Children of the Dead End.

21st February 2024

A wheel Barrow abandoned half way up the Devil’s Staircase from some recent path maintenance.

Despite the name, the Devil’s Staircase is one of the more mellow paths in Glen Coe. As I child I remember being told that the name Devil’s Staircase came from the Navvies working on the Blackwater dam and hydro-scheme  in the early 10th century. They would go over the the King’s House Hotel for a night out, and on the way back afterwards would have had to walk up this way to get home. A few of them fell by the wayside and died of exposure. However, looking back I suspect that this may have been a story my parents told me to make walking up it seem a bit more interesting.  In fact I just read that the name originated much earlier during than this the period when General Wade was doing a lot of road building in the highlands during the 18th century.

Either way the wheelbarrow that I passed on the way up today reminded me of this story and a good book called Children of the Dead End by Patrick McGill. McGill was a labourer who came over from Ireland looking for work, and ended up getting work as a navvy (labourer) on Blackwater dam. Written as fiction the story is very autobiographical with many of the events in it seeming to have happened. It paints a picture of a hard and dangerous life. However, as a result of the dam associated hydro scheme (built to power an Aluminium smelter in the village) Kinlochleven became the first village in the world to have every house connected to electricity.

There would have been no shortage of water to draining into the Black Water reservoir today. After yesterday’s rain, it actually cleared up quite nicely overnight. The temperature dropped and the surface of the snowpack firmed up. However, the freezing level soon rose above the tops this morning, and heavy rain fell at all levels. It was not looking too wintry in Glen Coe today. Thankfully,  a return to more sustained cold conditions are expected from this evening.

Stob Coire an Lochan is up there somewhere.

Plenty of standing water on the hill.

No shortage of water in the burns either.

Looking into Choire Odhair-bhig. Some snow, but not a lot!

Poor visibility looking down the Glen.

Poor visibility looking the other way towards Rannoch Moor.

Comments on this post

  • Alan Maxwell O’Connor
    22nd February 2024 9:03 pm

    I don’t think the wheelbarrow was abandoned, I saw it upturned covering some tools last week so evidently one of the path workers unless a gardener has been reported missing 😉

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