Bay. Picture: Alan Hendry

Chairperson Joanna Coghill said that an architect had provided updated costs for the refurbishment of the Soldiers' Tower to "take it back to what it was".

The Soldiers’ Tower at the North Head was constructed in 1909 in honour of Caithness men who had served their country in conflicts including Trafalgar, Waterloo and the Peninsular and Boer wars.

Also know as the North Tower, the memorial had faced demolition before the local branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland (RBLS) purchased the title deeds from the Hempriggs Estate for £1 in early 2017.

Work on refurbishing the monument came to a standstill after the departure of Captain Richard Otley from the local RBLS branch as its chairman in 2018.

Captain Otley had arranged for its purchase and had it successfully listed with Historic Scotland. He then obtained funding for phase one and two of the project and engaged contractors to complete both.

The former chairman said he had obtained £30k funding for the project but, after he "was ousted" in October 2018, the branch failed to go forward with phase three so funding was withdrawn after 12 months.

Monday's Zoom meeting of Wick's community councillors.
Monday's Zoom meeting of Wick's community councillors.

At Monday's RBWCC meeting, Mrs Coghill said: "The money they're looking at to bring it back into any form of replication of what it used to be is £140,000. A huge sum, and it's not quite what I expected."

She said that it may be a "struggle to get grant money" for the project as so much time had now elapsed since the original application.

Members said that it may be possible to apply for funding from Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) and to obtain a reduced figure for work completion from a different firm of architects.

Roy Mackenzie talked about the issues that stymied the project saying: "Richard [Otley] finished at stage two and it just went underground. They [RBLS] had £30,000 promised to them in grants – they've lost that now I would think.

"Because this is a listed building and its done to Historic Scotland standards, that is why it's so expensive."

Mrs Coghill said that match funding was often needed to take such projects forward and RBWCC would have to look into the matter "a lot deeper" now to see what is available.

RBWCC secretary Jayden Alexander is contacting the local RBLS to find out what funding packages it has received and any money that has been spent, if any, out of these on the project already. The community council will assist the branch in whatever needs to be done in order to see the long-standing matter brought to an end.

Time to 'start afresh' on Wick Soldiers' Tower renovation

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