The Duke of Sutherland’s statue on Ben Bhraggie summit has been attacked for the second time in five months.
The highly controversial monument was erected around 1837 in memory of George Granville Leveson-Gower, the 1st Duke of Sutherland, who played an active and notorious role in the Highland Clearances, forcibly removing his tenants in the Sutherland Glens to make way for sheep.
Graffiti has been sprayed across the plinth several times and the word “monster” was sprayed across it in green paint.
As recently as 6 months ago two large sandstone bricks were wrenched out from the massive plinth supporting the 100ft high statue – the stone bricks were left lying on the grass beside the statue.
Since the first attack, recent repair work has since been undone and even more stones have been extracted from the northwest corner of the plinth. Police believe an ongoing campaign is being waged to topple the statue over.
A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: “It’s suspected that the damage is being caused deliberately, bit by bit, in an effort to topple the statue and that some person with a grudge and a knowledge of history is behind it.”
Known locally as the “Mannie”, an unsuccessful campaign was launched in 1995 by the late Sandy Lindsay, of Newtonmore, to tear down the statue, and erect a commemorative Celtic Cross or plaque dedicated to the victims of the Clearances. The campaign began a dialogue about the statue’s destruction and removal which still continues.
Golspie community councillor Allan Barclay, a retired teacher, said the massive plinth was built from cubic one metre blocks of sandstone:
“Whoever is doing it, is hell bent on taking it down. The damage caused in April was patched up, but the repair didn’t last more than a few weeks before the stones were pulled out again. Three out of the four corners have now been vandalised. There is a big hole in both the back and front of the east corner and recent incident saw the biggest stone yet taken out of the back west corner. I don’t know how solid the inside of the plinth is but it could come down – it’s as simple as that.”
Mr Barclay added: “I can’t see how one person could do what has been done on their own. There must be two to three people involved at the very least with someone acting as a look-out. “They’ve planned it well. These are not stones that can be lifted out easily. They would have had to be knocked out with a crow bar or power tools. There is no way anyone could walk up the Ben with tools of that sort and not be seen. It wouldn’t surprise me if they’ve hidden the equipment somewhere up there. There is a vast hillside in which to secrete stuff away.”
“It is a shame. I have always maintained they should never take it down because as long as it is there, you can tell children what happened in the past but if it is taken away it will not be long before the past is forgotten. “I think the people who are doing this are fanatics and I mean by that political fanatics.”
Sutherland Estates factor Peter Voy said: “I have seen photographs of it and it looks as if they have been chipping away at all three corners. It is disappointing as it seems to keep happening and it looks as if the repairs that were carried out have been undone. It is something that we will no doubt have to continue to put right.”