Brothers make lifetime trip to iconic Cruachan

Martin, Frank, Peter and John Lacey, in front of the photograph of their father Peter Lacey (pictured left) on the wall of the Cruachan Machine Hall.

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Four brothers have made a once in a lifetime trip to visit Cruachan Power Station, which their late father helped build.

Peter Lacey was one of the 4,000 Tunnel Tigers who drilled, blasted and cleared the rocks from the inside of mighty Ben Cruachan from 1959 to 1965 to make way for the UK’s first pumped storage hydro power station.

A mural dedicated to these men has pride of place on the walls of the machine hall, and it is here that one of Peter’s sons saw a photograph of him by chance when watching the BBC  show about comedian Frankie Boyle visiting the station.

Cruachan hydro power station.
Cruachan hydro power station.

They knew instantly it was their father in the photograph, as he was missing an index finger due to an injury caused during a farming accident when he was younger.

After seeing the programme, the brothers Frank, John, Martin and Peter did some research about the men who built Cruachan and got in touch with the visitor centre to arrange a tour. As the four men now live in different locations across Britain, the four of them have only been in the same room together a handful of times over the last 30 years to attend family funerals.

The visit was delayed due to Covid restrictions, but the brothers have at last been able to see the place where their father had spent many years working.

Peter Lacey grew up near Dublin and moved to Scotland with his family in 1950, leaving his job working on his family’s farm to take advantage of the generous wages being offered to labourers in Scotland – which reflected the danger and difficulty of the work.

Conditions for the men who worked at Cruachan during those early years were really tough and tragically, 15 of them died. These men are commemorated by the mural on the wall of the machine hall, as well as in a specially commissioned tartan Drax created, which includes 15 strands of a special dark blue thread.

Martin Lacey, the second youngest of the brothers, said: ‘My father, like many of the other men working at Loch Awe, gave up so much to better his family. We weren’t a rich family, but we never wanted for anything. We were so proud of him and always looked forward to him coming home on the weekends when he could.’

The work was physically exhausting and the environment dark and dangerous. Peter suffered several accidents during his time there, including broken ribs. During retirement he lost his eyesight too, which was put down to the hours he had spent working in the darkness of the tunnel all those years earlier.

The brothers were in awe of the size and scale of the power station their father helped to build.

Martin said: ‘We were able to go inside the machine hall, which is the size of three football fields and the height of St Paul’s Cathedral. The generators are huge. When we stood beside the photo of our father and saw the inner workings of the hall I was so impressed.’

They also viewed the mural in the machine hall privately – a very emotional experience for them as they remembered their father, who they described as a thoughtful and caring man.

‘To us he was a giant of a man at 6ft 3in. He was never ill and never felt the cold, he never wore a jacket or jumper no matter the weather.

‘He never asked for much. He was a family man and very content with what he had. He was extremely hard-working and could never sit still for long. Even when he wasn’t working, he always had to be doing something, gardening or fixing things.’

Frank travelled the furthest for the family reunion at Cruachan – coming from Skelmersdale in Lancashire, which is more than 280 miles away.

Martin said: ‘The staff at Cruachan made the visit really special for us. I’d like to thank them again, we had a great time and it’s a trip that we will always remember. I hope to visit again in the future with my wife.’

After the visit, the brothers each received a scarf made from the special tartan Drax commissioned to commemorate the men who built Cruachan.

You can find out more about the men who built Cruachan Power Station here and to book a tour, go to the website at www.visitcruachan.co.uk