Ballachulish to launch its new slate quarry interpretation - with a bang!

Ballachulish quarry celebration poster
Ballachulish quarry celebration poster

Issued on behalf of Ballachulish Community Council

Ballachulish Community Council warmly invites both people living in Ballachulish and locality plus any visitors to the area to attend the celebratory launch of its Ballachulish Slate Arch project which has created exciting new interpretation at Ballachulish Slate Quarry.   A photocall will be held inside the quarry (or at Ballachulish Village Hall if weather inclement) at 18.00 on Friday 9 June 2017.  The event commences in the hall at 17.30 and should end by 19.00

This local history project has gathered together the stories of older people within the community who still remember family members working in the quarry or living in the ‘bank’ in one of the quarrier cottages provided by the company.  Launched in 2015, this three-year project has been generously funded by Historic Environment Scotland, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Highland Council.

This vast and iconic west-coast geological and historical site still dominates the landscape at Ballachulish, containing features such as the last-remaining inclined plane ‘slate arch’ in Scotland (surveyed and consolidated as the main focus of this project) and is still cherished by local people today.  The extraordinary slate buttresses of the quarry once echoed with the sound of high explosives, plus the hammers and chisels of many skilled men (and occasionally women) who hand-shaped the millions of roof and flooring slates destined for locations all over the UK and beyond.

In attendance at the opening as guests of honour will be the project interviewees whose poignant memories and expertise has been collated into a unique app which can either be downloaded from from Friday 9th June either in advance of a visit or via via the handy wifi at Ballachulish Tourist Information Centre and Quarry Café.

There will also be an update on the film project ‘In the Darkest Hour’ which is based on the story of three men, one of them from Ballachulish, who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII.  The film concept originated from a chance post to the project’s popular Facebook page at - and two very handsome leading actors have just been cast.

Those hoping to attend should let the project organisers know that they are planning to come along by phoning 07778 922 407 or via the project Facebook page at the address above.

Ballachulish Community Council chairman Kevin Smith is excited about how the project has unfolded: “This has been a project with obvious benefits for future visitors, but also one with great opportunities for local people too,” he explained.  “Local folk have shared stories, trained in oral history recording techniques and also in practical slate-working.  The unexpected bonus of the social media side of the project has meant a connection to an exciting new film with local roots and a new interest in Ballachulish from all over the world.  We have also re-discovered the stories of almost-forgotten local features, like the Dispute Stone: this was a great chunk of white quartz which was where quarriers would take their quarrels to resolve – and you could not leave the Dispute Stone until you had sorted out your differences.  We hope to see this highly-beneficial local alternative to mediation revived and become popular with visitors too!”

This project has come about in the nick of time, as many of those who recall the quarry right at the end of its working existence are all now in their later years.  Thanks to the interpretive work of this project, these unique memories will be passed on to visitors and even more importantly down the generations in Ballachulish and the surrounding area. Ballachulish Community Council is delighted that The Heritage Lottery Fund has chosen to support a wonderful project which has not only conserved a physical reminder of the skill of the quarriers in the form of the much-loved slate arch, but has also re-engaged people with their industrial heritage and provided an important record for the region.

Please be warned that local children have a very noisy surprise up their sleeves for this event, as befits a quarry!

The project has been being jointly funded by The Highland Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland.

2 Jun 2017
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