Brora Brick Robin

Welcome! This site, in spite of its name, is not for the purpose of self-aggrandisement but for the recording of information (mainly through pictures, all taken in Scotland) for the interest and use of others (except copyright on wedding pictures under ‘Dundee Wedding’).  Every care has been taken to ensure ‘good’ pictures of all the people featured on this website; but if anyone wishes their picture (or of a deceased love one) removed please get in touch.

The photographs on this website may be used by others. Bigger files may be obtained through use of the ‘Gallery’ and will be big enough for the likes of PowerPoint. But if full files are required (or for general easiness) they may be found at:

sandysroutesandshoots‘ photosets on Flickr

E-mail: brorasutherland@googlemail.com

While every care has been taken to give correct information (such as the titles to the pictures) on this website, everything is subject to unintentional error.

The following article has been taken from The Clan Sutherland Magazine, December 2004, and both sets the scene and helps explain the pages of this website.


The Reverend Alexander Sutherland proudly asserts that he is a Sutherland from Sutherland! Sandy, as he prefers to be known, says that he was born in the village of Helmsdale when the Pope was there (the General Pope Maternity Hospital!). However, he belongs to the village of Brora. His parents, Sandy and Marion, ran The Brora Nurseries and were well known for their bedding and vegetable plants, shrubs and wreath-making.

In 1969 Sandy left school at 15 to begin work in Clynelish and Brora Distilleries. With money in his back pocket he says that the nightlife of Sutherland beckoned; and the inevitable happened—he got married! Two years later, Jessie, Sandy’s wife, gave birth to Wendy; and then Kenneth came along a year or so later. In 1975, Peggy, a friend of Jessie’s, who had also recently married, came with her husband Gus to stay with the Sutherlands for the October holiday weekend. Gus was into bird-watching and asked Sandy to go ‘birding’ with him. Sandy thought, ‘Why not?’ and dusted down a pair of binoculars that looked as if they had belonged to his great grandfather and they headed off for the woods.

Sandy says that he was quite surprised, impressed and excited at seeing and being able to identify several ‘new’ birds including the smallest in Britain—the Goldcrest (along with the Firecrest). Sandy thought to himself that this would make a great hobby if he could get a decent pair of ‘binos’ and a camera and take a picture of every species of bird he saw. His intention was to take up bird photography big time!

After two or three years when his collection of bird pictures and knowledge on birds increased, he started a Young Ornithologists’ Club in Brora High School and took youngsters on field trips to see as many of our ‘feathered friends’ as possible. Some of Sandy’s photography may be viewed in Sutherland Birds edited by Stewart Angus and published and printed by The Northern Times Limited in 1983. Sandy also had some of his work on file at a London based photographic agency. In 1976 Sandy and a bird watching friend, Ian Hogg, were instrumental in establishing the East Sutherland Bird Group which still continues to meet.

It was not too long before Sandy was invited to show his wildlife transparencies to groups such as the WRI and annually during the Festive Season to Clyne Church of Scotland Woman’s Guild who put on a special Afternoon Tea for the pensioners of the village with Sandy providing the entertainment. It was here that Sandy first met the then Clyne Church of Scotland minister, the Reverend Alasdair MacLennan.

Alasdair’ says Sandy, ‘didn’t hit me on the head with a Bible! But he took an interest in my hobby and in me. I thought that I might go along to church sometime to, as it were, repay his kindness.’ This Sandy did and after, as he puts it, ‘initially being irritated by the “you must be born again to get into the kingdom of heaven” message’ committed himself to it and in the process of time became an elder and Sunday School Superintendent in Clyne Church of Scotland in Brora.

Meanwhile one of the distilleries had been closed down and the other went on a four-day week. Sandy had started, on a part time basis, a Garden Centre on his father’s premises with some landscaping contracts being undertaken. With the one remaining distillery’s future looking precarious, the Garden Centre looked like an option to fall back on should the worst come to the worst at the distillery. However, as Sandy puts it, ‘The Lord had other plans for me’. Sandy, through preaching in both the Church of Scotland and the Free Church of Scotland and Brora’s Fisherman’s Hall felt a ‘call’ to the ministry.

In 1986, he and his family set off for Edinburgh where, after having had gone back to school to take Higher and Standard Grade exams, Sandy enrolled at the Free Church of Scotland College as a private Student on a four-year course—Hebrew and Greek included! After three years at the College Sandy put himself forward for the Free Church ministry. Since then he has served the Church in Mull, Kilmallie (outside Fort William) and now in Fortrose on the Black Isle.

Although Sandy says that his bird watching and photography these days is mainly carried out from the car window (while stationary!) he is still kept busy showing slides of birds to various groups and uses his pictures and knowledge of the outdoors as helpful aids when visiting schools, old folks homes and for sermon illustrations from time to time.

Sandy takes great pride in his roots and clan and is not slow in declaring Brora as the centre of the universe. However, he is an advocate also of a spiritual family and homeland. To illustrate this Biblical Hope of the heavenly glory to come he often takes with him, when going somewhere new to speak, an old Brora brick, left over from the days of the Brora brickworks and colliery, which has ‘BRORA’ stamped on it. He not only uses it as an introduction to himself and his roots but to the Saviour he now serves and the hope of an eternal family and homeland. He declares: ‘ “B.R.O.R.A” reminds me not only of where I am from but of where I am going because it reminds me of the work of the Saviour who Bought me, Redeemed me, Offered Himself for me, will Resurrect me, and has Adopted me into God’s family—a family, says Revelation 5: 9, “from every tribe (clan) and tongue and people and nation” ’.

A Sutherland from Sutherland but also truly a Sutherland ‘without fear’

Free Church College, Final Year, 1990.
(Rest cursor on picture for titles.)

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3 Responses to Home

  1. Dear Sandy, it is a pleasure to have found your photography and your Bible messages on this site. Together with my father (from Clackmannanshire), I came to Mull twice during your tenure at Tobermory as part of the Christian holiday group from Rugby School staying with Eric Morgan at Mornish Schoolhouse. Your Mull photos bring it all back to me. I have abiding memories of the fellowship meeting at your manse after the evening service and of your encouragement to go on in Christ. The Lord strengthen you and give you much joy and wisdom. Best wishes, Alexander Thomson.

  2. Hello Sandy. I hope all is well with you. I am a keen collector of Scottish bricks – please see http://www.markcranston.co.uk
    I confess I am not a religious gent but I was intrigued to read about your Brora brick and what it stands for in your life. What a fascinating prop for your talks. Incidentally I dont personally have a Brora brick in my collection – yet! If you see a spare one kicking around then please let me know and I will arrange pick up even though I reside in the Borders.
    best regards

    • Hi Mark,
      Nice to hear from you.
      It will be no trouble at all to get you a Brora brick. There are two types. The older one has ‘Brora-Hunter’ marked on it (after T.M. Hunter who also owned the woolen mill in Brora). These are harder to find (especially in good condtion. I think there is a high sulpher content in the clay in Brora (the colliery and brickworks were side by side) and sometimes the older bricks don’t last. I am just back from Brora today (if I had received your email earlier I could have looked for a brick(s) out for you. But I will be back up there soon–I presently live in Fortrose, Ross-shire but our daughter lives in Brora–and I will contact you. I often see bricks on the shoreline at home from different places and often fancied collecting them but have never done so. If i find other types I will let you know. Can you drop me an e-mail on brorasutherland@googlemail.com as this will be easier them through the website.

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