This account was written in the mid 1960s and illustrates what life was
like in South Loch Ness at that time
The Third Statistical Account of Scotland
The Parish of Boleskine and Abertarff
Written by Rev.Angus Macaskill
1953 – 1964
Physical Basis – The parish of Boleskine and Abertarff stretches south from the Pass of Inverfarigaig on the south side of Loch Ness to the east end of Loch Oich at Newton Hamlet, embracing Inverfarigaig village, Foyers, about half the Great Glen of Stratherrick westwards from Lyne of Gorthleck, Whitebridge, the village of Fort Augustus and a part of Invermoriston. It is bounded on the north-east by the parishes of Dores and Daviot and Dunlichity, on the east by Moy and Dalarossie, on the south-east by Laggan, on the south-west by Kilmonivaig and on the north-west and north by Urquhart and Glenmoriston. On 15 May 1891, a portion of the parish, containing 1,369 acres or thereby, situated at or near Farraline adjoining the parishes of Daviot and Dunlichity and Dores, and detached from the main portion of Boleskine and Abertarff, was transferred by order of the Boundary Commissioners to the parish of Dores. On the same date, two portions of Dores parish, one containing 1,927 acres or thereby, situated at or near the lands of Dell and nearly surrounded by this parish, and the other containing approximately 438 acres and situated near Loch Killin, were transferred to this parish. The area of the parish is now 110,825 acres; its length is approximately 21 miles and its breadth, on an average, 10 miles.
The name Abertarff is derived from the River Tarff, a small stream, which rises in the hills to the south of Loch Ness and literally means “the mouth of the Tarff”. According to the writer of the New Statistical Account, Boleskine means “the summit of the furious cascade”, the cascade in question being the Falls of Foyers. The same writer also remarks that the joining of the two parishes of Boleskine and Abertarff was “injudicious” as there is a 7 mile stretch of hilly country between the inhabited parts of the two parishes. Today, there is a good road with a first-class surface over this part but owing to the height to which it rises above sea level, it is often impassable in winter.
The condition and development of the two parts of the parish are quite different. The Boleskine part embraces Inverfarigaig and Foyers on Loch Ness-side, a portion of the plateau of Stratherrick (Whitebridge to Glendoe) and the wild and lonely glen leading up to Killin and Stronlairg among the Monadhliath mountains. The land rises fairly steeply from Loch Ness to well over 1,000 feet at the highest point over which the road to Fort Augustus passes. This not only makes the roads very twisted and steep in places but also is the cause of a marked difference in climatic conditions, especially noticeable in winter. The up-country part becomes easily snow-blocked and ice-bound while the Foyers to Inverfarigaig road usually remains open even in the most severe conditions. Apart from the side roads, which leave much to be desired, the roads in the parish are generally good. On single track roads there are frequent passing places. The hills to the east and south-east of this part of the parish are uniformly high, westwards from the Monadhliath mountains with a fine sweep over the Pass of Corrieyairack.
There are a number of lochs in the district. It is said that, on a clear day, no less than seven can be seen from the summit of the Glendoe Road – the Siudh. Apart from Loch Ness, the largest is Loch Garth which, now linked up with its sister loch, Farraline, forms the large loch of Mor (Mohr in Ordnance Survey maps) in the centre of Stratherrick. The outlet from this loch joins a river flowing from Loch Killin and goes tumbling over the Falls of Foyers into loch Ness. Good salmon and trout fishing may be had on Loch Ness and on the River Oich.
The Falls of Foyers are perhaps one of the most notable features of the whole area and attract many visitors during the tourist season. In bygone days, Robert Burns, while staying in Inverness, paid a visit to the Falls and wrote a poem on them. The writer of the New Statistical Account (1831) describes the Falls in detail, the following being an extract and worth repeating. “The large stones in the channel of the river over which the waters roll and foam – the weeping birch lining the precipitous banks at irregular intervals – the projecting misshapen rocks overhanging the tremendous gulf and the impetuous torrent below – form a scene that cannot be beheld without admiration and awe.” One of the best positions from which to view the “principal fall” is from “the edge of the rock nearly opposite to it on the west side of the river; but it is believed that strangers are seldom directed to this spot. The favourite view is from what is called “the green point” which fronts the body of the water in its descent. ……… The access to “the green point” has now been rendered easy and safe by a footpath made to it within these few years, from the high road.”
