Groam House Museum exists to inspire people of all backgrounds and ages to enjoy and understand its collections and develop associated skills. By working with others locally and nationally, we strive to conserve and bring to life the objects and their stories through related activities, arts and crafts.
With grants from bodies such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund (HF), Museums Galleries Scotland (MGS), (Association of Independent Museums) AIM, and Creative Scotland (CS) we have continued the long tradition of Groam House Museum of enabling local people to research and organise our annual exhibition, get involved in craft and art workshops, and learn new skills associated with the digitisation of the collections.
We’ve held very successful exhibitions including Crafting the Celtic: the legacy of George Bain, 50 years on and World War One – its impact on Rosemarkie, Fortrose and Avoch which brought just under 6,000 visitors.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
In 1974 Mario Pagliari of Rosemarkie gifted Groam House, an 18th century building, to Fortrose Town Council. A few years later the District Council took responsibility for the building, to ensure that there would be a safe location for the Rosemarkie Pictish cross-slab, the iconic focus of the village and today’s museum.
By 1981 the building had been completely altered and the cross slab conserved and moved into the premises. Groam House was opened for the summer months, overseen by a local committee. The following year Betty Marshall was employed to welcome visitors. Pictish sculpted stones were moved from Rosemarkie Church so they could be displayed alongside the cross-slab. Committed to a long-term future for the museum, local people started to donate objects and photographs relating to this part of the Black Isle.
For more than ten years Betty Marshall ensured the growth of visitors and the collection, such that, in 1992 the Council agreed to enlarge the display space. A mezzanine floor was inserted and the much of today’s ground floor display created. Groam House became the Pictish Interpretation Centre for Ross & Cromarty.
Susan Seright joined the museum at this time, initially as an assistant, and became curator on Betty’s retirement. Major steps were taken over the following decade. The museum achieved registered status (now known as accreditation) which enabled the new Trust to apply for specific grants. Accolades for the most improved rural museum in the UK, and work on the conservation of items in the collection were awarded. Annual Academic Lectures were organised, focussing on aspects of Pictish studies. Exhibitions were developed on local themes and one of these was supported by the family of George Bain.
George Bain had studied the method of construction of Celtic Art between the two World Wars. After WW2, when he moved to Drumnadrochit, started to promote the establishment of a College of Celtic Cultures. This didn’t materialise but his fascination with these complex artistic forms continued. His drawings reflected the style of sculpture on display in Groam House and some were borrowed for the museum’s 1997 exhibition. Following this, the family felt the Groam House would be a fitting place for his archive, as well as his numerous other sketches and paintings unrelated to Pictish art.
A major Hertiage Lottery Fund grant was awarded in the mid-2000s and with grants from a number of sources, a major five year programme of outreach projects, exhibitions at various venues across Scotland and collection acquisitions was undertaken. Following on from Susan’s in-depth work and successes associated with the George Bain material, (she left in 2012), Groam House applied for and was awarded Recognition of the George Bain Collection as a Nationally Significant Collection (by Museum Galleries Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government).
Over the last 40 years the museum has thus developed three areas of collecting:
– Pictish stones from Rosemarkie and its environs
– Prehistoric, historic and local history items from this part of the Black Isle
– The George Bain Collection and related Celtic Art items
which it aims to share in imaginative ways with volunteers, members, visitors and a wider public via the engagement projects, exhibitions and digital media, while ensuring the long-term care of the collections.
Groam House is registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO).
It is a very small independent museum managed by a Board of at least five trustees and run by volunteers with the assistance of, currently, two part-time members of staff who each work one day a week. The Board is advised by specialists who are invited to attend Board meetings regularly or on an ad hoc basis. An independent museum mentor (as required by UK Museum Accreditation Scheme also assesses the general competence of the museum at least twice a year.
Chairman of the Board
Doug has spent about half of his career in the public sector, as a government scientist and as a director in local government, and half in business consultancy. In his consultancy he focused on the public sector (local government, central government and health). He was also heavily involved in winning funding from the EU for a range of multinational projects.
He has always had an interest in museums, as a consumer, stemming from his childhood days when he spent a lot of time in hospital in Edinburgh, and his mother would take him to the Chambers Street Museum which he loved – especially the Power hall – where there were so many buttons to press and levers to pull! From there he went on to explore the Science Museum, National History Museum, British Museum and lots of smaller ones, before always including local museums in his holiday travels wherever he went in the world. In these visits, he was always looking at what makes a great museum – and it’s not about size or the importance of the collection, but about the impact the presentation has on the visitor.
Even as part of his consultancy he found himself occasionally working with or for museums – for working with the Highland Folk Museum to digitise and make available their photographic collection, long before the days of the World Wide Web, and working with NMS on a project to bring public services to remote rural areas – a project which spanned several European countries.
