Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Video: Follow Dornoch’s Winston the Bear as he hunts a dragon in charming new book

Meet Winston the Bear.
Meet Winston the Bear.

Every self-respecting village has its own dragon legend, and Dornoch is no exception.

The tale of St Gilbert slaying a dragon which terrorised Dornoch residents in the 13th Century so captured the imagination of resident Catherine MacCulloch that she decided to capture it in a children’s book – with a modern twist.

A rhyming picture book is the result, featuring the smallest, and potentially cutest, new resident of Dornoch, Winston the Bear.

Catherine MacCulloch with her new book at Dornoch beach. Pictures by Jason Hedges

Catherine, 44, a keen amateur photographer, and local illustrator Jude Holden have combined forces to create a unique combination of photos and artwork for Winston the Bear and the Dragon of the Black Firs.

Catherine’s gift for rhyming keeps the story romping along as Winston decides to find out if there is any truth in the dragon legend, and sets out with a dragon-hunting kit to leave no stone unturned in his quest.

Winston himself was born in collaboration with local crafter Jo Shepherd, who created a bear which exactly sums up Winston’s character, Catherine says.

“He need to stand up, be posable, and have lots of personality, and she got him just right.”

He sports a tweed cap and waistcoat, also made by Jo.

His natty bowtie features fabric specially designed by Jude for the book frontispiece, featuring views of Dornoch’s jail, cathedral, golf club and castle.

It’s Catherine’s first venture into children’s book writing after years as a full-time mum bringing up Fynn, 11, and eight-year-old twins Freya and Isla.

Before that she worked for 20 years with the Forestry Commission on policy and recreational forestry in Edinburgh and Dornoch.

Avid book readers

She said: “We’re a family of avid book readers, and I’ve always written funny poems and been drawn to rhyme.

“So are all the kids, but especially Freya. She’s adding little rhymes to Winston’s social media.”

The seed of the book was planted when Catherine’s children were tiny.

“I’m a keen amateur photographer and wanted to use my photos in a story.

“I thought very carefully about my main character and what it should be.”

Catherine and Winston in Dornoch Cathedral. Picture by Jason Hedges

In the end she plumped for an old-fashioned, traditional style of bear, fitting for the Highlands.

“It wasn’t until I saw a display in HistoryLinks museum about St Gilbert and the dragon that the story fell into place.

“St Gilbert was Bishop of Caithness in the 13th Century.

“He carried out miracles and built the cathedral with ‘enchanted tools’.

“The story goes that the villagers were being terrorised by the ‘beast of the black firs’ who was burning down buildings and eating people.

“Gilbert lay in wait for him in a hole near Camore woods and jumped out and killed the dragon with a bow and arrow.

“There’s a stone to this day under which he apparently buried the dragon.

“Or under which the last witch of Dornoch is buried, according to another legend.”

Treasure hunt

She originally wanted to put a treasure hunt at the heart of her story, but realised that hunting for a dragon would serve the same purpose to take readers around the village, and perhaps inspire them to come visit.

Winston’s story is set in and around Dornoch, including the cathedral, beach and golf course, but Catherine stresses the book is not just for Dornoch, but of Highland-wide appeal.


She’s hoping it will soon be available in Highland stockists.

At the moment it’s available at the Historylinks Museum, Dornoch Bookshop, Dunrobin Castle and on Winston’s website.

Illustrating Winston the Bear

The book is Jude Holden’s first venture into book illustration.

Dornoch artist Jude Holden with a chalk board she made for her cousin’s shop in Helmsdale. Supplied by Jude Holden.

Dornoch born and bred, Jude, 39,  has been drawing since she could hold a pencil.

She did a fine art course at Aberdeen University, followed by an inter-disciplinary design course at Napier University.

She said: “This helped me develop my own style and be very adaptable as an artist.”

Perfect skills when it came to creating the illustrations for Catherine’s book.

The newbie author and newbie illustrator met and gelled through their children.

Jude, who currently works at JailDornoch, has four – Erin, 14, Faye, 13, Ruaridh, 11 and Robyn, 9.

She said: “I was able to continue my art when the children were very young, snatching time here and there to draw.

“They are all very creative, and Robyn in particular is interested in art, she likes making comic book illustrations.”

Jude Holden has created a modern style of animal portraiture. Supplied by Jude Holden.

Jude has built up a reputation for her animal portraits, creating her own modern style alongside more traditional portraiture.

Jude says she loved illustrating Catherine’s book and the pair hope to carry on creating more Winston stories together.


Page illustrated by Jude Holden from Catherine MacCulloch’s book Winston the Bear and the Dragon of the Black Firs. Supplied by Catherine MacCulloch.


You might enjoy   Secret Highlands: Young author celebrates rich folklore of Easter Ross villages

Already a subscriber? Sign in