In the Abertarff district is the well-known village of Fort Augustus. The village is situated on both sides of the Caledonian Canal at its entry to Loch Ness. In this portion of the parish are the River Moriston which traces the northern boundary for 5 miles separating this parish from Urquhart parish, and the River Oich running 6¾ miles north-north-east out of Loch Oich to Loch Ness. In 1849 the area all around Fort Augustus suffered considerable damage from flooding. The waters of Loch Oich rose to a height never known before and the river to 8 feet above its normal level. The bridge that spanned the river at its outlet from the loch and also the stone bridge above the Oich at Fort Augustus were washed away and all the level ground on either side of the river was under water.
As in most other Highland areas, afforestation schemes are proceeding in the parish. There are two State forests, Inchnacardoch and Auchterawe, and an experimental plant farm, while the area between Fort Augustus and Newton has been planted recently.
Population – The following are the census figures for the parish: (1801) 1,658; (1811) 1,462; (1821) 2,096; (1831) 1,829; (1841) 1,876; (1851) 2,006; (1861) 1,743; (1871) 1,578; (1881) 1,448; (1891) 1,429; (1901) 1,843; (1911) 1,896; (1921) 1,966; (1931) 1,976; (1951) 1,478; (1961) 1,559. In the first ten year of the last century the population fell by 196 but by 1821 had risen to the peak figure of 2,096, an increase of 634. In the following ten years it declined (by 267) but after this, started again to rise and by 1851 was once more above 2,000. From that date onward however, until the end of the nineteenth century, it declined steadily. The first census of the twentieth century recorded an increase of 414 and this increase continued until 1931. The increase shown in the 1901 figure can be accounted for to some extent by the change in the parish boundary but doubtless the main factor contributing to the steady increase in the following 30 years was the establishment of the aluminium factory Foyers. On the other hand, the up-country part of Boleskine has suffered severe depopulation like almost all other Highland glens and straths. There are, in all this district, from Knockie eastwards to the Lyne of Gorthleck, the boundary with Dores parish (an area of some 50 square miles), only about 200 people. In the Abertarff portion, the village of Fort Augustus has grown but some remote parts, formerly inhabited, are now deserted.
Between 1931 and 1951, the population of the whole parish decreased by 498 to 1,478, the lowest recorded since 1891 (1,429) In 1961 it showed a slight increase of 81.
The writer of the New Statistical Account (1835) stated “Gaelic is the language generally spoken and although it has not lost ground, the English has become more generally known within the last three-and-thirty years”. Today the language spoken is English although all the older people in the up-country districts, especially those between 60 and 90 years of age, can still speak Gaelic and like to converse in it. It can therefore be concluded that Gaelic ceased to be the general language of the children about the beginning of the century.
It is interesting to note however, that the natives of Stratherrick and Boleskine have retained a decided Gaelic accent and also have a peculiarly Gaelic turn of phrase or idiom. Indeed, although most of them know not one word of the language, many of their phrases are literal translations from Gaelic. The following are a few examples:-
“The days will be getting shorter (or colder) more the year” – the last phrase being a literal translation of tuilleadh am bliadhna;
“I haven’t seen him since ages” – from the Gaelic o chionn linntean;
“It’s rain that’s in it” – from ‘se an t-uisge a tha ann;
“Put on this shoes” – from na brogan so; and
“It’s only wonderful he is” (i.e. considering his age or his circumstances – which is an exact translation from the Gaelic ‘Sann a tha e iongantach.
Gaelic sermons and the teaching of the language were discontinued during the incumbency of the late Rev. Alexander Murray of the Parish Church. There was a Gaelic-speaking priest in Whitebridge until the early years of the twentieth century and there has always been one in Fort Augustus. At the present time there is only one lady in the Boleskine area who reads the language competently but, in Fort Augustus, there are possibly more.
All the place-names of the district are of Gaelic origin as a glance at any Ordnance Survey map will show. But these names are now largely pronounced with an English blas (pronunciation) and are hardly recognizable as Gaelic originals.
