The Water Tower, a recent history

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
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?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *