A Lunchtime Talk to the WEA Community Centre

Wednesday 28 October, 2009

The talk was given by Ann Yule, Convenor of the Neil Gunn Trust. Ann was approached by a member of the WEA and asked if she would give a lunch-time talk about Neil Gunn. The WEA thought it would be appropriate to start off this year's series of lunch-time talks with Neil Gunn, who had lived in Brae farmhouse from 1938 to 1950. Ann agreed to do this, talking first about Neil Gunn, his background, education and work. The main thrust of the talk was the work of the Neil Gunn Trust, from its inception in 1983 to the present day. Ann began by saying that the idea to build a monument on Heights of Brae to Neil Gunn had come from her husband, Kerr Yule, the first Convenor of the Neil Gunn Trust. Kerr had gathered together a group of local people with different talents, seven Trustees in all. The monument was unveiled in 1987 by Sorley Maclean and Jessie Kesson.

However, the Trust had never just been about raising a Monument to a man long gone, but the idea was to carry forward the heritage that Neil Gunn had left us. She likened it to a stone thrown into a pool and the ripples going out in all directions. Ann then mentioned the various projects that the Trust had been involved in during the intervening years; the production of a booklet 'Glimpses of Gunn', organising a Photographic Competition, presenting a trophy to the Strathpeffer Games to be awarded to the winner of the 100 yards race, and having an incised paving slab placed in Makars' Court in Edinburgh in honour of Neil Gunn.

One of the most important events that the Trust has been involved in over the years has been working in partnership with, initially Ross & Cromarty District Council, then with Highland Council to organise the Neil Gunn Writing Competition. This year's Competition was the tenth and the most successful, entries coming from Finland, France, Brazil, America and Canada as well as the countries that form the United Kingdom.

Of recent years the Trust has also started a Neil Gunn Lecture. This year's Competition was the third, the Lecturer this time being Owen Dudley Edwards, his theme, 'Burns, Gunn and the Scottish Wider World'.

This year also saw a new plaque being attached to the wall of the former Customs and Excise Building in Inverness, where Neil Gunn had worked as an Excise Officer for many years. This was accomplished with the Trust working in partnership with Inverness Heritage Trust.

A cassette of Neil Gunn being interviewed by George Gunn was then played to the audience, followed by 'The Walk to the River' a DVD produced by Alison Wilkie, one of the founder Trustees. It followed the route of the walk taken by Neil Gunn from Brae Farmhouse, up through the fields behind the house, and on and up to the moor leading to the River Skiach, Neil's favourite walk while living there. There was a voice over with quotes from 'The Serpent'.

The audience were very appreciative and Ann was glad of the opportunity to bring Neil Gunn's work to the attention of a different group of people.