Norsemen From The North Highland College Invade Caithness Horizons!

As part of their preparations for the Museum’s Homecoming 2014 Year of Ancient Ancestors Festival the Curator and Events Co-ordinator of Caithness Horizons were approached by “Norsemen” from the 2013/2014 intake of students in Class A of the National Progression Award in Construction and Engineering (NPA) at the North Highland College ( with an exciting proposition.

As part of their course the students had to undertake an enterprise project that could either involve making objects such as walking sticks for community groups; making wine racks and other objects to sell in order to raise money for college funds or a community project of the students’ own choice.

Wanting to do something a bit different that wasn’t a generic project that others had done before and having heard about the Year of Ancient Ancestors Festival from his mum (who works at Caithness Horizons), one of the students suggested that Class A approach the Museum to see how they could contribute to the Festival.

After a lot of research at the Museum and a trip to Orkney to the Centre for Nordic Studies to meet with Professor Donna Heddle the students set to work on their Norse inspired project.

Members of the Young Curators Club in the replica longshipMembers of the Young Curators Club in the replica long-ship North Highland College students ready for battle outside Caithness HorizonsNorth Highland College students ready for battle outside Caithness Horizons

The results were stunning and surpassed all of the Museum’s expectations. On 15th May prior to the opening weekend of the Festival the students of Class A presented the Curator with a Museum quality replica Norse helmet and sword that they had made. The Curator was so impressed with the helmet and the sword that they will go on display in the Caithness Horizons new Early Medieval Sculpture exhibition that is due to open in July 2014. The students also made the Museum a replica wooden long-ship for children (and adults) to have their photographs taken in, plus suitable props such as replica shields, swords and axes. The students involved in the project were:

Donald Cormack
Jamie Lawrie
Michael McGee
Callum McPhee
Ricky MacLeod
Tom Miller
Jamie Powell
Bryan Stevenson
North Highland College Students

The project provided the students with an opportunity to work as part of a team. The manufacture of the replica helmet made from brass, sheet aluminium, copper rivets and leather and the replica sword made from mild steel with brass inlays provided the students with the opportunity to work with the forge at the college and a plasma cutter, which they would not have had access to had they not been involved in the project with the Museum.

The students have said that the project has changed their perspective of what Museums do and what they can offer. They hoped that the North Highland College would continue the partnership with Caithness Horizons in future years as it offered the students access to something different whilst allowing them to work on a project that benefitted the local community and to learn new skills.

The Year of Ancient Ancestors Festival is a celebration of the unique Pictish and Norse cultural heritage of Caithness and is part of the national Homecoming 2014 celebration. It has been funded by EventScotland, The Highland Council – Highland Culture Fund, the Caithness and North Sutherland Fund, Museums Galleries Scotland and The Robertson Trust.

Year of Ancient Ancestors Festival events will also be taking place in July and October. For a full programme of events visit

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