Floods in Glenmoriston

From Moriston Matters, Issue 10, December 1978.

The Historical Glen.

The recent high level of the river prompts a reader to recall some other flood occasions within memory. With the building of the dams these have happily become less frequent, but one with an air of adventure about it (and less damage in this area than might have been feared, although losses further north were very serious) occurred on the night of December 17th,1966, the day of the parties, in the Hall, when after steady rain and snow melting in the hills the merrymakers in the evening found two policemen waiting at the door for them as they finished singing Auld Lang Syne. The road was flooded and impassable at Levishie thanks to the rapid rise in the river, and no one in the bright warm hall had noticed. (The road has since been realigned at that point and the danger no longer exists in the same way.) Those who had come down the Glen a few hours earlier were now cut off and, except for a few who made their way home with difficulty by Invergarry and the Loyne road, found beds for the night with friends in the village. They were able to return up the Glen when the water had sufficiently subsided, and the 'extended' party came to an end twelve or more hours later than arranged.

The morning when the parapet, and in places more, of the Old Bridge was washed away – until then it had been considered a perfectly legitimate shortcut for pedestrians to and from Dalcattaig - on February 17th, 1960 came after a night of heavy rain, and again there was melting snow in the hills. People awoke to water, water everywhere and Willie the Smith for years showed the mark, more than three feet up the wall of the Smiddy, where the flood had been swirling. Fortunately it soon began to recede.

Pat the Pier tells how he was able to negotiate the mail car up the Glen that day through floods at Levishie,the site of Dundreggan Dam (where with the building of the dam a completely new stretch of road has been built) and Lagganbane but he was unable to get down again because the engine of the van - a 2 ton Ford ambulance - said it had had enough, and he spent the night in Dalchreichart Post Office . The next day, Saturday, he set out and drove as far as where the water had been over the road at Dundreggan and was thankful to see what he had escaped, for before retreating the river had washed away a 30-yard stretch of road and left a hole 6ft deep, which would have been an unseen hazard if he had driven down in the floods and darkness. He continued the Journey on foot with the mailbag on his back and discovered when he reached Blaraidh why no one had come to look for him - there was a similar washout there preventing any traffic from getting up the glen.

But W. & J.R, Watson of the 'Silver City' who were working at that time on the stretch of road between Dundreggan and Cluanie Dams, although they had been flooded themselves with water swirling into their high-built caravans, came to the rescue with bulldozers and diggers and material from the quarry at Torgoyle Rock, and before the end of the day the road was open once again.

The thunderstorms and cloudbursts of June 25th and 26th, 1953, were rather different. They caused flooding in Invermoriston but not from the flow in the river. Heavy rain in the hills around the village (over 2.5 inches were recorded in just over two hours on each of these afternoons) caused the landslides on the face of Sron na Muic when tons of boulders, with a prolonged rumbling roar, crashed down the hillside and the torrent swept through the field at Redpark threatening the cottages in its way and filled the Dalcataig road at Bridgend with over a foot of silt. It was like a road flowing with dirty treacle! The next day, by a freak coincidence, the torrent swept down the Achnaconeran side and the cumulative rush of water from the Street and the Hotel Burn forced its way past the old entrance to the Bar, across the road and past the entrance to the Shop flats, gouging a channel several feet deep through the tarmacadam surface and swamping the house under the shop. All this happened with unbelievable suddenness. The burn at Rose Cottage overflowed its banks and the schoolchildren, who had left home in the morning wearing summer frocks and sandals, were marooned so that parents went with waterproofs and wellingtons to carry them out and help them home, for the Post Office burn had also caused a landslide. By evening the village was virtually cut off because the Port Clair burn had washed down debris and blocked the road to Fort Augustus. Glen people coming off the bus from Inverness found, they could get no further and had to spend the night in Invermoriston, and several tourists found themselves stranded likewise and were put up wherever they could find a corner, this being before the days of the bed and breakfast boom. The next morning bulldozers ( some from the contractors working on the Hydro Scheme) went to work and were open to the world once again, but it took a long time for those most affected by the damage to be back to normal. Kenneth MacRae, the writer, was one of those caught in the storm and gives a vivid account of it in his book, "Highland Handshake".