A COMMUNITY land buy-out in Sutherland has won backing from across the world – but Canadian Kent Munro went one step further by travelling to Scotland to sign up his support in person.

Those behind the Garbh Allt Community Initiative (GACI) say associate membership has been growing steadily since the organisation took over a 3000-acre estate south of Helmsdale in June.

It bought the townships of Marrel, West Helmsdale, Gartymore and Portgower – formally owned by Sutherland Estates – as well as 20 sites of historical interest.

It has been backed by people from as far afield as Canada and New Zealand to celebrate and support their Helmsdale connections.

Kent Munro, however, didn’t simply post his application form – he came all the way from Vancouver to join GACI and meet his new-found cousins on the buy-out board.

Back in June, Munro was put in touch with a distant cousin, Audrey Munro, who is also on the GACI board of directors. He was amazed to hear of her GACI connection as he had followed its progress from the beginning, after seeing a report online about the planned buyout.

Audrey then introduced him to Esther MacDonald, another cousin and GACI board member.

Munro, who was already planning a trip to Helmsdale, immediately promised to join as an associate member, so he could support GACI and keep up-to-date with developments. As a retired city planner, he is well aware of the responsibilities facing the GACI board and the potential difficulties of balancing economic development with conservation.

“GACI is now at the threshold of facing exciting opportunities,” he said. “But with that great potential comes an obligation to manage future change in a way that honours and respects this very special place and its people.”

Munro can trace his family history back to the Matheson family, who were cleared from Kildonan to the crofting township of Gartymore, now part of the GACI estate. The GACI archive now holds historic records of his ancestors’ crofts, meaning he could learn more about their day-to-day life than he had ever expected.

For further information on GACI or associate membership, go to