So when he retired, he noticed that Groam House was looking for volunteers, and applied – and the rest is history. As a newcomer, he found himself embraced by the wonderful friendship and support of the volunteer community and taken up with the enthusiasm for doing new things and pushing the boundaries. He started as a member of the board of Directors, but became responsible for membership, IT, 100 Club and serving on the publicity and fundraising committee. He now also serves on the board of Museums and Heritage Highland, as a treasurer, would you believe?
He was born in Dunfermline, educated at Dunfermline High School and he studied at Edinburgh University before joining the government as a “boffin” in England, where he lived with his family for 20 years, working in and around London. He came to the Highlands (which is where his father and his ancestors came from) when he was 40, partly for family reasons, and to take up a job at the Highland Regional Council. Living in Avoch, in the former Free Church, he learned a bit about Groam House but never thought that one day he would be part of it!
Paul is a retired accountant who relocated with his wife, cat and dogs to Rosemarkie on the Black Isle from Cambridge in 2017. Prior to retiring he worked as a finance director in major companies within the financial services industry covering insurance & merchant banking sectors. Before moving to the Black Isle he was active in supporting his local community being a local parish councillor as well as treasurer/trustee of several local amenity charities which operated the village hall, community cafe & recreation ground.
Since moving to the Highlands Paul has once again become involved with local community based organisations and in addition to his involvement with Groam House has recently become a member of Fortrose & Rosemarkie Community Council as well as Treasurer for the Rosemarkie Amenities Association which among other activities operates the Rosemarkie Beach Cafe.
Outside of his “work” commitments his interests include photography, dog walking and nature watching – the latter of which he links with being a local volunteer Shorewatcher for Whale & Dolphin Conservation and an RSPB volunteer at Tollie Red Kites.
Barbara was invited to join the Directors of Groam House to strengthen the Board after the museum had changed its status from a Trust to a Limited Company, in 2002. She brought experience of education, manufacturing industry, heading a magazine publishing company and running a management consultancy business.
Barbara was attracted to work with Groam House Museum as she had a lifelong interest in early history and archaeology which she could now be able to follow up in approaching retirement. However, she fell in love with the museum, its collection of Pictish stones and the warmth and friendship of its volunteers. She has been closely involved ever since!
Barbara has served the museum as Company Secretary then as Chairman of the Board for some 11 years altogether and also in an advisory role for the George Bain Collection, in which she specialised for a number of years.
Barbara grew up in Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire, is a graduate of Edinburgh University, lived and worked in Hertfordshire, Thailand and Glasgow until she and her husband came to live and work in the North Highlands, some 25 years ago.
She is delighted to be a working member of the Groam House community.
Jan was born in Glasgow in 1955 and spent the first six years of her life there before moving to Millport, on the Island of Cumbrae, where she spent the remainder of her childhood. She married her Canadian husband Rob in 1976 and for a few years accompanied him on his trips abroad – he was an Engineering Officer in the Merchant Navy. They finally settled in the Highlands in 1989, in Dingwall, to raise two daughters, Laura and Emma.
Jan studied Scottish History at Glasgow University (1981-84) and Cultural Studies of the Highlands and Islands at UHI (2003-6). She has had many jobs throughout her life, a lot of them involving research. These included working for the National Museums of Scotland and The Highland Council’s History & Culture website, Am Baile. For a few years she ran her own research company. Immediately prior to retiring in 2017 she was an Archive Assistant at the Highland Archive Centre. She continued there as a volunteer until February 2020.
Since retiring she has indulged herself in all her passions including reading, knitting, dog-walking and cooking. She has been writing her memoirs for several years and during the current pandemic offered to write a friend’s biography as well. It has been an excellent distraction during these challenging times.
Richard is retired, married and moved to Fortrose in early 2019. He was born in 1950 in Aberfeldy but most of his childhood spent in St Andrews, where he went to school at Madras College. He has two degrees in economics from Stirling University and the LSE.
His education completed in 1973, he was lucky enough to land a two year stint in Botswana working on development projects liaising with aid organisations, in this case predominantly roads. Once this contract was over, he spent a few months travelling, returning to St Andrews for the glorious summer of 1976. He then had to start thinking about a career which ended up being in the investment industry. Richard worked as an Investment Manager for the Co-operative Insurance Society in Manchester for 30 years. He left in 2006 and moved to Guernsey where he worked as a company director for investment companies until 2019. He left Guernsey in 2017 and lived in Brittany for 2 years, as he still needed to be ‘off-shore’. Once that was over, he and his wife chose Fortrose as the place to retire to.
