It began with a single painted stone.
And from the Carnoustie caterpillar, a beautiful butterfly has emerged as a spectacular symbol of the Angus town’s hope and recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.
As Covid-19 exerted its global grip, trails of painted rocks appeared across the nation – left by walkers during brief outings close to home.
Carnoustie’s caterpillar stretched to almost 1,500 stones, snaking its way along the beachfront path.
Largest installation of its kind
And in what is thought to be the largest installation of its kind, each stone has been saved in a stunning permanent seafront display.
On a grassy banking beside the leisure centre, they now lie cocooned forever in half a tonne of epoxy resin.
The open-air artwork’s beauty stretches to several metres across.
But it takes its inspiration from the tiny form of the Small Blue butterfly.
It is the rarity whose own resilience has seen the insect make the coast around Carnoustie a species stronghold.
Lord Lieutenant’s community praise
Angus Lord Lieutenant Pat Sawers led the tributes to those involved in the heartening project at the butterfly’s unveiling.
As the Queen’s representative in the county, it was Mrs Sawers’ first official public duty in her home town since taking up the role before the pandemic struck.
“Every single stone tells a story,” she said.
“It provides a record of the hopes, dreams, fears and resilience of a community living through a global pandemic.
“A pandemic which has actually brought out an enormous amount of compassion across all walks of life and age groups, people wanting to help each other within our community.
“The Carnoustie butterfly is a prime example of this commitment of time and energy.”
She paid tribute to community champion Wendy Murray, who painstakingly spent 400 hours repainting and varnishing all of the 1,460 stones.
Local firm J&P Metal Technologies gave their skill and another 300 volunteer hours to the task of creating the scale mould of the Small Blue and setting the stones in the permanent installation.
David Mackland tribute
And the Lord Lieutenant paid a poignant tribute to community figure David Mackland, whose sudden death at the age of 47 just over a year ago stunned the town.
“Last year we lost a truly kind and generous man,” she said.
“David had the vision that the caterpillar could transform into a beautiful butterfly.
“The Carnoustie butterfly we now have is truly unique.”
Mrs Murray said it had been a “privilege” to take on the task of preparing every individual stone for the piece.
“Many were quite badly weathered, but every one of them told a story and we wanted to keep that,” she said.
“In September 2020, when they began to fade, they were taken into storage to be restored and varnished.
“It was quite an emotional journey for me to repaint them.
“It took many hours, but it was a real honour,” said Wendy.
More than 60 organisations and groups are represented in the butterfly, along with 1,000-plus stones painted by individuals and families.
As restrictions eased, stones were added by people from as far afield as the Isle of Lewis and Devon.
The butterfly’s body includes the names of children recorded on the base of some stones.
Wendy added: “The Small Blue is such an important species in this community and so much work has been done in recent years to conserve and protect it.
“It is so special we have been able to create our butterfly in the shape of the Small Blue as this symbol of hope and recovery.”