Kind-hearted Neil Macdonald, 81, is setting himself up to raise funds for Highland Hospice this summer. He is the creator of ‘The Heart on the Hill’ on the side of Knockfarrel, where he plans to carry out a series of walks this summer, beginning on Saturday 3rd July.
Neil said, “I have fundraised successfully for various charities over the years, including Highland Hospice which is close to my heart. I will begin my walks in early July, and intend to do as many as I can. Although I have not set myself a specific target in terms of circuits around the heart, I am hoping to initially raise £2,500 for the Hospice. Hopefully the weather will be kind to me, and I will be updating my supporters on my progress via the ‘Big Heart on the Hill’ Facebook group. I’m very grateful to be supported by friends and neighbours, who will be taking turns to walk with me”
Neil has been champing at the bit to get started on another fundraising challenge all year, but due to covid restrictions, he has delayed this incredible adventure until this year.
Neil first created ‘The Heart on the Hill’ around 15 years ago – a huge heart on the hillside opposite his croft – as a romantic gesture to his beloved wife Mina, in case he ever forgot to say, “I love you.”
He explains, “I was always fascinated by crop circles, and in particular their precision. In the middle of one late summer’s night, I set out on my own in secret – and after two moonlight outings, it was finished. On the first night, ropes were tied to a pivotal stake measured out like a compass to create two smooth curves at the top of the heart. Then, on night two, I planted a torch at the bottom point of the heart, which guided me in a straight line from the two outer edges of the top curves. I also flattened the high bracken around it –it was quite difficult in the dark!”
The following year he created a flower using the same method. Now each year, Neil and one or two of his neighbours flatten the bracken to revitalise the heart.
The origins of the heart and flower became a talking point for many years, with many people even claiming falsely to have created them. Ten years ago, on Neil and Mina’s Golden Wedding anniversary, their son Billy decided it was time for the truth to come out and Neil’s identity was revealed in a local newspaper article.
Highland Hospice Fundraiser Katie Gibb said, “This story is just so touching. The creation of ‘The Heart on the Hill’ is so romantic and it is incredibly warming to think of Neil walking around it to raise funds for Highland Hospice this summer. His creations to this day provide mystery, intrigue, and delight to visitors and local residents alike, and I am certain the local communities will be right behind Neil on this challenge. Good luck and huge thanks Neil!”
DONATE in Person: He will also have collecting cans in local shops such as Contin, Strathpeffer, Dingwall, Muir of Ord, Beauly, Maryburgh.