HELP PRESERVE BLAIRMORE PIER IN ITS 165th YEAR!

by Agnes - the Piermaster, in Blairmore, Scotland, United Kingdom

We did it
On 30th March 2020 we successfully raised £6,646 with 74 supporters in 56 days

Help save Blairmore Pier in its 165th year; protect its heritage and keep it open to all. It’s a people’s pier - one to treasure and enjoy.

by Agnes - the Piermaster, in Blairmore, Scotland, United Kingdom

Welcome & Introduction

Hi, my name is Agnes and thank you for visiting the project page. In 2003 I fell in love with a derelict pier. To save it, I re-mortgaged my small home; I bought it, had it restored and re-opened.  I'm now 65 and the pier is just a little bit older at 165!  My passion is keeping it secure now and forever, can you help please?

I've become the volunteer Piermaster for Blairmore Pier, and the sole director of Blairmore Heritage Ltd which owns it. When I first saw the pier it was derelict, unloved and had been up for sale for over 10 years. It had been closed since 1976. No one wanted it, and for me it was love at first sight. Without any previous experience I bought it,  and set about getting it restored. This was a massive and exciting challenge to be sure. A lot of learning, while holding down a full-time job almost 500 miles away. I was an exiled Scot living and working in England for 25 years and eventually the pier has pulled me back home again.

After a huge effort, and with a lot of help from the local community, the pier was re-opened in time to celebrate it's 150th anniversary in the Summer of 2005. What a spectacular celebration that was! On the 22nd May 2005, the iconic paddle steamer 'PS Waverley' arrived at the pier with over 400 people on board and a further 300 people lined the shore. Blairmore is a very small rural village with a total of only 180 residents. So a turnout of such a size was amazing and reinforced the importance of the pier, as people came from many communities far and wide; North and South of the border.

It's become a people’s pier!

Since re-opening in 2005, the pier has remained open to the public, free of charge and essentially unrestricted 24/7. Thousands of families have visited with as many as 200 daily at peak times. They come to fish for mackerel, enjoy family picnics, take in the views, read the commemorative plaques, or just sit and enjoy the tranquillity. Some have come to scatter a loved one’s ashes, some to sing, dance and even to swim in the crystal clear but chilly waters. Some visit to be married on the pier (even in the rain below) or to have wedding photographs taken in such a scenic location.

Students have centred their projects around the pier. Charities use it to fund-raise. It's even been used to film an advert for a global fast-food chain with a very Scottish name - check it out. Whatever the reason, many people have and continue to enjoy what Blairmore pier has to offer; all of it freely accessible and respecting an important historic landmark at the heart of this rural community.  

 One of the Memorial Plaques already on the pier handrails. 

Historic Importance of Blairmore Pier 1855 and still going....

The pier was originally built in 1855 (at a cost of £300) to serve the growth of trade and steamers. Such steamers mainly served the tourist industry and Glasgow’s wealthy merchants with second seaside homes; all seeking the tranquillity and scenery that Argyll has to offer in abundance. At its peak, steamers would have visited 4,000 times each year. Drovers used the pier to transport their cattle to the Falkirk Trysts (markets). The steamers and drovers have long since gone, along with the wealthy merchants and mass tourists.  

In 1976 the pier closed to vessels and pedestrians. Shortly after the re-opening of the pier in 2005, Historic Scotland registered it as a Category C ‘listed structure’ recognising its historic importance. Blairmore Pier is essentially the last surviving historic timber pier within the Clyde reaches and sea lochs that PS Waverley can berth at. Below are images of just a few of the very many vessels that visited:- King George V in 1971; Queen of Scots (taken from Waverley) and the historic puffer VIC 32, now converted for holidays afloat and continues to visit each year.

Lewis Fry Richardson (1881 - 1953)

For all the budding scientists and mathematicians out there,  this humble little pier was the site of important experiments conducted by scientist and mathematician, Lewis Fry Richardson who lived in 'retirement' about 2 miles from the pier. It is well documented that in 1948 Richardson carried out an experiment to determine the 'rate of separation to measure eddy diffusion at sea'. In this experiment he dangled parsnips (grown in his own garden) over the handrails of Blairmore pier and used a home-made simple measuring rule. The Journal of Meteorology 1948 confirms and expands on the experiment.