Fort Augustus – The discovery of cists and arrow heads are evidence that this village has been inhabited from an early age. The old name of the village was Cill Chuimein or Kilcummin, called after Cummein or Cummin, a monk from Iona who established the Christian faith in the district in the seventh century. The village became known by its present name, Fort Augustus, in the eighteenth century. In 1716, on the peninsula beyond the village, a barracks was built which was strengthened and enlarged by General Wade in 1730, who named it Fort Augustus out of compliment to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. A garrison was stationed at the fort until the outbreak of the Crimean War.
In 1857 the fort was sold for £5,000 to Lord Lovat, whose son Simon, the thirteenth Lord Lovat, offered it and the land surrounding in 1876 to the Benedictine Fathers. In September of the same year, the foundation stone of a college, monastery and hospice was laid and the monastery was inaugurated in 1878. The abbey, with its monastic school and guesthouse buildings, stands in 15 acres of grounds and a further 8 to 10 acres are used for playing fields or growing vegetables. Twenty-five priests and 15 lay brothers are housed within the abbey, and, during term, 155 boys. A new school wing, built through the generosity of Sir James Calder, a former pupil of the school, came into use in 1960. The lay masters and some permanent guests reside in the guesthouse, which is open by appointment to other visitors during summer months. The Abbey School provides education for boys from the age of 12 years, taking them up to university entrance standard. The school puts on a play or opera at least once annually, and public performances are given in the school theatre and sometimes in Inverness and Fort William. There is a church attached to the abbey serving some 200 Roman Catholics. Within the grounds is another school, St. Columba’s, owned by the abbey but under the control of Inverness Education Committee, which serves the catholic children in the village.
The Lord Abbot has at times been chairman of the village public hall committee and chieftain (honorary) of the village council.
The village itself is mainly residential. At present a number of men are employed by the Forestry Commission and there is also a small number employed steadily on maintenance work and lock-keeping on the Caledonian Canal. The village is well equipped with first-rate garages and good parking places and being situated on the main Inverness-Glasgow, via Fort William, trunk road has an adequate bus service both north and south. From 1903 to 1933 a railway line carried passengers between Fort Augustus and the West Highland line at Spean Bridge and continued to carry goods until after the last war. Now the people have to depend on the bus service to take them to Spean Bridge where they can get a train to Fort William, Mallaig or to Glasgow. The dismantled viaduct and other bridges, the line of the route with its embankments and cuttings, are sad reminders of the time when one could travel by train to this beautiful village.
Fifteen council houses were built between 1918 and 1939 and another 49 have been built since 1945. The Forestry Commission has built 16 houses for their workers, also since 1945.
Since the end of the Second World War, the tourist industry has been greatly developed. There are three hotels in Fort Augustus, also restaurants and tea shops, and many people take in visitors for bed and breakfast. The abbey has between 40 and 50 thousand visitors each summer, while the increase in the size of Fort Augustus Abbey School likewise brings about visits by a far greater number of parents and others each term. The Hydro-electric schemes in the neighbourhood also brought in engineers and others who were or are resident in Fort Augustus. All this has brought prosperity to the village and the Abertarff area of the parish.
History of the Local Community – At one time, nearly the whole of the parish of Boleskine was owned by Fraser of Foyers and Fraser of Lovat. James Fraser of Foyers was an active supporter of Prince Charles during the Rising of 1745 and narrowly escaped with his life at Culloden. For seven years he was in hiding in the neighbourhood of Foyers, living in a cave to the north of Carndearg. Local people referred to him as Bonaid Odhar or “Dun Bonnet” allowing them to talk openly of him without fear of betrayal. Before the Rising, James Fraser handed over his estate of Foyers, consisting of Foyers proper and Garrogie, to his son Hugh (Huistean Ruadh), thus saving it from confiscation after the Forty-five. It was Hugh Fraser who built the mansion house of Foyers, close by the river below the Falls. In 1906 the house was demolished and, on its site, the British Aluminium Workmen’s Hostel now stands.
The last Fraser of Foyers was Simon who died in 1842. He died without issue and left the estate to James Murray Grant of Glenmoriston, his late wife’s nephew. The lands however, had to be sold to clear his debts which were paid in full. The Foyers estate was bought by Fountaine Walker who later sold it to a Mr. Cunninghame in 1873. The upper portion, Garrogie, is still owned at the present time by Mrs. Cunninghame, a member of this family.
