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Durness Primary School wins Alan Joyce Young Environmentalist Competition

Pupils from Durness Primary School receive their prize from Ronnie Lansley


Durness Primary School are the overall winners in the 2019 Alan Joyce Young Environmentalist Competition. First organised by Strathnaver Museum and Caithness and Sutherland Countryside Rangers in 2012 the competition encourages children to demonstrate their awareness of the natural world around them.

Strathnaver Museum launched the competition in memory of former biology teacher Alan Joyce who taught at Golspie and Farr High Schools between 1961 and 1988. In 1969 he supervised a winning team of pupils from Golspie High School to the finals of the BBC Young Scientist of the Year competition.

Alan’s knowledge was recognised by all and with expertise in Freshwater biology he devised some interesting projects for his pupils. Alan’s engaging approach to learning can be seen as the forerunner for today’s Curriculum for Excellence, that is, learning through experience.

Even in retirement Alan continued to share his expertise of the local natural environment with visits to schools from Achfary to Farr inspiring a new generation. He continued to engage youngsters in their studies, in a very practical manner, until shortly before his death at his home in Melness, in 2007.

With the support of a Places of Science Award from the Royal Society the competition asked the children to consider how we use, and at times, misuse nature. Each of the schools involved received a learning pack created by Strathnaver Museum which explored how items in their collection were made, from the Bronze Age Chealamy Beaker to the peat creels which would have been made and used in the area by their crofting forebears.

Caithness and Sutherland Countryside Rangers led sessions with the youngsters to explore the wildlife to be found on their doorsteps. Then Dunnet based artist Joanne B Kaar visited each school to support the youngsters to create an artistic response to what they had learned.

Entries were received from pupils in 6 primary schools from Melvich to Kinlochbervie. The judges were impressed with the very high standard of entries showing the children had thought deeply about what they had learned.

The overall winners were Durness Primary School who had demonstrated excellent teamworking, enthusiasm and understanding of the topic. In recognition of their achievement the pupils have won a prize, sponsored by Wildland Ltd, of a special day out next Spring on the company’s RIB in Loch Eriboll to celebrate Scotland’s Year of Coast and Water 2020.

The presentation was made on behalf of the Museum by Ronnie Lansley who, with his wife Gwen, is leaving Durness after 38 years to move nearer their family in the south. Ronnie was delighted to make the presentation as he has been a generous supporter of both Durness Primary School where both his sons were educated, Strathnaver Museum and all the communities on the north coast.

Annabelle Thompson Hunter receives her prize from Strathnaver Museum Vice Chair Dorothy Pritchard


The individual prize was won by Annabelle Thompson Hunter, Tongue Primary School with her Blooming Scottish Songs. Runners up were Sam Heddle, Melvich Primary School with Fox Facts; Mountain Range by Miah Foley Bentley, Scourie Primary School; Sea and Crabs by Raffaelle Munro, Farr Primary School and Sea Life Animals by Maisie Mackay, Farr Primary School. Prizes included a copy of Tales of the North Coast and nature books kindly donated by Wildland Ltd.

Mrs Joyce said: “I am overjoyed that another competition has been held. I do realise what a lot of time and effort would have been involved, both on behalf of sponsors and organisers as well as by competitors themselves. Alan would be so pleased.”