Secret Scotland - Cruachan Power Station
Some have said there was not enough recognition given to the workers responsible for the construction of Cruachan, although it does have to be said that the 36 who lost their lives during the work are nearly always remembered whenever anything is written about the project.
A new book seems set to widen our knowledge about the power station, the project, and the people behind it:
Story of Ben Cruachan ‘tunnel tigers’ to be told - The Scotsman
THE story of 3,000 “tunnel tigers” who descended on a tiny crofting community to build a power station inside a hollowed-out mountain is being told in a new book.
For the first time residents of the villages in the shadow of Ben Cruachan have spoken about the impact on their communities of the influx of workers drafted in to help build the Cruachan Power Station at Dalmally 50 years ago.
The scale of the pioneering engineering project, which generated electricity for central belt industries almost 100 miles away, attracted workers from across Scotland and beyond. They stayed in local bed and breakfasts as well as hastily erected camps.
The anecdotes collated by writer Marian Pallister in her book, Cruachan: The Hollow Mountain, include stories of the Teddy Boy tunnellers returning from weekend spending sprees in Glasgow in tight-fitting blue suits – the likes of which had never been seen before in Dalmally.
The project worth £24.5 million (£484m today) was the brainchild of Red Clydesider Tom Johnston, secretary of state for Scotland in Winston Churchill’s wartime coalition government, who later set up the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
As well as providing electricity, the project was a means of tackling Scotland’s grim 5.4 per cent unemployment rate and offered work to returning servicemen from the Highlands whose job prospects were bleak.
The project, in which 36 workers lost their lives, consisted of one barrage, two dams, 13 aqueducts and three generating stations with a capacity of around 450,000 kilowatts, constructed in a corridor stretching from Dalmally to Taynuilt.
Locals admit the early to mid-1960s, was an era of social revolution and that “tunnel tigers” were not responsible for all changes.
Pallister said that in the current climate of environmental protest over fracking and windfarms she had been expecting to find that people had been up in arms about the decision to build on the pristine Highland landscape.
“I went into it thinking I was going to get negative viewpoints but was very, very surprised when I didn’t,” she said. “There was a different mindset then and people were looking at it in terms of jobs and opportunities.”
“The only objections were from landowners thinking about fishing for people in the south of England who had once been there on holiday.
While you can educate people about the history, it seems that they can't grasp reality.
The first comment after the article is from someone who suggests "Thats what we need now , a massive investment in Hydro power , employing thousands of workers and generating revenue for years to come
", and then falls into some slightly racist and political rhetoric.
Sadly, at the moment (and this may change in coming years, with different technologies and demands) the reality is that the first flush of hydroelectric investment in Scotland secured all the most suitable sites for such installations, especially those of the pumped-storage variety.
There was also another motivator not often mentioned.
It was felt that somewhere was needed to store the excess energy being produced by atomic power stations, which have to run continuously and don't like to be shut down frequently. So the excess energy was used to raise water to the higher dam during periods of low demand, and then released to generate extra power during periods of high demand.
Scotland is actually building numerous small hydroelectric schemes today, but not employing thousands in massive projects.
And the surveyors may yet take to the hills and find locations for pumped storage schemes, as renewable look for way to store their excess output, and release it when it is needed.
But there are more demands to be met today, as objectors block such projects as they claim they spoil the view, so we can't get sites, or install the interconnecters needed to bring them to the grid.
Things were a lot easier in the 1960s.