Ballachulish people invited to get involved with slate quarries history project

People living in Ballachulish and the surrounding area are being invited to become involved in an exciting new local history project to gather the stories of the Ballachulish slate quarries.  The local history project, which gets underway in the village on Thursday 5th March 2015, is part of a wider project to conserve and interpret the Ballachulish Slate Arch (inclined plane) which was used to transport slate down from the quarries to boats on Loch Leven.   

To launch the project, Margaret Bennett, the highly-respected Scottish oral historian who has worked with communities worldwide to help them research and tell their stories, will be leading a free workshop in Ballachulish Shinty Pavilion starting at 6.30pm.  The workshop is open to everyone interested in finding more about the project and how they can get involved – regardless of their age or existing knowledge of the quarries. Advance booking for the workshop is not essential although people can let the project organisers know that they are planning to come along by phoning 079 105 24037 or emailing

Earlier in the day, Margaret will be leading a fun and informal story-gathering session with residents and lunch club attendees at the Ballachulish Abbeyfield.

The local history project’s co-ordinator, Verity Walker said:  “Many local people have family memories of the quarry and some older residents even recall going up there as children and being allowed to work the slate alongside the men.  The aim of our project is to help collect these memories and stories, and to look at how they can be shared with other local people and visitors.  This project is particularly exciting as we will be using what we collect in a series of new interpretive panels at the slate arch and around the quarry and also in a new app which provides the opportunity for visitors to hear local voices speaking about the quarries via their tablets and smartphones.”

Ballachulish Community Council chairman Kevin Smith is also excited about the practical side of the project:  “This is not only a project with benefits for visitors, but one with great opportunities for local people too,” he explained.  “We will be inviting local folk to get involved in many ways: by sharing stories, by training in oral history recording techniques and also by taking part in practical slate-working training.  This project is going to allow us all to learn more about our slate quarrying heritage and to share it with others.”

The Highland Council’s Lochaber Area Leader, Cllr Thomas MacLennan, said:  “This is a great opportunity for people to get involved and take part in what sounds a fascinating local history project which ties in well with work underway to safeguard the iconic Arch for many years to come.”

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: "As time marches on, the memories of Ballachulish’s once thriving slate quarrying industry begin to fade. The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to support a wonderful project which will not only conserve a physical reminder of it, but will also re-engage people with their industrial heritage and provide an important record for the region."

The local history project is part of a wider package of projects focused on the Ballachulish Slate Arch including conservation works, improvements to paths in the quarry and to the arch, new onsite and digital interpretation, and a slate-building training course. The projects are being jointly funded by The Highland Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland.

photo of group at arch

24 Feb 2015