Sign up to our monthly newsletter

Please confirm that you are happy to hear from The Church of Scotland:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit the Privacy Policy on our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Home  >  Features  >  Looking Back: Hydro camp

Looking Back

Mullardoch Dam. Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence
Mullardoch Dam. Copyright Mike Pennington and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

Friday June 6 2014

Looking Back: The Manse in the "Hydro" Camp

Writing in 1949, the Rev W McIntyre, Organiser for Industrial Chaplaincies, describes a new type of ministry among the workers building hydro-electric schemes in the Highlands.

ENGINE trouble brought my car to a standstill on the road from Beauly to Cannich amidst the February grandeur of Strath Class, and, a brief inspection having revealed that I could not reach the camp at Cannich at the time I had indicated, I decided to ask the driver of one of the trucks that are constantly travelling back and forth along the road to take a message for me.

In a few minutes I heard a truck coming up behind me and in response to my signal the driver stopped. Did he know the Welfare Officer at the camp? Noting the interrogative arching of his eyebrows, I added immediately, “Padre Turner.” Yes, of course, he knew Padre Turner and certainly he would take a message for me.

My question was not asked on the spur of the moment, but was quite deliberate. Without seeking it, I had an opportunity to check up on an impression I had already formed, and here was a chance to obtain a bit of evidence that might prove useful in answering any question about the success of the venture in combining the responsibilities of camp chaplain and welfare officer. “Padre Turner” was, in fact, the title for him that I had picked up on the previous day when I accompanied him on a tour of the camp and noted that on the roads and in the offices and kitchen the greeting from everyone we met was, without exception, “Morning, padre!”

A Camp “Manse”

Formerly minister of the church and parish of Glenmoriston, the Rev. D. M. Turner has been since the beginning of this year minister and welfare officer to the new community of more than a thousand people in the camps at Cannich and at Cosaig (eleven miles further up Glen Cannich) which form the homes of the men and women employed in connection with what is officially known as Constructional Scheme No. 7 of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board, the Mullardoch-Fasnakyle-Affric Project.

Appointed to act as chaplain on a temporary part-time basis for a period of three months, he was so successful that the camp authorities and the Home Board came to an arrangement, supported by the Presbytery of Inverness, whereby he now occupies the dual post and lives with his wife and two boys in a small but comfortable bungalow-hut in the centre of the camp.

For the three months of his temporary appointment Mr. Turner lived in a hut like the rest of the men with a small section partitioned off as his office and sleeping quarters. Thus he gained first-hand knowledge of the conditions in which men and women from the Highlands and the Western Isles find themselves at Cannich. Naturally he was concerned to arrange services of worship for them, and, when all the factors in the situation are taken into consideration, these are remarkably well attended. For some three months now Mr. Turner has also been conducting a Sunday School for the children connected with the camp. They have had their first “camp baptism” and their first “camp wedding” too.

But more – very much more – is required of a camp padre than the conducting of services on Sundays. A very large part of camp populations have had little or no connection with the Church in their lives. A poster announcing Sunday Services has little or no effect on them. Nevertheless, as Mr. Turner puts it, “These camps provide one of the widest doors for Christian work in Scotland to-day.” Like all missionaries the chaplain must for the most part proclaim the Gospel apart from preaching it, by being ready to meet the personal concerns and problems and the moral and spiritual needs of men.

Citizens’ Advice Bureau

As a county councillor informed on many matters affecting the welfare and happiness of our people, Mr. Turner has from the first made himself available to advise and guide men about the variety of questions and problems that arise when they are working at a considerable distance from their wives and children. Now, in common with all the chaplains associated with the Hydro-Electric Scheme Camps (and in some cases chaplains associated with factories), Mr. Turner conducts a recognised Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Each month he deals with from 40 to 60 cases, many of which lead on to the guidance and help which he is ready to give, and men and women are ready to receive from him, as a minister of the Gospel.

As Welfare Officer

From the beginning, too, Mr. Turner has systematically visited the men in their huts. Now, of course, he is in and out of the huts every day as welfare officer, seeing that the new arrivals are comfortably settled and informed about all the details affecting their life in the camp. Are they fond of reading? There in his office is the library which he has organised and manages with the voluntary assistance of members of the administrative staff. Are they interested in country dancing or badminton? Provision has been made for these activities, too, with the able and enthusiastic co-operation of Mrs. Turner, who has made the welfare of the women and girls her own special concern.

There can be no doubt that our parish ministers have brought great credit to the Church in undertaking the work of chaplaincies to the factories, hostels and camps. There can be no doubt either that the service thus offered in an endeavour to relate Christianity to the realities of everyday life takes some people by surprise at first, and then gives them something of a thrill.

“What Church sent you here?” asked one man of Mr. Turner when he had recovered from the astonishment of discovering that the padre was not just a visitor but actually lived in the camp. Mr. Turner explained. Then said the man after a pause, “Do you know what I’m going to do? I am going to church on Sunday and that will be the first time for fifteen years.”

Looking Back menu