Highlands & Islands

Light bulb moment: How a Scots village earned its nickname

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A village in the Highlands is to host an open access wi-fi zone in a pilot project aimed at boosting internet services for businesses and tourists.

The zone should be up and running in Brora by the end of the month.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise is supporting the venture, and has been highlighting how Brora has embraced innovation in the past, earning it the unusual nickname of Electric City.

Located on Sutherland's east coast, Brora is home to a Highland League football team, a population of 1,282 people, has its own distillery and an interesting industrial history.

It was the site of the UK's most northerly deep coal mine.

Coal was thought to have been first collected at Back Beach and from the River Brora in the 1500s.

Mining later began inshore and the last shafts closed in the early 1970s.

Locally, the coal was used in the production of salt and for curing salmon.

The 11th Earl of Sutherland was involved in the early coal and salt industries.

He and his wife were poisoned at Helmsdale Castle in 1567 by servant Isabel Sinclair, a relative of rival aristocrat the Earl of Caithness.

The murderess later hanged herself.

Image copyright Stanley Howe/Geograph
Image caption Brora sits on Sutherland's east coast

In the 1900s, Capt T M Hunter, a member of a Galashiels wool manufacturing family, bought a wool mill in Brora.

Soon after, the mill, a hotel and the distillery were supplied with electric lighting.

Generators driven by steam from the mill's boilers generated the power.

Between 1912 and 1913, three electric street lights in the village were turned on and Capt Hunter had set up the Brora Electric Supply Company to make the power available to the public.

Brora was the first place north of Inverness to have electricity, leading its residents dubbed their home Electric City.

More than 100 years later, electricity is key to Brora's latest project offering wi-fi in the centre of the village.

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