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In 2016 the author Barbara Henderson published her book 'Fir for Luck' which was a children's book about the rebellion over the eviction of the residents of Ceannabeinne township, as seen through the eye of Janet, a little girl who lived there.
The author came to Durness in 2013 and researched the book over several weeks, walking the township trail and around Ceannabeinne cottage.
In 2021 we discovered this book and subsequently met Barbara Henderson, and made arrangements for her to stay in Ceannabeinne cottage and experience the school house from the inside.
While staying there she wrote about her stay and made a short video:
Author Barbara Henderson's stay in February 2022.
'Three things stand out for me about the Summer of 2013- I was shortlisted for a major writing award after years of persisting with my writing. Alas I did not win.
Andy Murray won Wimbledon – I watched alongside my family and whole army of fellow campers at Sango Sands Campsite in Durness.
But most memorable of that summer, I first stumbled across the Ceannabeinne Township Trail and its remarkable tale of a village community’s resistance to the Highland Clearances. I was mesmerised. Resolved to write about this incident, I returned the following summer to take more photographs. Annoyingly, the only building still standing was privately owned: the Ceannabeinne Schoolhouse, a key setting in my children’s novel which I couldn’t visit because it was usually occupied by holidaymakers. I had to make do with taking photographs from the road and imagining the rest.
Fir for Luck turned out to be the book that got me through the door of the publishing world. Published in 2016, it is a story of a village’s defiance in the face of the eviction notice, a rebellion instigated by the women and children. My research saw me delve deep into census documents and local history accounts. Yes, I may have invented many of my characters in Fir for Luck, but I have based them on who was really there at the time, as well as featuring well-documented historical figures. The book is now widely studied in Scottish schools.
Fast forward a decade. Out of nowhere, the owners got in touch: ‘Hi Barbara. A guest alerted us to your book which features our cottage. We are passing through Inverness soon – would you like to meet?’
Did I ever! We arranged a date for a meal (embarrassingly, I had to rush away on the night due to unforeseen circumstances). Richard and Tara weren’t put off though – incredibly, they offered me a few days’ stay in the cottage with my husband in exchange for a bit of text for their website. This month, we left our 17-year-old in charge at home and hit the single-track roads north through gale force winds and the odd bit of hail. The storms whipped the dark loch surfaces white on route – it looked like spirits rising from the waters, and my storyteller’s heart was smitten all over again!
A brief stop at the friendly village shop in Durness and we pulled off the road to Ceannabeinne Cottage. My story immediately sprang to life again as I looked up to the beamed ceiling of the old school room, now a cosy living room with woodburning stove.
Over the coming two days, there are many memorable moments. A sheep spending half an hour scratching itself against the road barrier below the cottage. One of the best fish and chips meals EVER at the Smoo Cave Hotel. Reading books by the fire, scanning the sky for the Northern Lights, losing track of time altogether.
We did pick the three worst days of weather in the history of rain and hail, but despite the sodden ground, we walked the Ceannabeinne Township Trail all over again. Our dog raced through the gale-borne sand on the spectacular beach below the cottage and we staggered along Balnakeil Beach too, despite being all but torn to shreds by the elements.
It’s hard to explain what it is about the Highland landscape that seems to seep stories. The solitude? The dramatic weather? The ever-present heartbeat of the sea as it crashes to shore?
All I know is: I feel both refreshed and renewed in some way. I am sure that, were you to make the journey to Ceannabeinne Cottage, you’d feel the same."