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'Wow factor' installation set to celebrate famous Highland flytier

By Caroline McMorran

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Tentative plans are being laid to honour one of Sutherland's most famous residents - legendary flytier Megan Boyd, who died in 2001.

Discussions are taking place about commissioning an art installation in her memory and erecting it at one of the gateways to the village of Brora, possibly near to the Old Cyne School, in line for conversion into a museum by Clyne Heritage Society.

Under discussion is a a gigantic sculpture of one of Ms Boyd’s colourful salmon fishing flies, but it is intended that it will have a ‘wow factor’ and be a visitor attraction in its own right.

Clyne Heritage Society is involved in the initiative along with Brora and District Action Group (BaDAG), East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Deirdre Mackay and Keith Elliott, editor of UK-wide Classic Angling magazine.

The move comes after a Norwegian angler and Megan Boyd devotee, made a pilgrimage to Brora to pay homage to her - but was shocked to find nothing about her.

He made his disappointment known to Mr Elliott who then started the ball rolling by contacting Cllr Mackay.

Mr Elliott, a former night editor with the Times, said: “I got a letter from a Norwegian chap who was outraged that there was nothing in Brora about Megan Boyd. He asked around the village and no one seemed to know anything.

"After much searching, he managed to find her home and workshop and was appalled to find the place in total disrepair with a fallen tree against the shed where she had created some of the finest salmon flies ever seen.

“I then got in touch with people in Brora and said, Can we do something about this?”

An online meeting has already taken place between the various parties and another is scheduled to be held in a few months.

Mr Elliott said he did not want to appear as an “Englishman” telling Brora what to do and felt the project should be community-led. However, he has pledged his support and is also convinced he will be able to secure backing from influential figures in the angling world.

A fundraising drive would need to take place.

“It would be a tremendous tourist attraction - Megan Boyd is known world-wide,” said Mr Elliott. “Her flies are so colourful and a giant salmon fly sculpture would be the sort of thing that would really stop people in their tracks and make them say ‘wow!’”

Cllr Mackay said: “I was contacted by Keith Elliot who said that contacts of his were keen to ensure Megan Boyd’s work was recognised and remembered.

“We have been talking about how that can be achieved. They would like to have a lasting legacy.

“We are looking at a sculpture of one of her flies - something quite dramatic - that could go at one of the gateways to the village.

“The interest is there and quite rightly so and we are keen to recognise Megan Boyd.”

Clyne Heritage Society chairman Nick Lindsay said: “Megan is perhaps the most famous person we have connected with the parish, although she moved here from the south of England just after WW1 when she was a toddler with her family. Then she moved out of the parish with her parents, to her cottage at Kintradwell in Loth parish in 1935, so she was only in the parish for around 16 years.

“Having stated that, the parish and Brora was her community and we have nothing to commemorate her, apart from our display at the heritage centre, being arguably the world's most famous salmon fly dresser.

“Keith contacted us and we have had a preliminary discussion about a fitting commemoration for her, although nothing is agreed yet. The community will be fully involved and engaged with the whole process of a fitting tribute.

“There's a long way to go before anything is finalised, but we will also be telling her remarkable story at the new heritage centre at the Old Clyne School. And we may name a room there after her too.”

She never fished herself but has been hailed by many as the finest tier of fishing flies in the world.

Born in 1915, Megan Boyd began tying flies aged 12 under the expert direction of Sutherland gamekeeper Bob Trussel, and took to the craft immediately.

By the end of World War II, she was able to save money to purchase tying supplies, and at that time she began to earn a living as a fly dresser.

The vast majority of her flies were from existing patterns.

She won her first award in 1938 at the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow and received the British Empire Medal in 1971.

Prince Charles is an avid user of her flies.

A documentary Kiss the Water was made about her in 2013

By 1888 eye problems prevented her from tying.

A unique collection of 47 Megan Boyd salmon fishing flies went up for auction in February, 2018, selling for a staggering £22,000 - more than £10,000 above the estimated top bid.

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