The Fraser of Knockie, Gorthleck and Errogie in Stratherrick were all branches of the House of Foyers. The Frasers of Knockie settled there when the present family of Lovat Frasers went to Strichen in the seventeenth century before they succeeded to the Lovat estates. The last of the Knockie Frasers was killed in India and the estate was sold. The present owner is Colonel Patrick Grant.
Lovat, who fought in the Forty-five, was attained and his estates were forfeited. He had two sons. General Fraser, the elder son, fought with Wolfe at Quebec and for his services, the Lovat estates were restored to him in 1774, but not the title. He immediately entailed the land, first on his half-brother, Archibald Campbell Fraser, and failing him and heirs male, on cadet families of Fraser – Inverallochy, Strichen, Struy, Culbokie, Farraline, Foyers and so on. Archibald, who succeeded to the ancestral estates in 1782 on the death of General Fraser, lived to be a very old man. He died on 8 December 1815, the last male heir of his line as he was predeceased by his five sons who left no legitimate issue. It was said that when he heard the news of the death of the last of his sons, he immediately exclaimed to his factor with whom he was dining at Dell, “Strichen must not hear of this”, referring to Fraser of Strichen who was next in succession.
One of Archibald’s sons however, had a natural son to whom he bequeathed all the unentailed estates and he was known as Fraser of Abertarff. When Abertarff died leaving no male issue, his lands also reverted to Lord Lovat. The Fraser of Lovat had always belonged to the protestant faith until the Strichen family succeeded to the estates. The mother of the first Lord Lovat (of Strichen) was a Roman Catholic and her son was brought up in that faith.
The other main landed proprietors in the parish at the present time are Mr. Pinkie of Killin, Mr. Riley-Smith of Stronlairg, Colonel Campbell of Ardochy, Mr. Prettyman of Corrygarth and the British Aluminium Company. During the past few years, the Forestry Commission has acquired some parts of the Aluminium Company’s estate.
Churches – Until the Union of 1929, the minister of Boleskine Parish Church and the minister of the former Mission Church of Fort Augustus attended the same presbytery – Lochaber and Abertarff. Now, the former is a member of Inverness Presbytery and the latter of Lochaber Presbytery.
By far the greater number of the parishioners belong to the Church of Scotland. The Parish Council of Boleskine, built in 1777, is situated on a hill called Drumtemple and was transferred from the old site at Boleskine on Loch Ness-side. At the Union of Churches in 1929, Boleskine Parish Church and the United Free Church at Stratherrick (Dores parish) were united. In 1934 a further union took place between these two congregations and the church at Foyers, which was built as a Mission Church in 1906 to serve the new community at the aluminium factory. At the time of this union it was agreed that the parish minister should have a lay assistant resident in Foyers to conduct the morning services there and to superintend the Sunday school and a pleasant well-appointed manse next door to the church was provided for him. After the translation of the writer to Brechin in 1954 however, the Presbytery of Inverness decreed that the minister of the United Parish of Stratherrick and Boleskine, who had hitherto occupied the old United Free manse at Stratherrick, should henceforward live in Foyers, in the manse occupied by the lay assistant in the parish. The services of a lay assistant were dispensed with and the present minister now conducts three services every Sunday – one at Stratherrick (Errogie), one at Drumtemple and the evening service only at Foyers. This move was felt necessary because the majority of the parishioners live at Foyers. Communicants in the Boleskine churches totaled 90 in 1962 and Sunday schools at Drumtemple and Foyers had 53 pupils. There were 30 members in the Woman’s Guild.The parish churchyard at Boleskine is very old and many generations of the Frasers of Stratherrick, Erchit, Farraline, Balnain, Knockie and Foyers are buried there. The former Parish Church occupied the middle of the graveyard, the old walls at the north end having been built to protect the burial places of old Fraser families.
In Boleskine there is also the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, built at Whitebridge by Alexander McDonell in 1859. Previous to the building of this church, the Roman Catholics in this part of the parish were served by the priest in Glenmoriston or Fort Augustus, services being held at Dalcrag once a month. After the building of the Whitebridge Church, its incumbent served Glenmoriston until the latter mission was taken over by Fort Augustus. The number of Roman Catholics in the Boleskine district is very small, being not more than 20 families altogether. In 1925 the small Chapel of the Sacred Heart was built at Foyers on the site of the old school and is included in the Whitebridge mission. At times recently, this mission has been served by priests from Fort Augustus.
