Merkinch Community Mosaics 2015

I was delighted when, in the spring of 2015, Elsie Normington invited me to visit Merkinch Community Centre to help the community make mosaic panels for the Skinner Room. I had run a project at the centre in 2011 and the experience had been joyous, so I jumped at this opportunity to return.



merkinch2When I arrived on the Monday morning it was lovely to be greeted by the familiar faces of the staff; they are a long-standing team and are dedicated to their work , giving the building a calm and welcoming atmosphere. They helped me set up my drop-in workshop in the large foyer so that, over the course of the week, all of the centre’s users could pause for a few minutes, enjoy the work in progress, and add a few mosaic pieces to one of the panels. And that is just what happened. The groups who took part in the making included P7 from Merkinch Primary School, the Lunch Club (for older local residents), the Rainbow Singers, the Knitting Group, the wee Highland dancers, Mothers and Toddlers, the Craft Group, the Falcon Project and many more. There were surprising contributors too: all the staff took part, as did a number of visitors to the area who were attending the various conferences and training days that run as part of the business side of the services offered by the centre.   I estimate that around 150 people made a contribution to these sparkling, beautiful works of art. A special mention must go to ‘the fish man’ from Bells Seafoods who, after delivering fish to the ladies of the Craft Group, laid a few pieces of mosaic, discovered how much he enjoyed it, and so returned after work to dedicate another two hours to his art!

By the end of Thursday evening’s session all the pieces had been laid so that the Friday could be spent grouting and polishing the work. It would then dry over the weekend, meaning that the following week, Iain the ever-helpful ‘jannie’ would organise their installation, one on either side of the serving hatch in the Skinner function room.

In every sense, this was a really satisfying project. Young and old worked together. Everyone, no matter their abilities or disabilities, enjoyed contributing, especially since they knew that their work would be on permanent display and that they would be able to share it with friends and family in the years to come.

The panels themselves are stunning. One reflects the community’s connection to the Moray Firth and features dolphins and the green lighthouse at the point. The other is a happy depiction of the surprising amount of flora and fauna to be found in the area: Merkinch even has its own nature reserve. Together they make a celebration of the healthy and happy spirit of community that pervades the centre and beyond.

I enjoyed everything about my week ‘in residence’, but would particularly like to thank Elsie Normington, Anne McCreadie, Iain ‘the jannie’ and Karen from the office – they all made my week go swimmingly. Their service to the community will continue to be a great inspiration to me. Long live Merkinch Community Centre!

Jan Kilpatrick


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Email :    Tel : 01854 666279,   Postal Address : Jan Kilpatrick, Cul Mor, Elphin, By Lairg, Sutherland, IV274HH.  

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