The aspect of Richard’s past that is relevant to the Trustees of Groam House Museum is his involvement in Saddleworth Museum over the period 1980 – 2005. Saddleworth is a parish in the foothills of the Pennines about 10 miles east of Manchester comprising several traditional Pennine villages steeped in textiles. Saddleworth Museum was set up in 1962 in the engine room of a mill that had otherwise been demolished. It was a private venture run by volunteers focusing on Saddleworth’s rich history in textiles and its position on the transport routes across the Pennines. By the 1980s with the museum world becoming much more professional, there was a need to modernise. An extension was built, staff were hired under the various employment schemes of the times, a full time curator was funded by Oldham council, an education service was established and the Museum became a fully accredited, charity registered with a Board of Trustees. As with so many small independent museums, life at times was a bit of a struggle having to compete with the major State funded museums in Manchester and elsewhere. Recently it was able to modernise all its displays with the aid of a National Lottery grant and it is in good hands with a very competent Curator steeped in local history and an enthusiastic group of volunteers.
Sylvia is now a retired member of the community having kept my home here for over fifty years. She has been a Life Member of Groam House Museum for over twenty years.
Sylvia has had a long and varied career working in order to keep her home on the Black Isle, mainly in research and lecturing, primarily at the University of Glasgow and latterly at Anniesland College, Glasgow. Her specialist area was in Business Development whilst also lecturing in most business subjects from finance to personnel.
Sylvia has an International Master of Business Administration from the University of Glasgow. Whilst in Glasgow she was Chairman of the Institute of Chartered Management running a busy agenda for the development of managers from every area of industry and business.
On retirement Sylvia continued with many of hobbies, including playing tennis and gardening, whilst developing an interest in local history (she is a member of four local history societies – Fortrose and Rosemarkie, Cromarty, North Kessock and Inverness).
Lynne studied art and design, then achieved an MA Hons in History of Art from the University of Aberdeen. She’s worked as a curator, exhibition producer and marketer for some of Scotland’s leading arts and heritage organisations such as Glasgow Museums, Society of Scottish Artists, Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and the Estate of George Wyllie. Lynne lives in Rosemarkie on the Black Isle and works freelance in arts and hertiage and designs websites while developing her own artistic practice.
Helen is Groam House Museum’s curatorial advisor. She is not a board member but attends meetings to provide input and advice on a range of both strategic and operational issues.
Helen has over two decades experience working in heritage and was previously Curator of Scottish History for Glasgow Museums. Since moving back to the north of Scotland in 2004 Helen has developed a wide-ranging freelance creative practice with a particular focus on working with small, community and volunteer-led museums across the Highlands. As well as her work with Groam House Museum, she works with a number of other independent Highland museums and also works for Museums & Heritage Highland, an independent membership organisation supporting the development and sustainability of the heritage sector in the Highlands.
Helen hails originally from Ullapool but is now based in Forres, Moray.
Carola is Groam House Museum’s Administrator. She attends the Board meetings to take the minutes and report on the Co-ordination group and Volunteer related matters.
Carola grew up near Glasgow but moved to the east coast of the States in 1980 when she was 16. While there she achieved a BSc in Business Admin and an MBA while working at General Electric in Maryland. She moved back to the UK in 1990 and worked in the finance departments of Nokia and Dell Computer Corporation and set up a small business consultancy. In 1998 she moved to Fortrose with her husband, Keith, and they set up a software development company. While helping to run the family business, she has worked at Fortrose Academy in the Learning Support Department, at the Highland Hospice and at Groam House Museum off and on since 2009.
In her spare time, Carola is a keen gardener and allotmenteer and enjoys messing about with textiles and a sewing machine.
George Bain Curator
George Bain Project Administrator
Jenny has had a fairly varied work experience, starting with training as a pathologist and medical research into DNA then moving onto training and qualifying in working in social services, community work, adult education and IT consultancy.
She has worked in voluntary and local authority settings across urban, multi-cultural areas and communities and rural areas, researching local needs, implementing and evaluating projects and developing specialised training and mentoring programmes.
Jenny has been a project manager for a number of European funded projects, mainly developing the delivery of services and information via technology for councils, public authorities including Central Government, businesses and colleges. One of her concerns/responsibilities in the projects was to ensure the end users were involved in the development and evaluation of the services.
Since Jenny retired, she has been involved in the U3A as a Committee member, Vice-Chair, Chair, Trustee Volunteer, developing the use of social media as well as running and organising workshops and training sessions. She also organise and run local craft fairs especially the yearly Highland Wool and Textile Festivals and bi-annual Black Isle Gathering, (BIG)
The museum is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation and its constitution can be downloaded here.