Obituary: Harry Clyne – engineer and model builder

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Harry Clyne died recently at his home in Lochailort and leaves us without a historian who was also an accomplished engineer.

Well-kent to many people in Moidart and Morar, Harry hailed from Peterhead and, even after his family moved to Inverness, he retained the Bloo Tooner accent all of his life, occasionally, and sometimes mischievously, to the confusion of people with ‘English ears’.

He had a complex career, starting with a five-year apprenticeship with quantity surveyors Souter and Jaffrey.

He then joined the RAF for 12 years as a radar engineer on Vulcan bombers at RAF Scampton, in Lincolnshire.

He was a lifelong biker and travelled round Europe as part of the RAF Trials Riding team, opening a motorbike repair business in Ingham, Lincolnshire, after he left the Royal Air Force. Was it coincidence that he settled in Glenfinnan, on the route of the Six Days Trials, when he decided to come home to Scotland?

He built his own house at Lochailort on the site of a wartime indoor small-arms range, doing much of the work himself; even 30 years ago, it had underfloor heating.

His interests were changing and he became one of the UK’s leading model engineers, building models, especially trains, of many sizes – and many readers will remember his one-third scale steam traction engine, every single part manufactured in his workshop, steaming along Fort William High Street with children as passengers in open carts.

He became an expert at researching and building complex and sometimes eccentric models; he was building Highland Railway stock when he left us.

In 1980, Marine Harvest opened Britain’s first fish farm in Loch Ailort and he was the first employee, acting as designer, engineer and diver.

The Lochailort TV Club was his spare-time project, climbing the hills above the loch to install and maintain the equipment relaying a signal from Mull until satellite technology arrived.

Harry was a well-respected founder member of the Moidart History Group and his ‘Clyne Alidades’ have made a very significant contribution to the group’s funds.

An alidade is a Victorian surveying tool, quite like a rifle sight; no batteries, lightweight and very accurate, no-one in the world nowadays makes them except Harry, whose alidades are being used by archaeologists in the UK, Canada, the USA, Ireland, Australia and even by US forces in Iraq.

I liked Harry as soon as I met him; a shared background as RAF radar engineers brought us together and he introduced me to his other fascination, archaeology, although more recently his declining health prevented him from digging.

He is sorely missed.

Ken Bowker, Roshven.