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Fort William History!


7,500 B.C. - First evidence of human settlement in Scotland at Kinloch, Isle of Rhum in Lochaber.
3,000 B.C - Recently discovered “Cup Marks” at Blarmafoldach suggest early territorial markings of agricultural settlement. Probable inhabited caves at Onich.
2,000 B.C - Burial Cists with urns containing charred human remains found especially around Onich and North Ballachulish. Standing Stone at Onich.
1,000 B.C. - Vitrified Fort

800 A.D. - Ballachulish Goddess
1270 - (Old) Inverlochy Castle Built

1431 - 1st Battle of Inverlochy
Forces led by Donald Balloch, cousin of Alexander, Lord of the Isles, rose to avenge Alexander's imprisonment by King James I. A Royalist army, led by the Earls of Mar and Caithness, which included Clan Cameron, was sent to " quell" him at Inverlochy; the Royalists were defeated. The king's force was camped between the river and Tom na h-Aire just south-west of the old Inverlochy Castle. MacDonald bowmen fired down on the field and also led a simultaneous charge from the south. Over 1000 men were killed, including the Earl of Caithness, and the king's army was routed, fleeing south.

1429 - 31 - Royalists for King James defeated Alexander Lord of the Isles in Lochaber. In 1431 a rematch had Donald Balloch MacDonald (Alexander's cousin) rout a royalist force led by the Earls of Mar and Caithness - the 1st Battlle of Inverlochy. 'Tis said they delayed engaging in battle to finish a game of cards.

1645 - Second Battle of Inverlochy - Montrose's army after a sustained overnight march from Kilcumin (Fort Augustus) through Glen Roy takes Campbell forces by surprise and routs the Duke of Argyll's army.

1654 - General Monk, Cromwell’s emissary sailed into Loch Linnhe and built a timber palisade, “The Fort of Inverlochy” to accommodate 250 troops. He anticipated his mission to check the Highland Clans (especially the Cameron’s) would not be brief and took provisions for two years.

1690 - The Fort of Inverlochy was strengthened with 20’ high stone walls, fifteen guns and barracks for a thousand men. It was then named Fort William after the King and the adjacent village which it had fawned became Maryburgh after Queen Mary. Some of the stone walls and the “Sally Port” remain to this day.

1692 - The final papers authorising the “Massacre of Glencoe” were signed in the Fort and sent a detachment of troops to the McIains of Glencoe. After receiving their hospitality the soldiers turned on them in the early hours of a snow bound winters night, killing men, women and children. The wood panelled room in which the papers were signed is now reconstructed in the West Highland Museum.

1725 - General Wade began building his great roads in the Highlands “to civilise the country”. The road from Fort William to Inverness crosses the River Spean above a deep rocky gorge at “ Highbridge”, completed in 1736. The pillars are still standing. Here a skirmish took place in 1745 heralding the Jacobite uprising of that year.

1722 - Lead mine opened at Strontian. Later that century a new mineral Strontianite was discovered and the new element named appropriately Strontium was identified in 1793.

1745 - Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) raises his Standard at Glenfinnan and takes his Jacobite army to Edinburgh, Carlisle and then on to Derby in an attempt to take back the British Throne for the Stewarts.

1746 - Siege of Fort William. The 1,500 strong Jacobite army with 200 French Artillery men laid siege to the Fort for 5 weeks, but failed. A sign of things to come - ending in the fateful day on the Moor of Culloden when the Highland Army were defeated. Charles goes into hiding spending many months being pursued by Redcoats.Cumberland “The Butcher” ravages Lochaber after Culloden.

1750’s - Town of Maryburgh rebuilt in wood (in case of further insurrection when it could be torched quickly.

1752 - Appin Murder

1803 - Construction of the Caledonian Canal begun designed and built by Thomas Telford. Completed 1822

1818 - First boats pass through the Caledonian Canal.

1825 - Long John” MacDonald’s distillery opened producing “Long John’s dew of Ben Nevis. Still making whisky and has a Visitor Centre. Free dram!

1830’s - Much Tourism begins in the Highlands with the advent of regular swift Steamboats. The “Lochiel Arms Hotel” (later Banavie Hotel) built beside the Caledonian Canal for Tourists.

