Built in the 1890’s, the tower is an early example of 19th century concrete construction. This Category C Listed building stands in a prominent position above the village and has graced Garmouth’s skyline for more than 100years.
Though no longer used as a reservoir to improve the water supply to both villages, it has been retained as a landmark on one of the most spectacular viewpoints of the area. Information boards highlight local and historical features and the ground surrounding the benches is planted with indigenous wild flowers.
In October 1989, the Garmouth & Kingston Amenities Association heard that Grampian Regional Council planned to sell the water tower to the highest bidder along with adjoining ground for the development of conical-shaped holiday homes set into the hillside. Not chalets, they were assured, as though this would make a great difference. That holiday lets would be sited in such a visible spot, disguised by shrubbery in summer, but starkly visible in winter, dismayed many residents. Worse, plans were already prepared to present details of this development. If this action was to be halted, it had to be fast. With the generous assistance of Grampian Regional Councillor, Ian Lawson and Moray District Councillor Jennifer Shaw, Grampian’s Economic Development and Planning committee was approached on behalf of the Amenities Assoc. A six-month reprieve was granted. A public meeting was held to sound out general opinion and listen to ideas. Inside the six month extension, the Amenities had to prove they could upgrade the current water tower site to become a village amenity and present their proposed plan of action to the ED&P committee.
Ideas were varied and wonderful as to what use the tower itself could be put. As a shelter perhaps, or a museum giving the history of both villages. However, the most ideal was Mr Jim Skelton’s, being to turn the upper floor into a Camera obscura. This is where, by clever arrangement of light aperture and lenses, within a darkened chamber, views of the surrounding coastline and countryside are reflected onto a light surface, such as the interior curved walls.
In the meantime a working sub-committee, led by Mr Robin Stewart, was formed to thrash out ideas and to gather estimates for annual insurance, maintenance, hardcore for paths, sign posts, seating, grass-cutting and the making of a panoramic viewing indicator and a laminated interpretation board. The planting of indigenous flowers and shrubs was to be carried out by the Scottish Wildlife Team, led by Tom Finnemore. Sadly, the insurance estimates put the kibosh on any plans of utilising the interior of the tower. If the beautiful, but old, Victorian wrought-iron external staircase leading to the upper floor remained in situ, public liability insurance would be exorbitant. The tower could be covered adequately for a reasonable fee provided the staircase was removed. It was a heartbreaking decision for the outline of the wrought-iron stair against an evening skyline was part of the charm of the tower itself. But with no option, the decision was made and the staircase removed and stored elsewhere.
The original staircase is hidden behind the Maggie Fair shed with a great big tree growing through the rungs where no doubt its final resting place will be. Ed
An estimated floating fund of £3,000 would be needed for the work and insurance and Robin took on the organising of several events. Musical concerts, Old Time Music Hall, Tea-dances and Traditional music evenings using local talent raised the funds and combined with donations from past residents and interested parties the goal was exceeded by raising £5,000. Finally, the proposal was put on paper and presented to Grampian’s ED&P committee. They agreed to give the Tower back to the village on a fifty-year lease for a nominal rent of £1 per annum. In 1991 after two years hard graft, the Amenities Association was presented with the Grampian Community Development Award for their work in striving to retain a village amenity. This included a £400 cheque. In addition, due to regular coverage of progress from the Northern Scot, further donations came in, along with offers of assistance from the Countryside Commission. A great deal of hard work by many willing helpers saw the plans come to fruition, but not before our ever-present village vandals had their way. One week before the official opening in August 1993 these sweet urchins damaged the indicator and interpretation boards, gouging obscenities into the surfaces and destroyed the commemorative plaque on one of the benches. Thanks to restorative work carried out by Baillie Bros. the damage was repaired in time. Twelve years on and now young adults, I wonder if they ever think about what they did?
Sept 3rd 1993 Villagers followed piper Jim Purdie through the streets and up school brae. Then ‘The Garmouth Singers’ conducted by Gay Cadenhead sang The Linden Tree’ before Councillor Ian Lawson carried out the official opening, unveiling the new interpretation board. After enjoying the views of the Binn of Cullen and the Moray Firth, the large assembly of residents and officials were piped back down the hill to the hall for tea.
March 2005 Once again the tower has had an upgrade and fresh paint, to look down on us all with a clean face. If you are in any doubt of the efficacy of this venture – walk up to the tower on a fine day and look around you. Enjoy one of the few amenities we have left. Fundraising is needed again.
Tennis Courts – gone. Basketball Court – gone. Skateboarding area – seldom used. Bowling Green – continues by the skin of its teeth. Why? No actual use is being made of these facilities and as with nature if something remains unused it rots and dies. It takes more than cash to keep things alive – it needs the presence of people.
Next good day, drag the kids away from their computer games, or visiting relatives, and walk them up the hill to the tower – look out across the firth – imagine the sounds rising from the shipyards below on Kingston’s shore. Picture the Spey Ferryman rowing workers across to Tugnet to pack the Salmon in the Ice House. See the sailing ships anchored off Spey’s mouth, the longboats transporting the fish to the holds for the journey to London’s finest dinner tables – think of the history of the place and the mystery of the Standing Stones close by. Estimated to have stood there since 1,500 b.c. Do they mark a place of burial, a place of ritual or were they a symbol of thanksgiving for continued good harvests? Who knows for certain – but one thing is sure – we live in an area steeped in history and interesting memories.
Garmouth is a pretty good place to live – let’s keep it that way – or even make it better by reviving the community spirit of past days? PB.
