THE dramatic war-time evacuation of parts of the Tarbat peninsula has provided the landscape for a new novel.
Philip Paris’ latest work, Effie’s War, is inspired by the real-life events of November 1943 when around 900 people in the area were given just one month to leave their homes, crofts and farms.
Residents had no warning of the enforced move, which included the evacuation of the village of Inver and the closure of two schools.
"It’s an extraordinary story and one that is not widely known," said the Easter Ross author.
"I had heard the basic details years ago, but it was a visit to the Tarbat Discovery Centre in 2017 that brought them into the front of my mind again and, on this occasion, immediately set the writing boulder rolling down the hill. I was suddenly fascinated by what had happened.
"People at the time were told that the military wanted the land for battle practice. However, this wasn’t the entire truth – the highly secret part was that they wanted a stretch of beach between Portmahomack and Inver to rehearse for the D-Day landings, scheduled to take place in Normandy the following year.
"Farmers faced a huge challenge and had little option but to sell their livestock. The authorities organised transport for the animals, reportedly more than 1000 cattle and 8000 sheep, to special auctions in Dingwall. Such was the secrecy that only selected farmers were invited to attend, with trains laid on to take away purchased stock.
"The other hurdle facing farmers within the evacuation zone was how to process gathered crops. The solution to this urgent need for labour was to bring in Italian POWs from the camp at Kildary, as well as calling on the Home Guard and Women’s Land Army.
"During several months of research I spoke to many local people in order to gain a better understanding of Highland life in the 1940s… from farming to funerals. Everyone I approached was extremely helpful and I’m certainly grateful for the knowledge they passed on.
"The characters in Effie’s War are entirely fictitious as I wanted complete freedom with their storylines, but these real-life events make a fantastic backdrop to the novel, most of which is set within those four highly-charged weeks in 1943."
In June, he will be involved in a number of book launches during which he’ll explain how he turned these historical events into a full length novel. There will be readings from the book and a chance to ask questions.
The five launch events include one in Waterstones, Inverness on June 7 at 6pm, and similar events in Inver Hall on June 9 and 11am and Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack at 7.30pm on June 21 (£3 entrance fee). He will also be signing copies at the Tarbat Discovery Centre between 10-11am on June 8, 15, 22 and 29.