Legends of the Cuillin: Work starts on sculpture of Skye climbing pioneers

How the sculpture, in the shadow of The Cuillin, will look

Work has started a on a new Skye attraction commemorating the lives of two climbing legends.

A bronze sculpture at Sligachan will celebrate Norman Collie and John Mackenzie, who together pioneered many of Skye’s most famous mountain routes.

Preparation work got underway last week at the spot where the sculpture, designed by local artist Stephen Tinney, will be sited.

Work starting at the site

In February The Collie Mackenzie Heritage Group successfully reached their £117,000 target to bring the project to fruition.

John Mackenzie was from the crofting village of Sconser and began climbing the Cuillin range at the age of 10.

He went onto become the first ever native Scot to become a professional mountain guide.

Mackenzie met Professor Collie, an internationally renowned scientist and mountain expert, on Skye – and the pair formed a climbing partnership and friendship that spanned over half a century.

The heritage group had previously landscaped the surrounding area of the sculpture site, incorporating a car park, oak shelter, information panels, paths, a stone seat and bronze relief of the Cuillin.

Having reached the funding target to build the sculpture (a matter of weeks before news of the pandemic broke and lockdown began) the group made the decision to keep going and aim for their target of unveiling the sculpture at the end of the year.

The iconic setting at Sligachan

It is hoped that if things go to plan the sculpture can be in place for late September.

The group are closely following the governments guidelines regarding gatherings at events.

It remains to be seen whether a ceremony to mark the unveiling of the sculpture will be able to take place, but if not, it is planned that the sculpture will nevertheless be put in place for this date.

Morag Nicolson, Chair of the Collie MacKenzie Group said: “We would like to thank all those who have been with us on this journey to build the sculpture and who have given us tremendous support along the way.

“It’s been a struggle, and at times we doubted it was going to happen, but we kept going with the support of the Skye community and from people from all round the world.

“It is testament to them that we will now be placing the sculpture of both climbing pioneers at Sligachan, looking towards the Cuillin, the hills that both men did much to map and explore”

A package of over £300,000 has been brought in to complete the project.

Help has been received from MOWI, the Struan Community Trust, Suez Communities Trust, EB (Environmental Body) Scotland and the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund.

Over 80 per cent of the money came from private donations.