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TITLE
Signpost at Baile an Or (the place of gold), 2001
EXTERNAL ID
NRM_NBNW_FNL_DS080633
PLACENAME
Kildonan
DISTRICT
Kildonan, Loth and Clyne
OLD COUNTY/PARISH
SUTHERLAND: Kildonan
DATE OF IMAGE
January 2001
PERIOD
2000s
CREATOR
Lynn Patrick
SOURCE
National Railway Museum, York
ASSET ID
19887
KEYWORDS
railway
railways
Signpost at Baile an Or (the place of gold), 2001

In 1868 the area around Kildonan was the site of gold prospecting. On the banks of the Kildonan Burn is Baile an Or (the place of gold) and the earthworks, photographed in January 2001, that stand testament to this unlikely gold rush.

It all started in 1818 when a nugget of gold weighing around ten pennyweights was discovered in the river Helmsdale. This find sparked national interest, and the Scottish local newspapers were soon headlining the discovery. It was in 1868 that Scotland ensured its place in the history books following the discovery of further gold nuggets in the river Helmsdale at Kildonan by a local man Robert Gilchrist, who had spent 17 years in the goldfields of Australia. He was granted permission from the Duke of Sutherland to pan the gravels of the River Helmsdale and shortly thereafter, word started to spread into London and within just six months over 600 people made their way to Kildonan. A whole series of temporary living quarters started to appear along the river banks forming the small town Baile an Or.

Numbers diminished to a hard core of some 200 prospectors after the Duke of Argyll started charging £1 per month for prospecting licenses, plus a royalty of ten per cent on all (declared) gold found. But the falling price of gold, plus diminishing levels of finds and alternative employment offered by the onset of the herring season in August, led numbers to fall to nearer 50 by the autumn.

The real problems arose because of conflict between the interests of the prospectors who wanted permission to extend the area being exploited, and those engaged in shooting, fishing or grazing sheep in Strath Kildonan. When the Duke of Sutherland found he was losing more potential income from these other users of his land than he was gaining from the prospectors, he announced that all exploration for gold would cease with effect from 1 January 1870. The Strath Kildonan gold rush was at an end. Today's prospectors can still pan the burn for the precious metal.

Background
Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.

'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.

We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:

Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.

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High Life Highland is a company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland No. SC407011 and is a registered Scottish charity No. SC042593
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Signpost at Baile an Or (the place of gold), 2001

SUTHERLAND: Kildonan

2000s

railway; railways

National Railway Museum, York

North by Northwest - The Far North Line

In 1868 the area around Kildonan was the site of gold prospecting. On the banks of the Kildonan Burn is Baile an Or (the place of gold) and the earthworks, photographed in January 2001, that stand testament to this unlikely gold rush. <br /> <br /> It all started in 1818 when a nugget of gold weighing around ten pennyweights was discovered in the river Helmsdale. This find sparked national interest, and the Scottish local newspapers were soon headlining the discovery. It was in 1868 that Scotland ensured its place in the history books following the discovery of further gold nuggets in the river Helmsdale at Kildonan by a local man Robert Gilchrist, who had spent 17 years in the goldfields of Australia. He was granted permission from the Duke of Sutherland to pan the gravels of the River Helmsdale and shortly thereafter, word started to spread into London and within just six months over 600 people made their way to Kildonan. A whole series of temporary living quarters started to appear along the river banks forming the small town Baile an Or. <br /> <br /> Numbers diminished to a hard core of some 200 prospectors after the Duke of Argyll started charging £1 per month for prospecting licenses, plus a royalty of ten per cent on all (declared) gold found. But the falling price of gold, plus diminishing levels of finds and alternative employment offered by the onset of the herring season in August, led numbers to fall to nearer 50 by the autumn. <br /> <br /> The real problems arose because of conflict between the interests of the prospectors who wanted permission to extend the area being exploited, and those engaged in shooting, fishing or grazing sheep in Strath Kildonan. When the Duke of Sutherland found he was losing more potential income from these other users of his land than he was gaining from the prospectors, he announced that all exploration for gold would cease with effect from 1 January 1870. The Strath Kildonan gold rush was at an end. Today's prospectors can still pan the burn for the precious metal.<br /> <br /> Background<br /> Over one hundred years ago, two of the most picturesque railways in the world, the Kyle line and the Far North line, were built. Linking them to the rest of the UK rail network is the Highland main line. From 1997 to 2003 the National Railway Museum photographed these three lines, and from the images three exhibitions were created - 'Connection to the Kyle', 'By Firth and Flow' and 'The Highland Link'. The exhibitions were hosted on the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) under the digital exhibition 'North by Northwest' which officially launched the National Archive of Scotland site on 5 June 2001 in Inverness. The collaboration with SCAN lasted until 2009 when 'North by Northwest' was transferred to the Am Baile website.<br /> <br /> 'North by Northwest' documents living history and records a snapshot of time in the lives of the people and the lines during the closing years of the twentieth century and the emergence of the twenty-first century. The exhibitions celebrated the impact of the Highland railways on the people, landscape and economy of the Scottish Highlands.<br /> <br /> We acknowledge support from the following sponsors who funded the photographic survey of the Highland main line, the Kyle and the Far North lines by the National Railway Museum photographers between 1997 and 2003:<br /> <br /> Railtrack, Railtrack-Scotland, ScotRail, EWS, Porterbrook, First Engineering, The Highland Rail Network Development Partnership, The Highland Council, Ross & Cromarty Enterprise, Caithness & Sutherland Enterprise, Safeways, Friends of the National Railway Museum, Perth & Kinross Council, and the Highland Railway Society.