Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Glenquoich Lodge

I've blogged about the George Washington Wilson archive before (here) and browsing it the other day, I was intrigued to come across some thumbnails for images of "Glenoich Lodge" in Inverness-shire.

One of them was titled "Loch Oich, from Drive, Glenoich Lodge". Thinking that I'd heard of Loch Oich but never of Glen Oich, I clicked through to the photos:-

Glenoich Lodge from the Gardens

Loch Oich, From Drive, Glenoich Lodge

Below is an enlargement of the mystery Glenoich Lodge from the photo above:-

But a detailed look at the caption of the fourth photograph in this set (below) ...

... confirmed my suspicion that this was not Glenoich Lodge but Glenquoich Lodge by the shore of Loch Quoich some 20 miles west of Loch Oich on the road to Kinlochourn.

Glenquoich Lodge (I believe it's pronounced "KOO-ich", by the way, not "KWOY-ch") is another of these ones which doesn't exist anymore. It disappeared in 1955 when the level of Loch Quoich was raised by 100 feet by a hydro-electric dam at its eastern end. But unlike Cabuie Lodge, the remains of which are seldom if ever cover by the raised waters of Loch Fannich, all the photos above are taken in spots now permanently covered by at least several dozen feet of water. It's interesting to use the National Libraries of Scotland's Map Viewer to overlay old OS maps over modern aerial photography to compare the old and new shorelines of Loch Quoich and see the extent of the estate which has disappeared under the water:-

Looking back east along Loch Quoich, the lodge stood approximately under the arrow.
Since at least the 15th century, the Great Glen from Fort Augustus to Loch Lochy and a great swathe of land on either side of Glen Garry all the way to the west coast and including Knoydart and North Morar had been the territory of the MacDonells of Glengarry. But despite mass clearance of their clansmen in favour of more profitable sheep farmers and the sale of North Morar to Lord Lovat in 1761, upon the succession of the 16th chief in 1828 his trustees found the estate still burdened with debts of £80,000 (about £8 million in today's money). There was no option but to sell and in the late 1830s the eastern portion of the estate - which became known as Glengarry - went to the Marquis of Huntly while the central portion - Glen Quoich - was bought by Edward Ellice leaving just Knoydart in the hands of the MacDonells (although even that went in the 1850s).

Edward "Bear" Ellice
Known for his financial acumen as "the Bear", Edward Ellice (1783-1863) had made a fortune in the Candian fur trade with the Hudson's Bay Company and was also a politician: you can read a bio of him here.

It was Ellice who built Glenquoich Lodge as the centrepiece of his new Highland sporting estate: his guests included Sir Edwin Landseer, painter of "The Monarch of the Glen" (above) which is said to have been set on Glen Quoich (although there are other claimants to that honour).

In 1860, Ellice bought the neighbouring Glengarry Estate from Lord Ward (who had acquired it from Lord Huntly in the interim) and his son, another Edward, built himself a grand new mansion at Invergarry in the late 1860s (now the Glengarry Castle Hotel). The centre of gravity of the combined estate inevitably moved eastwards but far from being eclipsed, Glenquoich Lodge was shortly to enter its hey-day.

In 1873, Edward Ellice, Jnr., let Glen Quoich to brewing magnate Michael Bass, raised to the peerage in 1886 as Baron Burton (above). Around the end of the century, Burton spent a fortune on the place, transforming what seems to have been an almost spartan house (according to an unattributed quote in Mary Miers' The Western Seaboard - An Illustrated Architectural Guide "furnished in the simplest manner with cane bottomed chairs and iron bedsteads") into the very epitome of a fashionable Edwardian sporting estate: among the guests was none other than the King himself, a friend of Lord Burton's, who visited twice, in 1904 and 1905. There's an interesting account of the second visit here.