There are half-a-dozen families who attend the Free Church at Errogie or the Free Presbyterian Church at Gorthleck, both these churches being in the parish of Dores and not in Boleskine.
In Fort Augustus, the Parish Church (quoad sacra) was built in 1856 on a site granted by the crown out of land then attached to the fort. The manse was built in 1894. In 1949, a porch was added to the church and, in 1960, the interior of the building was completely renewed making it what it is now, a small yet simple and dignified church. A former United Free Church is used as a hall for the united congregation of the church. In 1962 communicants numbered 60 and there were 42 pupils in the Sunday school. The Woman’s Guild had 45 members. There is also a Free Church in the village.
The Catholics in Fort Augustus were served from Glengarry until the Church of St. Peter was built at Fort Augustus in 1842. In 1888 the mission was taken over by the abbey (in whose hands it has remained ever since) and St.Peter’s became a convent of nuns. In 1921 the nuns removed to Carlisle. The catholic population of Fort Augustus and Glenmoriston numbers 150 and of Glengarry, about 40. Priests from Fort Augustus serve chapels in Invergarry and Torgyle (Glenmoriston) while services are also held in Invermoriston and Kingie (Glen Quoich) as well as in North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board camps when need arises. The abbey church, St. Benedict’s, was originally a temporary structure but part of a large permanent church was built in 1914-17 and a further portion in 1949-56. The church is not yet completed.
Schools – At September 1963, there were the following schools in the civil parish under the control of the Education Committee.
|Full-time Part-time Visiting|
|Boleskine Primary||1 – -||23|
|Foyers Primary and Junior Secondary||4 – 2||58|
|Whitebridge Primary||1 – -||10|
|Fort Augustus Primary and Junior Secondary||5 2 4||132|
|Fort Augustus R.C. Primary||2 – -||38|
In addition to the above schools, there is, of course, Fort Augustus Abbey School for boys, already mentioned in the paragraph dealing with Fort Augustus village.
The first school at Foyers was opened in January 1901 and was a wooden structure with an iron roof. It adjoined a bungalow and, as already mentioned, was on the site of the present Roman Catholic chapel. At this time the school was known as Boleskine and Foyers Primary School and only young children attended it. Children over ten went either to Errogie or Boleskine. In 1903 a “standard four” class (children from 10-11 years) was added to the enrolment. By 1905 the building was uncomfortably over-crowded and the attendance was rising rapidly. About 1906 a new school was built and at this date there were 79 pupils on the roll, only two being over 12 years of age. An annexe with facilities for instruction in cookery, laundry and woodwork was erected in 1912 and the number of staff raised to four. In 1920 the school became known as Foyers Primary School and by 1921 a three-year secondary course was added to the curriculum. In 1935 when the school roll had fallen considerably, the staff was reduced to three. In 1948 a centralization scheme was put into operation. The school was raised to junior secondary status and the staff again increased to four. The roll at this time numbered over 90. In 1962, the staff comprised four full-time and two visiting teachers but the number of pupils had fallen to 58.
Pupils from the three up-country schools of Stratherrick (Dores parish), Boleskine and Whitebridge over the age of 12 and who have failed to pass an attainments test now come to Foyers. These pupils travel by car daily at the expense of the County Education Committee and receive a three- year secondary course suited to their abilities. Besides ordinary school subjects, they have instruction in chemistry, botany and biology. The girls also have a course in cookery, laundry and housewifery and the boys a course in gardening and woodwork. In September 1948 a fully-equipped school kitchen and dining hall were opened for the provision of school lunches.
Pupils who leave school at the age of 15 usually seek employment in the town of Inverness. Some boys are accepted into the local factory. Girls of this class generally obtain employment in shops and in domestic service and a few take up nursing.
Agriculture – In the Boleskine part of the parish, many of the agricultural holdings might be classified as crofts, but there are seven sizable farms of 50 to 100 acres. On an average these carry 30 to 40 head of cattle, mostly cross breeds, and about 500 Black-face sheep. Cheviot sheep are bred on only one farm. There are two dairy farms at Foyers – Foyers Mains and Glenlia – from which the village of Foyers receives a supply of milk. But up country there is no dairy farm and those living in this area who have to buy milk, get it by transport from Inverness dairies. Tractors are in general use for ploughing, some being owned by the farmers themselves and others hired from the Local Agricultural Executive Committee in Inverness.
