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Last Updated: Monday, 22 January 2007, 00:07 GMT
Highlands celebrates Lennon links
John Lennon, Yoko Ono and their children Julian and Kyoko in Durness in 1969
John Lennon returned to Durness with Yoko Ono, Julian and Kyoko
John Lennon's links with the Highlands are being promoted in an effort to attract tourists to the area.

The late Beatle spent long summer holidays in Durness, Sutherland, between the ages of nine and 14.

The area helped inspire his song In My Life, and he returned with Yoko Ono, son Julian and Ono's daughter Kyoko.

It is hoped the launch of a new website, North Highlands Scotland, will encourage visitors to see why Lennon was so taken with the remote area.

The tourism initiative by North Highland Tourism Operators Ltd (NHT) is being headed by Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, who spends much of the summer at the Castle of Mey in Caithness.

Lennon and his first cousin Stanley Parkes used to stay at the family croft at 56 Sangomore at Sango Bay.

Stanley Parkes
I am delighted that John's life and times in Durness are being highlighted
Stanley Parkes
John Lennon's cousin

Mr Parkes was working as a tourist information officer in Durness when he received a telephone call soon after 8 December, 1980, telling him Lennon had been killed in New York.

"John never forgot those times at Durness," he said.

"They were among his happiest memories. He loved the wilderness.

"The croft belonged to my stepfather, Robert Sutherland, and John just loved the wildness and the openness of the place."

He said the pair used to go fishing and hunting and that Lennon loved to go up into the hills to draw or write poetry.

"John really loved hillwalking, shooting and fishing," he said.

"He used to catch salmon. He would have been quite a laird.

"In the last letter to me before he was killed, he quoted a famous Scottish saying that says 'It's a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht since I last had a word'."

Car crash

Lennon returned to Durness with his wife and their children in 1969 but the holiday was marked by a bad car accident near Loch Eriboll.

Lennon, who had notoriously poor eyesight and rarely drove himself, crashed on one of the narrow northern roads.

He received 17 stitches for facial injuries while Ono received 14 stitches in her forehead.

Durness
Lennon loved to go fishing and hillwalking in Durness

Following a five-day stay at the Lawson Memorial Hospital in Golspie, Sutherland, Lennon told reporters: "If you're going to have a car crash, try to arrange for it to happen in the Highlands. The hospital there was just great."

Mr Parkes added: "Yoko had the car, a white British Leyland Maxi, shipped to their home in Ascot, England, and mounted in the garden on a concrete plinth as she considered it 'a happening'."

A memorial commemorating Lennon's links with Durness was unveiled in 2002 by Mr Parkes.

"I am delighted that John's life and times in Durness are being highlighted," Mr Parkes said.

'Untapped potential'

Officially launching NHT, Prince Charles said: "I have always been struck by the riches of the area in terms of, not just its natural beauty, but of the human tradition, of music and culture which are so precious and which I can only hope will become more and more recognised as people begin to discover this extraordinary part of the world for themselves."

Former MSP Mike Russell has written a book, The Next Big Thing, about Lennon's links with Durness and a film about his time in the Highlands is also in the pipeline.

"Durness had a major impact on John Lennon. It really was where he was often happiest in an at times unhappy childhood," Mr Russell said.

"During my research it was quite clear John connected hugely with the area and it holds an untapped potential to attract tourists to see the place that helped shaped John Lennon."


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