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Mystery Benefactor’s boost for Museum

Posted on Thursday, 30 September 2010 04:49AM by Judy and the Peak District Online Team
THE future of the Hugh Miller Museum and Birthplace Cottage in Cromarty has been secured, thanks to an anonymous donation of £600,000.

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It means the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) can now employ a property manager for the visitor attraction, extend its opening hours, which were cut last year, and look to future development.

The attraction comprises two buildings - Miller House and the 17th Century thatched cottage where the acclaimed geologist, writer, folk historian and evangelical church reformer was born.

Steve Callaghan, NTS group manager for the north, explained the donor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was someone who held the Hugh Miller Museum and Birthplace Cottage in "very high regard".

"This huge donation was made with the condition that it is completely ring-fenced to safeguard the future of the Hugh Miller Museum going forward," he said. "This money goes straight into the endowment fund and the property will live off the interest."

At the beginning of last year the cash-strapped trust announced a review of its properties and workforce, which led to the operations in Cromarty being scaled back.

Property manager Martin Gostwick was made redundant and its opening hours were cut to four half-days.

It was only able to remain open thanks to a band of volunteers, including a direct descendent of Hugh Miller, aided by part-time senior visitor assistant Zooulla Spirou.

"It wasn't the ideal situation at all," Mr Callaghan continued. "What this allows us to do now is look forward with confidence. The Hugh Miller Museum and Cottage has a sustainable, positive balance sheet going forward."

The NTS is now seeking to appoint a new property manager. In particular, it is looking for someone with museum experience, and experience in looking after collections.

The attraction is open from April to September and will re-open seven days a week from next year.

Cromarty historian and local councillor David Alston described it as fantastic news for Cromarty.

"It will secure the future of the national trust properties in Cromarty, both the cottage and Miller's House next door," he said.

"It means it can be properly staffed, the restriction on opening hours will hopefully be removed, and it also means it will be able to keep Hugh Miller's geological collection, on loan from the Museum of Scotland."

Inverness Courier