Where Did The Idea Come From?
In the last few years of the 20th century twelve communities across north Sutherland became involved in something known as the Dùthchas Project. This project was concerned with enabling sustainable local development, defined and implemented by local people themselves. It was an experiment.
The area involved covered the parishes of Durness, Tongue and Farr. The principal success was the fact that the disparate communities in these parishes came together to take action on shared issues and to discuss more localised ones. This was not easy and the achievements are entirely due to the hard work and imagination of the community representatives.
Some aspirations can only be tackled at a larger scale than the individual township, village or parish. It takes vision and a certain doggedness to make that happen. Local people therefore created a local organisation to maintain action and aspirations at that bigger scale after the Dùthchas Project ended. This was the North Sutherland Forum.
Everyone involved in the Forum was aware that the communities represented there were only part of the whole. The historic and personal ties which are fundamental to local self-determination reach beyond just three parishes. It was recognised that in fact the communities of Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh – or Mackay Country in English – formed a more natural and effective unit. This area, roughly covering the modern civil parishes of Eddrachillis, Durness, Tongue and Farr, have also at times been known as the Province of Strathnaver and The Reay Country.
No matter the term used – and all are still in current use by local people – it was felt that on balance Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh was the phrase which best conjured up the strength, dignity and diversity of the people and landscapes therein. In the first years of the 21st century representatives of those northern communities took steps to build on that past in order to secure a better future for everyone who lives in Dùthaich Mhic Aoidh and for generations to come.
The Mackay Country project was the result. Members of the North Sutherland Forum delegated the responsibility of taking this work forward