CCG has completed the new £4m SSE Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre in Perthshire and to celebrate the launch of the stunning building, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and members of the Scottish Cabinet were on hand to unveil a commemorative plaque that has been installed to pay tribute to the historic hydro workers.
In a poignant tribute to the engineers whose bravery helped build such Highland hydro schemes as Pitlochry in the 1950s, some of the original ‘Tunnel Tigers’ were also there to share their memories.
The new visitor centre is cantilevered eight metres out from the banks of the River Tummel providing breath-taking views of Pitlochry dam, hydro station and Loch Faskally. It also has a 60 seat café and multi-purpose space suitable for educational visits.
The centre will create up to 17 jobs, all paying the real Living Wage and is aiming to attract 88,000 visitors in its first year of opening.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This outstanding new visitor centre is a major boost for tourism in Highland Perthshire.
“Pitlochry Dam is already a popular visitor attraction, so it is fitting that this spectacular new building not only enjoys great views onto the Dam, it also tells the rich story of Scotland’s hydro revolution in an engaging and informative way. The project is testament to SSE’s commitment to the town and I am delighted to officially open the centre today.”
Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE Chief Executive, said: “SSE is very proud of its hydro heritage and we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to the pioneers and Tunnel Tigers whose endeavour helped create this network of tunnels, dams and hydro stations in the 1950s which still powers homes today. This is a key chapter in Scotland’s social and engineering history and we felt we had a duty to tell that story.
“When Pitlochry Dam and Power Station was first given the go-ahead there were fears it would lead to the ‘ruination of tourism.’ In fact some 550,000 people cross the dam here every year and we’re hoping this new visitor centre will be a popular attraction for the Pitlochry area. “We’re delighted to welcome the First Minister and the entire Scottish Government Cabinet here to officially open the centre. It is a privilege for all of us to meet some of the hydro men who left such a lasting legacy and we should all celebrate their achievements.”
One of the original Tunnel Tigers from Donegal, John ‘Gonna’ O’Donnell, had flown in from Ireland especially for the official opening.
He said: “Today is a fitting and lasting tribute to the men who built the dams. Thanks to SSE, future generations can come to this stunning visitor centre and hear our hydro story for themselves.
“My first role was a ‘spanner’ man. It was a tough job which involved holding the drill machine for the four men working above me. Sometimes if I close my eyes I can still feel the tumbling rocks coming down on my bare knuckles and the noise of drilling was deafening. It was hard going, but it was work and for that I was grateful.”
Alastair Wylie, CCG Chairman and Chief Executive, added: “We were delighted to take on this project given the unique location and construction challenges. We hope that the end result reflects the stunning environment and offers a modern and vibrant building for visitors. Our build was focused on maximising sustainable building methods and creating a building fit for its surroundings.”
The Pitlochry Dam Visitor Centre is the first of two SSE projects undertaken by CCG. Our Construction Division will also soon deliver the National HVDC Centre in Cumbernauld, a bespoke training facility that will test the efficiency of how electricity travels through the UK network. The project is expected to be complete this Spring.