The Loch Sloy Hydro-Electric Scheme 1950 >
The Loch Sloy Hydro-Electric Scheme 1950
By Arthur Ross
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Early 1945 the Hydro Electric Scheme at Loch Sloy was to commence. The Glasgow firm of Crowley Russel were awarded the first part of this contract. The firmís agent Mr. Davidson and my father James Ross were sent to Sloy from a large MOD contract in Fife to get contract started after organising the cutting of the first sod by Mrs Tom Johnson the wife of the Secretary of State for Scotland. He was the power behind getting these Hydro Schemes commenced in Scotland.
Work then commenced on building the temporary power station which was to supply electricity for the whole scheme. Also a power line was erected to Arrochar to give them their first electric lighting. The switching on ceremony was performed by the oldest inhabitant Ė a Miss McFarlane.
Work also commenced on building the camps (north, south and Ardvorlich) to house the workforce necessary for this large contract. Access roads were made up the glens to the top of the Dam via a small rock tunnel, to the quarry site at Corriegroggan and up the side of Ben Vorlich to the top of the incline railway and main tunnel outlet from Loch Sloy.
My father was kept very busy at this time ably supported by foremen and gangers who wanted to come with him from Fife. He also gave work to some local lads, Archie Campbell (a joiner), Alistair Bell (Driver) and Calum McLean who just left school were ones I remember most. My father used to walk round all the various parts of this contract every day which entailed quite a few miles seeing everything was going smoothly. Calum McLean became his messenger and went everywhere with him and to take any messages back to the office or to some of the gangers. He said that he did not require rocking to sleep at night. He eventually got to work as an Apprentice Mechanic with the firms head mechanic and became a great mechanic himself. The firm also won the contract to diver the A83 at the power station. When this contract was almost finished sadly Mr. Crowley, the firmsí owner, died but his son did not want to take over the firm even when Mr. Davidson and my father said they would help to keep the firm going but his heart was not in it so ended for my father years of working with a wonderful firm.
Shortly after this my father got word from a friend who had a contracting business in Fort William to come and work for them as general manager. Most of the work was scattered over the west coast of Scotland. He enjoyed the work but it required a lot of travelling and only managed to come home about once a fortnight. He was offered a house near Fort William but my mother wanted to stay in Arrochar it was the longest we ever stayed in one place since before 1939. My father was always sent to get contracts started a year somewhere eighteen months maybe at the next and so on all MOD new airfield construction.
My father decided that he too would stay in Arrochar. I think he was a bit fed up himself of all the moving about. The Forestry Commission asked if he would do some work for them so he started his company and eventually gave employment to a lot of men and apprenticeships to quite a few young local lads. He never turned any local man away who required work even for weekends only.
He never retired from work, it was what he enjoyed right to the end.
GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR AT SLOY
by Arthur Ross
Shortly after work commenced on the camps etc. word came that some POW's would be arriving and some would like to be trained as tradesmen probably in preparation for when they return to their own country. They arrived by train from Garelochhead and Whistlefield stations in two carriages at the new railway siding at Sloy accompanied by army guards.
My father arranged them into what kind of work they were used to. Some were sent to work with the gangs on the access roads. As I was the only bricklayer on site at this time I was given twenty to train as bricklayers and others to be labourers to them. I was thankful for them as the Nissen type huts were getting erected and had to have brickwork gables and partitions built in them. Once I showed them how to build brickwork they were quick to learn and good workers. We also had to build stone walls to the culverts on the access roads along with some retaining walls. Later some bricklayers arrived, some from demob from the forces. I put them to work to finish the brickwork to the stores and offices at the Diesel Power Station. They were not very happy about the POW's doing their work, so I asked my father if the POW's could be sent to the Ardvorlich Camp as it was near ready for bricklayers.
About now word came that some other POW's would be arriving and to expect some trouble from them. When they arrived with quite a few guards to keep an eye on them it was obvious things would be awkward. They were all ex-SS and would not do anything and thus upset the other POW's. After a short period my father said enough was enough and got them sent back to camp. The POW's at Ardvorlich camp site were thankful the SS were sent away. I think they disrupted life in their camps also.
Two POW's worked in the office for my father. One was called Hans but I cannot remember the other's name. Hans became a good friend of our family and visited us at home in Arrochar along with his friend.
Eventually the POW's were getting repatriated home. They were excited at seeing their families at last although some were very apprehensive at what was waiting them in the Russian sector. One wrote later to me and said things were not good with shortages of food etc. They enjoyed working at Sloy and in their camps at Garelochhead where they were allowed to go into the village. During their time in camp they made all kinds of things; toys and cigarette boxes. Hans painted a copy of the famous sunflowers painting and presented it to my mother before going away. I also still have a cigarette case made in plywood with this inscription on the back:
The world has room for
Very appropriate for the way things are today. This is just a small part of what they did at Sloy.
Above is the plaque on display in the offices. Below are some pictures of a train derailment that occurred during the construction.
Below is the full content of the book prepared prior to the opening of the Loch Sloy Hydro Electric Scheme. A copy was presented to each of the management team at the time.
Loch Sloy In History
Earlier Waterpower Plans
The Board's Scheme
The Main Works and how they were built
The Power Station and it's equipment