This is Loch Sloy, a magnificent example of Scottish civil engineering, built to capture rain for our domestic water supply. It is also a stunning feat of Irish workmanship. Donegal labourers came to this country around 1943 to replace the Scottish teenagers who had been shipped off in the war. They worked in the farms along Loch Lomondside, the Gareloch, Argyll and South Perthshire.  These fantastic pictures were taken by Democrat reader Jimmy Johnstone. They reveal the hills and reservoirs which supply our water here in West Dunbartonshire.

Pictures by Jimmy Johnstone


  1. Technically Loch Sloy was not built to capture rain for our water supply.

    Loch Sloy was instead built as a pump storage scheme as part of the national electricity grid.

    But yes, it’s a big battery, a water battery. Who would have thought it

    And so, at night when power stations are generating surplus base load electricity this surplus power is used to pump water from Loch Lomond up to Loch Sloy where it can be later run back down the hill to generate power at peak times.

    The Loch Sloy scheme can therefore be considered as a big battery and it is indeed a testament to the vision and engineering all those years ago .

    ” Power from the Glens, for the Glens” was the once cry when these, and other schemes like it were being built in the 50s and 60s in what was the then North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board.

    But where are these assets owned now. Sold off by Thatcher, ownership in these assets now sit in foreign lands and offshore jurisdictions across the globe.

    Selling the family silver as someone once said. Well I think so.

    But to close, and this is something I suspect few folks will know, but there was a visitor room built inside the generating building. ( That’s the building that the big pipes run into )

    It was a bespoke built room where they had pictures of the construction as it proceeded in the various stages.

    It used to be open for groups like school children to be able to visit and see with pride the fantastic engineering and huge effort put into building these schemes . And a visit could also come with tour of the turbine hall.

    Whether post privatisation there will be any visits now I don’t know. But as an opportunity for youngsters, (and not so youngsters) to see fantastic engineering and be inspired, and just up the road too, it’s worth maybe enquiring.

    But yes, it’s a big battery, a water battery. Who would have thought it

  2. My uncle Edward Lacey, a Dumbarton man, worked as a stone mason on this project following his return from the war, where he had been a prisoner of war. He was a private in the Black Watch captured in the Western Desert outside Tobruk. He spent two years in a German POW camp, where according to my aunt May, his sister, he was treated fairly.
    His team in Loch Sloy were German POWs and he was sympathetic to their predicament. He shocked my aunt by giving them for good work, a precious pot of jam she had haggled for in the Glasgow black market.
    Edward Coyle, Cardiff.

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