Loch Eil Centre 1963 - 1976
The Centre was founded privately around 1963 by the charity Toc H* and the Dulverton Trust to provide young people with training courses of a challenging, adventurous and educational kind; though different from existing Outward Bound schools. Latterly the Centre was run under the auspices of the Loch Eil Trust.
Loch Eil Centre 1971
* During the First World War the Rev Tubby Clayton, at the suggestion and help of another Military Chaplin Neville Talbot, established a recreation club for soldiers called Talbot House, in memory of Neville's brother Gilbert, recently killed in action. The name was shortened to Toc H by signallers - Toc being a predecessor of Tango in the phonetic alphabet.
"The Centre, situated some seven miles from the town of Fort William on a bluff overlooking Loch Eil within sight of Ben Nevis, is set amongst the incredible scenery of the Western Highlands; little changed since Viking longboats explored the long narrow sea lochs. Achdalieu is the name given to the group of buildings which form the Centre and which stand on the site of a village that was old when Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Standard at Glenfinnan a few miles to the west."
Achdalieu, enlarged in 1885 by the architect Alexander Ross as a shooting lodge for Cameron of Locheil, is a baronial villa with conical roofed stairtower over round-arched entrance.
"The lodge was requistioned by the War Office in 1940 for use by Special Operations for training of soldiers in guerilla warfare. The main house was used by officers and as a headquarters whilst the other ranks used the hutted camp about 270m to the south west". Anyone wishing to travel in the this area of the country required an enhanced civilian or military pass.
Following the war the lodge functioned as a private hotel from 1952, run by Mr W Bremnar, but during the 1960s it was converted and used for adventure activity courses, mainly for young people from Glasgow Secondary Schools.
Plan of the Centre during July 1963
1963 - Andrew Currie
Andy was the first Chief Instructor at Loch Eil Centre; Alan Hill was the Warden and Tony Norman his deputy. Andy was a man of infinite ideas, with the energy to push through some quite revolutionary approaches to Outdoor Pursuits and did much to develop the Centre.
Educated at Paisley Grammar School and then Glasgow University he was a keen debater. He took part in Outdoor Pursuits from his boyhood days in the Scouts and at university he became an active member of Glasgow University Mountaineering Club (GUM). He suspended his studies to follow jobs in outdoor education for youngsters in the Lake District and West Highlands.
One of his creations was the establishment of the Loch Eil Group Scheme (LEGS) for those who had completed their course at the Centre. This scheme carried on when he left the Centre to take up a post with Rootes in Linwood. All Technician Apprentices there were required to take part in several weekend Outdoor Pursuit activities.
He was passionate in promoting outdoor leadership as an excellent way for young apprentices to learn and develop organisational practices.
One of the LEGS lads was Adam Ingram, who became MP for East Kilbride and was a Minister for Defence in the Blair Government
LEGS possibly ceased in 1969 as much of the drive and organisation depended on the goodwill of Rootes. When Chrysler took over Rootes they shut down the Outdoor Pursuits - they even wanted to get rid of apprentice training – which is when Andy moved on.
In his later professional life, Andrew Currie applied innovative management and training methods in many other industries. His Christian name was William, but having been born on St Andrews Day, he adopted the name Andrew.
(Charlie was a Loch Eil Centre Instructor (1964) along with Andy Currie, Ian MacDonald and John Ferguson and worked with Andy at Rootes. Sadly Charlie Pollock passed away in April, 2017)
Centre 1960s Photo Jim Mount
Alex Fulton was Chief Instructor later in the 1960s followed by Graham Rates.
There were two types of Wayfarer courses which ran during most of the years it existed; one for juniors 14 - 16 and one for seniors 16 - 21. Both were run on the same lines with the junior courses lasting 3 weeks and the senior courses lasting 4 weeks. The senior courses comprised of, among others, apprentices, military, police cadets, young offenders, private school pupils and industrial trainees from other European countries.
"The Wayfarer course is a general outdoor activities course designed to introduce young persons to the fun of climbing, camping, canoeing and sailing in the superb locality of the Western Highlands."
Junior course participants came mainly from secondary schools in the greater Glasgow area. The senior courses mostly catered for apprentices from around the UK and from abroad.
George Watson's College also sent pupils, for two weeks each year, as part of the school's Projects initiative, created by Headmaster Roger Young.
The last Junior Wayfarer group
The final 'Glasgow Junior' group, as the Junior Wayfarer groups became known, left Loch Eil in the early summer of 1976. It is estimated that around 6000 young people stayed at the centre during the years it was running.
RYA Sailing Course
There was a gradual increase in specialist courses particularly aimed at adults who wished to achieve a recognised standard in one of the following skills: Mountaineering (summer and winter), Sailing, Rock Climbing, Canoeing and Mountain or Sea Rescue, which added variety to the programme.
At first the Centre used huts down by the road before accomodation for students was moved to the main house in six ten bed dormitories . During the early 1970s an annex was built next to the barn, to provide further accomodation, partly for the use of the specialist courses. The large barn was used for undercover activities, with a climbing wall at one end.
Married staff had houses while single staff occupied rooms either in the house or in the building (Towers) down by the canoe shed.
There were six clan groups in the house; MacDonald, Stewart and Campbell on the first floor, with MacLeod, Cameron and MacLean on the top floor.
Road to the Isles
Corpach to Mallaig Road A830
Before the road to Arisaig was constructed by Thomas Telford between 1804 and 1812 there was only a track through the rough ground west of Corpach.
During the Second World War parts of the Telford single track road were surfaced with tarmac for the use of military vehicles.
Between 1958 and 1963 the worst section of the road between Glenfinnan and Lochailort was improved to double carriageway. Soon a smaller section to the east of Glenfinnan was rebuilt. By the mid 1970s plans were prepared and eventually implemented to improve the road from Corpach along the side of Loch Eil to meet the new road east of Glenfinnan.