Thomson’s Scotland – Lochaber Series

W.S. Thomson - Ballachulish Ferry

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 19th June 2022, residing for three to four days in different local communities for the remakes and recording people’s stories, as much as possible on video.

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

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.

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 (see example attached in Supporting info) 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, podcasts and vlogs

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