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Mural to Thurso scientist Robert Dick damaged

By David G Scott

THE recently created mural in Thurso portraying the town’s great scientist Robert Dick has been damaged in what may be a deliberate attack.

Gracing a car park wall at the back of the now closed Caithness Horizons building the colourful painting shows signs of apparent vandalism with pieces from the left-hand side knocked off and lying on the ground.

Thurso councillor Matthew Reiss said it was depressing for everyone to see the damage.

“I’d ask those responsible to own up and even organise repair if possible and to recognise the pointlessness of this antisocial behaviour. Thankfully this type of vandalism remains unusual in our town.”

A woman who lives close to the mural confirmed on Saturday night that she had seen young people “hanging around” in that particular area of the town.

The woman, who did not wish to be named, said she had witnessed several youths congregating in the car park beside the damaged area of the mural.

Robert Dick seems to look askance at the damaged area of the mural.
Robert Dick seems to look askance at the damaged area of the mural.

The mural depicts a portrait of Thurso’s renowned botanist and geologist Robert Dick.

It is surrounded by a kaleidoscopic representation of the Caithness Horizons façade and the scientist’s specimen collection.

On the left is the depiction of a leaf which has been damaged with pieces of the surface torn out and strewn on the ground below.

There are further damaged areas, a few inches off the ground, that appear to have been kicked and some marks that appear to be deliberate attacks on the face of Robert Dick.

Merran Gunn was the former curator at Caithness Horizons before its recent closure and was instrumental in commissioning graffiti artist Marc Delaye to paint the mural.

She raised funds through a crowdfunding website and the Dounreay Communities Fund to commission Mr Delaye to “breath some life into a fairly drab corner of the town”.

“Marc’s work is bold and vibrant, electric colours jostle for dominance, and the new outside mural is no exception with tangerine skies set behind the historic Thurso of Robert Dick,” said Ms Gunn at the time of the work’s unveiling in October last year.

The Black Isle artist was generally praised on social media. One social media user suggested on Facebook that a similar venture in Wick would help to tacklewhat they called the “town’s eyesore buildings”.

A detailed look at the damaged area shows the top layer breaking away.
A detailed look at the damaged area shows the top layer breaking away.

The bold use of line and colour based on modern urban graffiti also drew some criticism just like the nearby abstract mural by Polish artist Caziel Zielenkiewicz on Tollemache House.

Some locals failed to recognise Robert Dick and thought the mural depicted Elvis Presley or 70s pop star Alvin Stardust.

On seeing the recent damage Ms Gunn said: “I would not be too quick to attribute the mural damage to vandals – outdoor artwork always presents the extra challenge of needing to be robust and endure against weather and environmental conditions.”

She thinks these factors may have contributed to the damage despite the wall being prepared with masonry primer and paint.

With the recent closure of Caithness Horizons there is no caretaker organisation to look after the mural.

Ms Gunn urged “community minded individuals” to come forward to help repair the damage.

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