A NEW tartan has been created to commemorate the 15 men who died building Cruachan Power Station in Argyll and Bute.

Constructed between 1959 and 1965 on the shores of Loch Awe, it was the first reversible pumped storage hydro system of its scale to be built in the world.

It was built by a 4000-strong workforce, including 1300 known as Tunnel Tigers, the men at the forefront of the work who drilled, blasted and cleared the rocks from the inside of the mountain.

Drax Group, which owns the power station, has now unveiled a tartan created in memory of those killed during the construction. It features 15 strands of a special dark blue thread to represent those who died.

Ian Kinnaird, head of hydro at Drax, said: “Building this unique power station was an astonishing feat of engineering, completed in challenging conditions. The work was physically demanding and, at times, incredibly dangerous. Sadly, during the course of the construction, 15 men lost their lives.

“When we were commissioning this new tartan, we decided it was a fitting tribute to incorporate 15 dark blue threads in memory of those who tragically died – many of whom were very young.”

One of those who died was Edward Gallagher, 23, from Donegal, who was engaged to Barbara McCabe, now 81, who lives in the Inverness area.

The couple got engaged on December 21, 1961 and were planning to get married the following September.

However, just before Easter 1962, loose rock in the ceiling of a tunnel fell down, the force of which was so strong it pulled Edward out of his protective footwear.

McCabe said: “He was such a lovely, lovely man. Eddie’s father sent me a telegram and what it said was: ‘Is Eddie alright?’ I didn’t know what it meant, I was busy getting ready for Eddie coming down so we could spend Easter together.

“He shouldn’t have been at work, but he’d swapped shifts with someone else who wanted to go home early for Easter – that was what Eddie was like. He was a great young man, always doing things like that to help people.”

Gallagher’s father travelled across from Ireland and they went together to the cottage hospital at Oban, Argyll and Bute, where Edward was being treated.

She said: “When I saw Eddie, there wasn’t a mark on his face – but we were told his injuries were so severe there was no hope of survival. He passed away in the early hours of Easter Monday, April 23, 1962.”

Commenting on the tartan, she said: “I think it’s a lovely way to make sure Eddie and the others who died are always remembered.”

The National:

Hollowing out the Ben Cruachan mountain in Argyll and Bute was done by hand-drilling two to three-metre-deep holes into the granite rockface.

Gelignite was packed into the drilled holes and detonated, and blasted rocks were then removed by bulldozers, trucks and shovels, before drilling began on a fresh section of exposed granite.

Eventually, some 220,000 cubic metres of rubble was removed.

The 15 men who died are remembered at Cruachan in a mural on the wall of the turbine hall at the heart of the power station and now visitors to the Hollow Mountain visitor centre will see the new tartan waistcoats worn by guides and on scarves for sale in the visitor shop.

The new tartan, made by Kinloch Anderson in Edinburgh, is based on the Clan MacColl Sett in a nod to Sir Edward MacColl, the pioneer of Cruachan Power Station.

‘You didn’t just hear it, you felt it’

AROUND 4000 workers were involved in building the Cruachan power station in Argyll and Bute.

Ian MacLean, from Oban, was a 20-year-old joiner when he started working at Cruachan in 1962.

The National: Ian MacLean (right) worked on the construction of the power stationIan MacLean (right) worked on the construction of the power station

In total, 20km of tunnels and chambers were excavated, including the kilometre-long entrance tunnel and the machine hall, which is 91 metres long and 36 metres high.

Conditions were tough, with workers enduring fumes and high levels  of noise.

MacLean said: “I worked as a joiner on the roof of what is the machine hall now. The noise from the blasting was incredible – you didn’t just hear it, you felt it too.

“There was a lot of dust but what bothered us the most was the smell – it was horrible.

“There were fumes from the explosives as well as the dump truck’s diesel engines that were running all the time – and we didn’t have masks to wear.

“Some days the air was so thick you could only see a few yards in front of where you were standing.”

MacLean, now 77, said that despite the conditions he worked in, it was an interesting job and he earned good money.

He said: “When I finished as an apprentice joiner I was earning £9 a week – when I started working at Cruachan I was on treble that.

“The conditions we were working in were tough, but I met some great people and we were young. It’s just what we did.”

Polish and Irish labourers worked alongside Scots, as well as people from elsewhere in Europe and as far afield as Asia, to build the power station.