This article was originally submitted by Patricia and incorporated in the March 05 Newsletter. The editor does not apologies for the reprinting of the article, it is repeated to remind and inform our new residents of the Historic efforts by the few for the general good of us all.
Letter to the Editor
What is this leaflet doing the rounds, asking for a yes or no decision on the viability of retaining the fifty-year lease of the old Water tower, a category C listed building leased at £1 per annum? Why is the information so one sided. How is this £1000 a year broken down? Where is the breakdown of £14,000 spent since 1991 and what maintenance has been carried out since then?
As far as I’m aware the only work carried out on the tower since ’91 has been painting approx twice, perhaps three times – 1st time carried out by GRC and free of charge prior to hand over and 2nd time by Morris Mann at a very reasonable price. The manufacture of the Panoramic indicator and local interpretation boards, benches, and removal of the beautiful victorian wrought iron stairway for safety reasons was paid for by fundraising and donations. The planting of indigenous flowers, grass and hedge-cutting was carried out free of charge by the team of Scottish Wildlife trainees overseen by Tom Finnamore and a grant given by the Countryside commission for tree planting.
Now, if there are hidden costs other than a coat of paint every five years or so and the public liability insurance of approx. £400 – 500 per annum, I would be happy to be enlightened. Perhaps after due consideration of the relevant information I might alter my outlook. But, I will not do so without a public meeting to discuss the matter in full. Prior to the acquisition of the tower in 1991, a public meeting was called to judge the opinion of the residents of both villages. With the facts and possible future costs presented, they voted to fight to keep the tower. The same route should be followed again – troublesome bother or not.
The Amenities Association is no more than a voice of the people and every resident over the age of 18 in both villages is a member of that association and therefore a voice to be heard. Should the ultimate decision be to hand the fifty year lease over to Moray council and therefore leave the way open, as before, for the development of holiday homes to mar the skyline above the park, then so be it. At least democracy will have been carried out.
However, I hope, should this occur, that the Amenities Committee concerned fights as hard as their predecessors to have the sewage system fully upgraded before a single house is erected. The upgrading that has been promised for over a decade. Take the statement quoted in the Moray Council Town and Country Plan, at least five years ago, that with the exclusion the planned housing at the sidings, the Orchard on Spey St. and Jockie’s Loan, no other buildings would be erected until sewage upgrading was carried out! I haven’t seen that happen, have you?
A great deal of hard work by a few residents saved the tower in ’91 and the risk of development overlooking the village. Sufficient funds to continue upkeep were raised at that time. I suggest another sub-committee be raised to do the same
IF THAT IS THE DECISION OF THE PUBLIC MEETING. Please don’t put flyers through my door with insufficient details. Similar to certain leaflets we received prior to the recent local by-election concerning a certain lady who omitted to name the political party she represented. Lack of true information is every bit as bad as incorrect information.
Be assured it is not my intention to offend anyone. I speak only for myself, but as a past member of the Amenities executive for many years, and a past member of the 1990 Water Tower sub-committee, I am angry at being asked to tick a box on a piece of paper without being given the opportunity, or my right, to voice an opinion at a public meeting.
Letter to the Editor
Garmouth Water Tower
Mr John Fettes
Garmouth & Kingston Amenities Association
I am very interested in the discussions now taking place by the Amenities Association in regard to the Water Tower.
When I resigned as a member of the Amenities Association I handed over to Ian Lambert a file on the Water Tower, more specifically the events leading up to the Amenities Association taking over responsibility for the upkeep of the Water Tower.
Have you read that file?
You will notice, from the start, that Grampian Regional Council – not Moray Council – were, at the time, the principals involved in looking after the Water Tower. It was clear, at that time, that Grampian Regional Council were not doing a very good job on this historic landmark which, as you will no doubt be aware, is situated next to a Bronze Age burial chamber, which is probably 3.500 – 4.000 years old.
The Amenities Association, at the time, took over responsibility for insuring the Water Tower and its on-going maintenance. My recollection is that the annual insurance premium was in the order of £300.00 – not the figure of £1.000 per annum quoted in your document dated May 2006 recently circulated to the residents of Garmouth & Kingston. I suggest that you circulate an accurate breakdown of the £14.264 quoted in your circular.
As I am sure you are aware, there have been moves in the last few years to build houses in close proximity to the Water Tower and the Bronze Age burial chamber. The Water Tower is a landmark for Garmouth & Kingston, situated in a very prominent visual situation. I would be very strongly opposed to such a move and I would hope that each member of the Amenities Association would share the same view.
May I suggest that the Amenities Association applies itself to raising money for the annual insurance premium for the Water Tower and any related maintenance costs. In that regard the Garmouth Singers has agreed to perform a Concert in the Village Hall, to help raise funds. With ticket sales and a Raffle Draw it should not be difficult to raise a substantial amount of money provided the event is well -organised and promoted. Two or three such events annually should be more than enough to raise money for the up-keep of the Water Tower.
When I was a member of the Amenities Association, I had contact with Grampian Regional Council’s resident Archaeologist, located in Aberdeen. He provided the words for the sign, which Mo Smith and I erected alongside the pathway overlooking Kingston. This collection of stones is a precious, historic landmark, which, together with the Water Tower, needs to be carefully conserved for future generations.
I note that the Amenities Association is very concerned at the increased cost of maintaining the Water Tower, but I strongly suggest that the Association now applies itself to the role of raising money to maintain it.