1840’s - Fort William lit with oil lamps

1843 - “The Disruption” of the Church of Scotland. The breakaway “Free Church” was not recognised by local lairds, Ministers were banned from their Churches and use of land for services was forbidden. Services were held in graveyards and in Strontian a “Floating Church” on Loch Sunart allowed the minister to preach afloat whilst the congregation stood on the shore below the high tide line.

1849 - The Highland Famine at its height due to Potato blight which decimated the staple food source. More emigration resulted.

1852 - Dr. Kennedy, local doctor, dies in an outbreak of Typhus. Memorial built in Cameron Square.

1860 - Construction of Lord Abingers “New” Inverlochy Castle began at Torlundy.

1864 - Belford Hospital opened. Built by Andrew Belford of Glenfintaig.

1873 - Queen Victoria spent a week at Inverlochy Castle “house hunting”. It rahned heavily. She may not have been amused. Instead of buying Ardverike on Loch Laggan side she went to Perthshire and bought the Balmoral Estate instead. It is drier there!

1881-2 - Clement Wragge climbed Ben Nevis almost daily for two years to make meteorological recordings and establish a need for an Observatory on the Summit.

1883 - A bridle path to take ponies to the top of Ben Nevis constructed and an observatory opened which took daily recordings on Britain’s highest summit for 21 years.

1894 - The West Highland Railway opened to traffic; its terminus Fort William became the focal point of the town. MacBrayne’s ste`mers landed on the pier (now occupied by “Crannog” the sea food Restaurant) a stones throw from the old station.

1895 - William Swan, local hairdresser runs up and down Ben Nevis in 2hrs.41m.

1896 - The Fort William Electric Lighting Company taps the Kiachnish river with a Hydro scheme and sees Fort William as the first town in Britain to be lit by electricity.

1904 - Ben Nevis Observatory closes but “hotel” on the summit remains open until the first world war.

1906 - Ascent of Ben Nevis by Sir Henry Alexander in a Model “T” Ford!

1909 - Kinlochleven Aluminium Smelter opened.

1923 - The West Highland Museum opened in Cameron Square. Its recent refurbishment shows off to advantage its local and especially Jacobite collection which is of International Importance.

1931 - The British Aluminium factory opens after seven years of construction. Its Aluminium smelter is powered by a Hydro scheme tapping water from a vast area of the Lochaber & Badenoch. A tunnel 15ft in diameter and 15 miles long was driven through the hillside of the Ben Nevis Range to carry water from Loch Treig to the factory’s power house. It was the longest in the world at the time.

1940 - The outbreak of War changes Lochaber into a major centre for servicing Atlantic Convoys and a training ground for Commandos (headquarters at Achnacarry Castle) and for Motor Torpedo Boats.

1951 - Modern Series of the Ben Nevis Race begins.

1952 - The Commando Memorial unveiled by the Queen on a prominent site above Spean Bridge on the A82. This striking bronze by Scott Sutherland commemorates the Commando’s killed in the Second World War most of whom were trained hereabouts.

1964 - The Scottish Pulp and Paper Mill company open an vast industrial site at Annat utilising the local resources of water and wood. This brings a major influx of population with new housing, shops and amenities.

1965 - The New Belford Hospital built to accommodate the increase population and expectations of modern medicine and surgery.

1974 - A town by-pass was built on piers in the Loch to take traffic away from the congested main street. The station was relocated and a roundabout built adjacent to the remains of the Old Fort.

1975 - The “Old Town Hall” burnt down in December when being used by the Royal Mail to sort the Christmas post.

1980 - Commercial Salmon farming becoming more important with fish pens on many sea and Fresh water lochs. A processing factory on the “Blar Mhor” can despatch up to 100 tons of fresh Salmon daily and all within 24 hours of harvesting.

1988 - Reclaimed land beside the old estuary of the River Nevis was developed with a large hall and leisure centre and Safeways supermarket.

1997 - The West Highland Museum celebrates its 75th Anniversary with 3,000 people in the High Street to see and dance “The Longest Strip the Willow in the West” . The dancers stretched 250 yards from the Grand Hotel to beyond St.Andrews church.

2000 - Fort William celebrated the millennium with another West Highland Museum “Strip the Willow” at about 9pm on 31st December 1999. “The Last Strip the Willow of the Century”. Were you there?