Article from the Northern Times
Nine far north pupils, two each from Melvich, Tongue and Farr Primary Schools plus three seniors from Farr High School had an exciting day in Edinburgh last Wednesday prior to an evening presentation in the Scottish Parliament as representatives of Crofting Connections, an innovative educational programme in which these schools, together with 37 others from all over the Crofting Counties, have played a pivotal part.
The purpose of Crofting Connections is to enable young people living in remote rural communities throughout the Highlands and Islands to learn about crofting, past and present and, hopefully, to enable some of them to see a future in crofting against the current background where the average age of the 18.000 active crofters in Scotland is over fifty five. The project sits well with the Curriculum for Excellence, which seeks to take learning outside the classroom and across subject boundaries, and so found considerable favour with the Parliamentarians. Its own roots lay in an earlier project, brainchild of Mrs. Pam Rodway, entrepreneurial farmer and environmentalist, entitled Planting to Plate, in which Farr High School was one of the four inaugural members, and which culminated in a Celebration of Crofting in Inverness five years ago.
After arriving in the capital by minibus, and staying overnight at the Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel, the nine North Sutherlanders set out to explore the city, starting with the National Museum where they were surprised to discover how many exhibits, particularly in the pre-historic section, had their origin in their own home area. That absorbed most of the morning and, after a quick change in to their glad-rags for the evening, it was off to Dynamic Earth for an exciting afternoon tour through the entire sweep of earth-history before crossing the road to Holyrood for the MSPs reception.
There then followed something of a hiatus as the controversial Bill to impose restrictions on alcohol, which was in full flow in the debating chamber, spilled over in to the time allotted for the Crofting Connections reception. Once the Bill had been debated to the lees, Scottish Ministers and a variety of MSPs emerged to examine the exhibition of work from the Crofting Connections schools, including slide shows on what had been going on in the 41 schools represented, as well as more concrete examples of what can be done on the periphery including an Adirondack Chair and a Rocking Animal which had been produced by Farr High School Enterprise Companies in 2009 and 2010. Then there were a series of addresses from MSPs including Mike Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning and Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for the Environment, plus Patrick Krause of the Scottish Crofting Federation and Hugh Raven of the Soils Association, all punctuated by contributions from various of the schools with North MSP, Rob Gibson, orchestrating as MC. North Sutherland’s contributions came in musical form with fiddlers Lynsey Munro, Bettyhill and Ellie Mackay, Melvich bringing the formal part of the evening to an electrifying close. Much, much later, after the 250 guests, including HMIes, Learning and Teaching Scotland representatives, Scottish Government Executives, soil scientists, and at least fifteen real crofters, including Mrs. Mabel Bannerman from Bettyhill, had enjoyed crofting produce, drinks and a great deal of verbal interchange, Murdo Mackay of Armadale, Farr High School fifth year pupil and a crofter in his own right, brought the whole event to a close with a series of tunes on the pipes. (All instruments, and all the exhibits including rocking animal and wooden chair, had been brought to the Parliament earlier in the day for security checking and had survived the interrogation!)