King Edward VII (back row, sixth from left) at Glenquoich Lodge in 1905. Lord Burton is on the King's right - picture credit Am Baile

Lord Burton gave up the lease of Glen Quoich the same year (1905) and died in 1909 but his daughter and heiress to his title and fortune of £1 million (£100m in today's money), Nellie Bass, had married a local laird, Colonel Baillie of Dochfour outside Inverness: he also owned Glenshiel estate immediately to the north of Glen Quoich and their great grandson still owns Dochfour while a great-great grandson still owns Glenshiel.

Glenquoich Lodge seen from the south side of the loch - the red line indicates the approximate level of the loch today

The North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board was set up in 1943. Loch Quoich was dammed and raised by about 100 feet in 1955 as part of the Board's "Garry Project" (Constructional Scheme No. 24) which also involved damming Loch Garry further east. As well as the principal dam at its east end, Loch Quoich also has a smaller dam (two, in fact) at its west end to prevent the raised waters spilling west over the watershed (the loch naturally drains east as part of the catchment of the River Ness which enters the sea at Inverness). The only other reservoir with a dam at both ends like this I can think of Loch Ericht - can anyone think of another one?

The larger (northmost) of the two less well known dams at the west end of Loch Quoich - photo credit Jim Barton - Geograph
Quoich Dam (east end of the loch) under construction 1955, looking east. From "The Engineer" magazine 12 October 1956

Now in my ignorance, I thought the only hydro-electric developments in Scotland before the advent of the Hydro Board in the 1940s were the British Aluminium Company's projects to power their smelters at Foyers (1896), Kinlochleven (1909, Blackwater Reservoir) and Fort William (1929, Loch Treig and 1934, Loch Laggan). But not so. The first hydro electric project to supply electricity to the public through the (then new) national grid was the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company's scheme which harnessed the Falls of Clyde with power stations at Bonnington and Stonebyres near Lanark commissioned in 1927 (still in operation by Scottish Power). In the Highlands, The Grampian Electricity Supply Company dammed Loch Ericht (at both ends) to generate electricity at power stations at Loch Rannoch and Tummel Bridge in the early 1930s (still in operation by SSE). There were a few others as well as some which didn't get off the drawing board including one which involved Loch Quoich.

Lying high and easily dammed in a rainy part of the country, the hydro electric potential of Loch Quoich had been identified as long ago as 1908. After an initial proposal in the 1920s about which I've not been able to find any information at all, in 1936 the British Oxygen Company floated a scheme to make calcium carbide (an essential ingredient in the production of acetylene gas which at the time was the preferred method of welding before arc-welding came along) at a factory at Corpach powered by electricity generated by the waters of the Rivers Garry and Moriston: known as the Caledonian Power Scheme this was very similar to what became the Hydro Board's Garry & Moriston Projects except that it involved the water from Loch Quoich being diverted westwards through a tunnel to a power station at Kinlochhourn.

The Caledonian Power Scheme as depicted in The Engineer in March 1936 (page 334)

The BOC brought bills before Parliament to authorise the scheme three times, in 1936, 1937 and 1938, but on each occasion it was voted down. Amongst the objectors were Inverness Town Council who feared that abstracting water from Loch Quoich west to Kinlochourn would reduce the water flowing through the town down the River Ness but the principal objection was distaste by socialist MPs for the water resource of such a large area being awarded to a private company. An editorial in the Spectator (here) lamented the fact that, while a majority of the Scottish MPs were in favour, the bill was, in effect, defeated by English MPs - so plus ca change where that sort of thing's concerned!

I'll finish this post, firstly, with a visit back to the excellent National Libraries of Scotland Georeferenced Map Viewer: the OS 6 inch map of 1899 is superimposed over aerial imagery (use the transparency slider on the left) taken when Loch Quoich was at a particularly low level revealing Glenquoich Estate infrastructure at Bunchaoilie which is normally submerged:-

And finally, a postcard of Glenquoich Lodge, posted at Spean Bridge in 1905, on which the message on the back is of almost as much interest as the photo on the front:-


"Many thanks for your letter. This is Lord Burton's shooting lodge where the King stays when he is here shooting. I am wearying to see you. It won't be long now. I will write you soon. Sally."