Designed and created by Fiona Rodgers, the whole mural runs in threes; three panels, three cats, three people in the audience, three stage crew, three dolphins, three thistles, three swans, etc. And there’s a wee message, in three words spelt out across the panels. Can you find it?
From the left of the mural, among the dressing-room stars the faces of three back-stage and lighting crew which Fiona carved from Portsoy marble peer at the stage from the darkness behind the set.
Three spotlights shine on a stage, showing a stagey version of the White Horse Gold,an old legend of the Fishertown. A fisher quine (young woman) with a lug spade watches a fisherman dancing with a white horse mask, above a bag of gold coins spilled on the sand. Behind them, the Firth glows in the twilight, in a sunset over the Black Isle.
The carved playbill reminds us that shows here normally begin at 7.30. Above, the stage curtains provide a flowing link into the second panel. Watching the stage in the dark auditorium is an audience of three people . Two of our annual Pantomime Dames applaud and shout the traditional warning. (She’s behind you!) Both have fisher links in their outrageous wigs – a steamboat, including Steamboat Willie, and fish. The applauding hands are a cast of a member’s hands.
Beside them Charlie Chaplin, who enjoyed holidays in Nairn with his family, and whose silent films we have often shown, peers perkily out at you, with a chirpy comment, “he who laughs…lasts” – a Norwegian proverb.
A swirl of piano keyboard underpins the three witches of Macbeth, their hair gorgeous swirly glass.
Below is an eclectic mix of odd items – fossils, a soldier, local stones,and a green Portsoy marble heart which will become smoother and shinier the more it is touched so please give it a wee rub and make a wish! Behind the witches rises the spire of the old Courthouse and beside them you can note one of the causes of toil and trouble in Nairn in the final days while the mural was being finished – the traffic lights, added in at the last moment after a frustrated half hour one morning. There’s another source of local annoyance right on top of the spire.
The piano keys lead to two old rides and a couple of stalls from the Showies (Annual Fair), an exciting, raucous accompaniment to the Highland Games on the Links for many years. One Beatles song says, ‘When I reach the bottom, I go back up to the top’. Fiona found a wee plaque with these words and added a tiny picture of the Beatles themselves.
The central panel of the mural an old-style swimmer plunges through the foaming waves of the Moray Firth, curving over a life-belt from the Narinia – not a misprint for Nairn or Narnia; it was a fishing boat based in Nairn Harbour.
Bunting leads from the Showies across to the Gala Parade on the Links, which used to be the highlight of Nairn Home Holiday Week, local folk, including a couple of the Drama Club, stand under bottle-bottom trees, watching the parade pass the Wallace Bandstand. The trumpeter is playing a tune; sing it, and you’ll know it. He’s followed by a couple of loons (young men) playing a drum and waving a Scottish Saltire – we couldn’t fit in the fancy-dress parade or the Pipe Band, though there are a couple of soldiers around.
Above them all flies William Gordon, a local tin-smith and poet who made himself wings and tried to fly off the heights of Bunker’s Brae on the Links. Beyond a stage-set tree – the Council got its ivy after all – are Nairn scenes. A goods train puffing out the music crosses the bridge over the River Nairn, on one of the earliest lines in Scotland.
The riverside has an enormous mass of details; by the water flowing under the bridge are a huge bottle-base thistle, a swan family, flowers, marram grass from the dunes, and dragonflies and butterflies, meant to symbolise the shy youngsters who come to spread their wings in the Club. Look for the little messages in English and Gaelic hidden here among the grasses and flowers, and on the children’s beach which has a tiny pop band, a sandcastle, some plump pink fairies, and even a glimpse of fairyland – is it? Why not? The footprints belong to a member’s grandchild; anonymous to avoid future embarrassment.
A theatrical harlequin jester, with a rainbow flag and another mask, dances before a corner of the Fishertown, with two cottages and a typical half-house heart-shaped puffs of smoke from their chimneys. Is the cat scary, or scared of the dog? Three birds, two oyster- catchers and a turnstone, hunt among the oyster-shell stones beside the sandy shore.
A fisherman’s face appeared unexpectedly among the beach stones, and of course had to be left – we’d thought of a boat, but you can’t dismiss the spirit of the place when he materialises for you.
Behind the houses on the Moray Firth a Viking dragon ship with three crew members, from far in Nairn’s past, breathes fire, and Moray Firth dolphins laugh as they swim
A tiny number puzzle is hidden in the rays of the gorgeous sun. Below, a cold north wind straight from a Renaissance painting blows along the Viking ship, and blasts a draught of ‘silver darlings’ (herring) from the sea up Grant Street into the boat-shaped fishers’ net.