In the Abertarff-Fort Augustus district there are only two large farms and a small one. One of the large farms, Culachy Home Farm on Culachy estate, has a number of milking cows, while the other is on Glendoe estate and carries about 10 dairy cows and other mixed stock. The small farm is at Auchterawe and is owned by the Forestry Commission. It has about six cows as well as a number of sheep.
The agricultural statistics for the parish at 4 June 1963 were: tillage 620 acres; temporary grass 918 acres; permanent grass 571 acres; rough grazings 95,660 acres; for livestock, totals were: dairy cattle 36, beef cattle 897, sheep 17,838, pigs 48 and poultry 1,385. In June 1960, the last occasion on which an agricultural census for horses was taken, they numbered 5 for this parish. Holdings over one acre numbered 95. Tractors and electric motors totaled 39 and 2 respectively at February 1961. Total labour in Boleskine and Abertarff employed in agriculture at June 1963 was 40 comprising 29 full-time, 5 part-time and 6 casual or seasonal workers. Some small-holders and crofters supplement their income by occasional labour, working as ghillies during the sporting season or at the aluminium factory at Foyers or on road maintenance under the County Council.
In 1895 the British Aluminium Company was formed for the purpose of producing aluminium in the United Kingdom. This was a new industry and one of the most important elements required in the manufacture of the metal was water power. Moreover, it was absolutely necessary for the water power to be cheap if producers of aluminium in this country were to compete with foreign manufacturers. The newly-formed company, keeping in mind the use to which the Niagara Falls had been put in America, decided that the Falls of Foyers would meet their needs for the same purpose and purchased the estates of Lower Foyers including the Falls themselves, Gorthleck and Wester Aberchalder, extending in all to 7,729 acres and comprising all the water rights belonging thereto. Within a few years, power works were constructed, consisting of an intake from the river just above the Falls, a conduit to convey the water to the site and the present substantial factory building. In order to ensure storage of water for the project, a dam was also constructed across the outlet from Loch Garth, with regulating sluices and an embankment at Garthbeg to retain the water at the proposed new level. This aluminium factory was the first in Great Britain to generate electricity by using water power.
Dwelling houses for work people were erected on the high ground east of the falls and overlooking Glenlia farm. At present there are over 60 houses on this site, some in blocks of four and some detached.
The factory was opened almost 70 years ago and today it affords work to about 150 men including those actually employed within the factory walls, those engaged in work on the extensive estate and casual labour. On the staff there is a manager, an assistant manager and clerical workers. But everyone in Foyers, even farmers, is in some way connected with the works. There are joiners, builders, slaters, plumbers, electricians, painters, sawyers, welders, skilled furnace men and so on.
Thus we have, in this part of the parish, the rather unusual combination of an industrial and rural economy in a beautiful setting and within a reasonable distance of a market town. But, although it has an industry, Foyers has remained essentially a rural village. The people hail from many parts – Inverness, Stratherrick, Moray, Aberdeen, England, Ireland, Wales and the Hebrides – yet with few exceptions, they seem to fit in perfectly into a compact community and pride themselves on being Foyers folk.
Public and Social Services – To some extent, the two parts of the parish Boleskine and Abertarff are completely independent of one another. Each part comes under a different District Council, Boleskine (Abertarff) under Inverness District and Boleskine (Fort Augustus) under the Aird District and each is therefore represented on the County Council by separate councillors. They are also separately policed. One police sergeant and two policemen are housed in Fort Augustus. The registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the Boleskine area resides at Foyers and there is also a registrar resident in Fort Augustus.
A doctor and his assistant, both living in Foyers, serve the Boleskine area. This practice is the only one between Fort Augustus and Inverness on the south side of Loch Ness so the doctors also attend patients in the parishes of Daviot and Dunlichity and Dores. The Abertarff district is served by a doctor in Fort Augustus and a district nurse, also resident in the village. Since the first decade of the present century, Fort Augustus has been served by a district nurse. The first appointment of a nurse to the village was mainly due to the efforts of the parish priest at that time, the Rev. Andrew MacDonell, M.C., M.B.E. There are also two district nurses in Boleskine, one at Gorthleck for the up-country area and the other at Foyers for the community there and at Inverfarigaig. The first nurse to be appointed to Stratherrick was in 1919, under the newly-formed nursing association, which carried on successfully until it was taken over by the County Council after the passing of the National Health Act. The nearest hospitals are in Inverness, to which those in need of specialist treatment are conveyed by ambulance.
