Ballachulish slate training course a success despite weather

photo of workshop
Photo taken during the workshop

A recent two-day course in slate building techniques at Ballachulish has been hailed as a success despite the best attempts of the weather to spoil things.

Twelve trainees from Ballachulish and further afield in Lochaber not only learned the theory and practice of basic techniques but also made great progress in building a large new slate plinth at the entrance to the village’s East Quarry, which will hold three new panels informing visitors about the history and significance of the local slate quarrying industry.  The hardy volunteers, along with trainers Euan Thompson and Marc Ellington of the Scottish Traditional Skills Training Centre, worked enthusiastically on the plinth despite rain and gales.

Claire Bell of The Highland Council’s Development & Infrastructure Service (which is leading the project) said: “The training course was an important part of the project aimed at helping raise awareness of slate as a building material, and encouraging people to use it in their own projects. We were delighted that the course was fully subscribed, and the commitment of the trainees was fantastic, especially on the second day when the weather was foul. Excellent soup, sandwiches and bacon rolls from the nearby Quarry Centre café definitely helped things along, and the new plinth is going to be a great feature in the village when it is complete.”

As part of the course, the participants also visited the nearby Ballachulish slate arch to hear from contractors Forth Stone about the construction of the arch and the works currently underway to conserve it, and to see the works for themselves.

The slate building training course, which was provided free of charge as part of a wider project to conserve and interpret the historic Ballachulish slate arch, was open to anyone with a personal or professional interest in using slate to build features such as dykes, cairns, plinths and seating. 

The workshop is part of the Ballachulish slate arch project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Highland Council and Historic Environment Scotland (formerly Historic Scotland). The £277,000 project will not only consolidate the slate arch structure but also create new interpretive materials, produced in partnership with local people.  A successful community oral heritage project to gather local stories and memories about the quarries has already taken place and work is currently underway to use the information gathered to design new panels and an app. The path to the arch, along with paths within the East Quarry, will also be upgraded.

The Ballachulish slate arch, also known as the Tom Beag Inclined Plane, can be seen from the A82 trunk road close to the village of Ballachulish.  It dates back to the 19th century when it was built to transport wagons of dressed slate from the quarry down to piers on the loch-side and to transport empty wagons back up to the quarry.

13 Jan 2016