Thomson’s Scotland – Lochaber Series

Thomson’s Scotland – Lochaber Series

W.S. Thomson

For about 40 years, William Sutherland Thomson MBE (1906, Glasgow – 1967, Isle of Skye) explored Scotland to picture his beloved country. As a landscape photographer, he produced two pictorial books, 20 booklets in his Let’s See series, other publications, calendars and many postcards. His photographs reveal a distinctive representation of the characteristic Scottish landscape and rural features in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Thomson worked and lived from 1945 to 1961 in Fort William and Corpach and is still in the memories of the post WW2 generation. At the beginning of 1967, he was awarded an MBE for his services to the Scottish Tourist Board. That year he suddenly died.

Search on a map for his pictures (regularly updated).

About the series

Supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund and the West Highland Museum, Fort William, about 60-70 years later, history researcher and photographer Estelle Slegers Helsen revisits the Lochaber area to remake a selection of Thomson’s photographs. The old pictures and present-day remakes are visual cues to gather people’s opulent recollections. These are then moulded into unique stories returned to local communities, their residents, and visitors. The stories will highlight the past, present and future of the Lochaber area.

Logo West Highland Musem

During a preliminary scoping of the project in October/November 2021 and further developing in the past months, local communities, organisations, and residents have acknowledged their interest and support and willingness to cooperate to make this project happen. They stay involved until the end of the project.

Project goals

  • Re-connecting and re-engaging with local people, also difficult to reach, post-pandemic
  • Connecting people of different ages and groups in one community: young, old, residents, semi-residents, tourists
  • Connecting local communities within a larger area
  • Finding out how the Scottish landscape changed in the past 60-70 years

Collecting recollections

Estelle talked to key people in the local communities of the different loci of the Lochaber area and she will return from 21st May to 23rd June 2022, residing for three to four days in different local communities for the remakes and recording people’s stories.

Visit one or more of the planned talks:

  • Tuesday 24th May 2022 – 7.30 pm – Lochaline Village Hall – With local support from the Morvern Heritage Society
  • Friday 27th May 2022 – 7 pm – Kilchoan Community Centre
  • Tuesday 31st May 2022 – 7 pm – The Leven Centre, Kinlochleven
  • Wednesday 1st June 2022 – 8 pm (door open at 7.45 pm) – Ballachulish Village Hall
  • Tuesday 7th June 2022 – 7 pm – Salvation Army Hall, Glen Nevis Place, Fort William – Hosted by the Fort William Photographic Society
  • Friday 10th June 2022 – 7 pm – Salen Hall
  • Saturday 11th June 2022 – 7 pm – Acharacle Community Centre
  • Monday 13th June 2022 – 7 pm – Strontian Parish Church – With local support from the Sunart Heritage Group
  • Tuesday 14th June 2022 – 7 pm – Astley Hall, Arisaig

Returning stories

In each of the visited communities, the stories will be presented as a talk in September. The key people/local history and heritage groups get a set of banners which will be displayed in village halls, community centres, libraries, museums, hotels and local shops from September until mid-December 2022.

  • Saturday 10th September 2022 – 2 pm – As an event of the Gairloch Museum Festival of Stories, Gairloch, Wester Ross – Book tickets: £3.00
  • Tuesday 13th September 2022 – 7 pm – Astley Hall, Arisaig – Admission free
  • Wednesday 14th September 2022 – 7 pm – Shielbridge Hall, Acharacle – Admission free
  • Thursday 15th September 2022 – 7 pm – Salen Hall, Salen – Admission free
  • Friday 16th September 2022 – 7 pm – Kilchoan Community Centre, Kilchoan – With local support from the Ardnamurchan History and Heritage Association – Admission free
  • Saturday 17th September 2022 – 7.30 pm – Lochaline Village Hall – With local support from the Morvern Heritage Society – Admission free
  • Monday 19th September 2022 – 7 pm – Strontian Parish Church – With local support from the Sunart Heritage Group – Admission free
  • Tuesday 20th September 2022 – 7 pm – Salvation Army Hall, Glen Nevis Place, Fort William – Hosted by the Fort William Photographic Society – Admission free
  • Wednesday 21st September 2022 – 7.30 pm – Ballachulish Village Hall – Admission free

At the end of the project, we organise a closing community event in the Highland Cinema in Fort William.

Outputs

  • Adding (unedited) interviews to the West Highland Museum Oral History Archive
  • A series of talks on local stories (Sep 2022) and a closing community event (end Nov 2022)
  • Banners with stories as travelling displays in village halls, community centres, libraries, museums, hotels, local shops (Sep to mid-Dec 2022)
  • Publications: weekly a half-page story with then and now pictures in the Lochaber Times and a Let’s See booklet with then and now photographs
  • Online content: blog posts on the West Highland Museum website and stories on the Travel in Time website
  • Side-by-side “then and now” pictures: please go to the Map page and select Filter by Thomson Scotland.

This project has been supported by the Year of Stories 2022 Community Stories Fund. This fund is being delivered in partnership between VisitScotland and Museums Galleries Scotland with support from National Lottery Heritage Fund thanks to National Lottery players. 

YS2022 Community Stories Fund logo panel