The former Inverness County Sanatorium was situated within the bounds of this parish. The sanatorium, which was founded by the Hon. Margaret Fraser of Lovat in 1908, comprised a single-storey building of wood and corrugated iron on an elevated and isolated site about 2 miles from Aberchalder Station. It had 26 beds, 18 in a ward block of 8 double rooms and 2 single rooms, and 8 in four shelters with 2 beds each. There was also an administrative block with staff quarters. The hospital had no main services; heating was by fires, lighting from a private electric plant and water supplied from a private source. This hospital was closed in the forties and the building was demolished in 1959. Patients suffering from tuberculosis are now sent to Culduthel Hospital in Inverness.
There is no public water supply in the up-country districts but the houses owned by the British Aluminium Company in Foyers have piped water. All dwellings in this district now have electricity. Since about the year 1955-6, they have received a supply from the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board’s scheme in the Cannich area which crosses Loch Ness at Lochend near Dores on its way south. This has made a tremendous difference to the amenities of the area. Most houses use rural gas for cooking. Peat and wood are extensively burned up-country.
Apart from shops in Fort Augustus, there are only two supply stores in Foyers and one in Stratherrick. But at least five firms, including the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society, send vans with household supplies and groceries round the parish.
Mails are delivered twice and collected twice daily throughout the area. There are sub-post offices in Foyers, Inverfarigaig, Gorthleck, Whitebridge and Fort Augustus.
Social Activities and Way of Life – There is a well-equipped hall at Gorthleck, built by public subscription in 1931, and also one at Whitebridge, which was a lumberman’s hut before being taken over by the residents and converted. Both these halls are lit by rural gas. Frequent dances and other entertainments are held in these buildings, Gorthleck hall also being used as a community centre, for badminton and as a meeting-place for the flourishing young farmer’s club of the district.
At Foyers there are two halls. One is the church hall which, besides normal church functions, caters for badminton, meetings of the local Women’s Rural Institute and a village boy’s club under the presidency of the vice-manager of the aluminium factory. The other hall is part of the workmen’s club building which provides facilities for billiards and other social activities.
A village council, formed in Foyers in 1950 under the presidency of the local doctor, raises money in various ways for worthy causes such as fencing for the village green and providing treats for local children at Christmas. Recently a shinty club, combing the two former teams of Straths Athletic and Foyers, was formed in the parish under the enthusiastic secretaryship of the parish priest at Whitebridge.
Householders in Foyers take a keen pleasure in gardening and compete annually for a cup presented by the British Aluminium Company. At least one man has also exhibited successfully at county shows in Inverness.
Social and entertainment amenities are also very good in the village of Fort Augustus. There are three halls, a public library being attached to one. Shinty enjoyed great favour after the war but there is no club or team at present. On the other hand, the golf course has been put into commission once more and this game flourishes. The village dramatic society puts on plays each winter season. There is a strong badminton club, a rifle club, a branch of the Women’s Rural Institute and a young farmer’s club. The British Legion has a large membership and has its own club house.
The present County Councillor and the District Councillor, the Rev. H.M. Gillies, minister of the Parish Church, and the proprietor of the Lovat Arms Hotel, Mr. J.B.Nelson, were instrumental in forming a village council in Fort Augustus in 1948. This has proved invaluable to the whole area.
Taking the parish as a whole, one is forced to the conclusion that there is not much opportunity for employment for young people within the parish apart from the local industrial centre at Foyers. The agricultural economy of the whole parish is not sufficient in itself to provide a living even for those brought up on the land. If the Forestry Commission extends its activities in the area, this may absorb some of the young men. But the general tendency is for the young to drift south or to larger centres in the north. There are no cinemas nearer than Inverness although the Highland Film Guild comes to Foyers at stated times and to Fort Augustus once a fortnight. Attendances in Fort Augustus are falling off since the coming of piped-television to the village in 1961. The reception is excellent and almost every house in Fort Augustus has a set. Quite soon, the Boleskine area of this parish will have this facility too.
Our grateful thanks to Maureen Brown for this article.
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