IT'S one of Scotland's quirkiest, best-known landmarks – and its centenary is being marked this Saturday.

No-one knows for sure when Millport's Crocodile Rock was given its distinctive make-over.

But it is at least 100 years old, as it was in July 1913 that the artist, Robert Brown, was publicly thanked for his work.

The Isle of Cumbrae will come alive on Saturday with an ambitious party, with live music, a procession, and an original piece performed by local children, telling the colourful story of the croc.

The organiser of the festivities – and the author of that story – is Paul Watling, owner of a local business, Astikkos Creations, which makes Cumbrae-inspired calendars and gifts – including a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of the croc-rock itself.

"It really is iconic," the 50-year-old expat Yorkshireman says of the rock.

"It used to be one of the top tourist attractions in Scotland. It has become a landmark, and everybody knows about it.

"More people know about the rock than would know that the island is called Cumbrae.

"We don't have an exact date for the painting of the rock, but what we do know is that the local council acknowledged the painter in 1913.

"It's possible that Mr Brown might have painted it a number of years earlier, but there's no record of the actual date of painting."

Sadly, little is definitely known about Mr Brown himself – though that isn't too surprising, given that all of this happened before the First World War.

"Local folklore has it that a Mr Brown painted the rock after a lunchtime toddy one day, but that's about it," said Paul.

"Apparently his nickname was 'Tadger', and we've found an old photograph of a gentleman, with that name written on the back.

"So we might have a photograph of the man, but we don't really know if it's him or not."

Cumbrae residents are expected to be out in force for Saturday's celebrations, and the hope is that they will be joined by tourists.

The Garrison Marquee, at 2pm, will be the venue for Paul's piece, The Leviathan and Robert Brown, performed by pupils from Cumbrae Primary School.

The performance will also feature local musicians playing a specially-written children's song, Thank You, Mr Crocodile.

In the Garrison grounds there will be a table-top sale and other activities, including the primary kids with a Chinese-dragon style crocodile.

The day will come to an end in local premises known as The Tavern – where, it turns out, the idea to paint the rock is said to have originated.

Rock Around The Croc, a charity night starting at 8pm, will feature live music from a local band, The Spoig (they're named after one of the small islands in the bay), and a 'band-e-oke' with various artistes.

Paul has also put out a request for people to create a pictorial history of the Croc on the website Flickr.

Photos submitted via Flickr will be eligible for display in Garrison House throughout the summer.

Among the photos already on show is one showing two children, John Thomson and Jean Morgan, dating back to 1950.

There's no doubt that people regard the Croc with affection and that it has become part of local life. Unusually for a rocky outcrop, it even has its own Facebook page.

"To tell the truth I am actually 4.5 billion years old!," the page announces, cheerfully. "My job in Millport is to protect all the visitors and to give them a fantastic photograph to remember."

The paintwork on the rock is re-touched every few years," says Paul. "The local Burns Club has taken on the task of looking after the upkeep, and a local painter called Brian Elliott paints it on the club's behalf.

"He did it again a couple of months ago, just to make sure it was looking at its best for the celebrations."

Paul may be from Yorkshire but he does have strong family connections with the island. My wife's father was brought up here, and went to school here 70 years ago, and he and his wife retired here a few years.

"My wife decided to relocate here to be with them, which is how I came to end up on the island," he says. His wife's aunt and uncle were also born here.

Paul himself used to work as an entertainment manager in holiday camps in south Wales and other places.

"I love it here," he adds. "I was born and brought up on Whitby, in north Yorkshire, and it has a similar feel to Cumbrae, as it's a seaside town with a nice, relaxed atmosphere and a strong community spirit."

The one thing that Whitby doesn't have, however, is a rocky outcrop that is painted to resemble a crocodile.

You can't blame Millport for celebrating the centenary of its most striking resident!

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