Such was his brilliance that the universally recognised 'Richardson Number' is the result of earlier research and continues to be used today in weather forecasting, aviation and oceanography. 

If there are any STEM enthusiasts (teachers students etc) seeking a project please feel free to make contact; Blairmore has much to offer.

Paddle Steamer Waverley 1947 onwards

Many will know that PS Waverley is now the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. Back in 2005,   Waverley’s Chairman Ian McMillan and his colleague Dr Joe McKendrick (both sadly now deceased) provided great support in assisting the re-opening of the pier. Ian's favourite quote was that ‘piers need steamers and steamers need piers'. 

The Paddle Steamer "Waverley" approaching Blairmore

Like Waverley, Blairmore pier is the rare survivor of an historic era. Back in 1947, when Waverley first sailed, Blairmore pier was part of her maiden voyage. Over the years and certainly in recent decades, the two have remained firm friends, making and hosting regular visits every year since 2005. The local highlight of the summer season has always been the weekly visits from PS Waverley, when people can board to enjoy a cruise, on Loch Long  or Loch Goil in the stunning Scottish Highlands, or disembark to enjoy what the local Blairmore community has to offer. Special cruises, like that on the video clip are also organised by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.

Blairmore pier is the only marine access for commercial passenger vessels visiting Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park; making it the marine gateway to the park and helping Waverley and her passengers make an important connection with the Park. We depend on volunteers to help Waverley berth and what an honour that is - imagine that on your CV!

 

The Holy Loch and links with America 1966 to 1992

During the 1960's right through to 1992 the local area was host to thousands of US navy personnel deployed to support the US Submarine Base within the neighbouring Holy Loch. Less than 2 miles from the base, Blairmore, like all nearby communities, became home to many service personnel who would board or disembark the 'liberty boat' at the pier. When it was time for the base to return to America, some made Scotland their home and many more re-visit to reminisce and bask in the breathtaking scenery of Argyll.

2020 Year of Coasts & Waters

Led by Visit Scotland, the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 aims to celebrate and promote opportunities to enjoy Scotland's fantastic coasts and waters, encouraging responsible engagement and participation. It is also the year that Blairmore pier, one of Scotland's few listed working piers of its type, celebrates it's 165th anniversary. What a great gift it would be to provide support to help us commemorate such longevity and provide recognition for the immense service the pier has provided through very many generations. When the pier re-opened in 2005 it carried the message of ‘Securing the future - honouring the past’ – 15 years on that message and challenge continues. We all have the chance now to give that extra help and support, as we celebrate together.

The Environment & Wildlife

The pier is most definitely environmentally friendly. Built in 1855 entirely of timber and exposed to the elements, inevitably the weather takes it's toll. It is after all in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland and there are one or two days when the weather can be unforgiving. The waters around the pier are home to seals, otters, porpoises, eider ducks, oyster catchers, herons and many more species. In October 2007, the pier was an excellent vantage point to see the humpback whale who stayed in the loch for four days.  In April 2018 there was and air of hysteria and excitement when a pod of 5 orcas chose to visit the area; they didn't stay around long so we all had to move very quickly to absorb the spectacle and they disappeared from sight within the day. The video clip has some great footage as they swim up river from Innellan towards Blairmore. 

What others say.......

Paul Semple, General Manager Waverley Excursions Ltd. & Director  Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. "Blairmore Pier was built as a calling point for Clyde steamers 165 years ago. In 2020 Paddle Steamer Waverley will continue the wonderful tradition of calling at Blairmore Pier before cruising Loch Long and Loch Goil. However, for this tradition to continue Blairmore Pier requires support. As General Manager for Waverley I encourage everyone who wishes to preserve one of the last traditional Clyde steamer piers in use for Waverley to support the fundraising effort."

Ciorsdan from Blairmore Gallery & Coffee Shop  “When I talk to people about the village of Blairmore, the first thing they mention is the pier and I’m not surprised. It’s one of the few remaining working piers in the whole area. We are so lucky to have it. Not only is it a beautiful pier, it also brings in business for me at Blairmore Gallery & Coffee Shop with many customers coming off the Waverley, paddle steamer as well as sailors, kayakers and people fishing off the end of the pier. The tourists and the locals always take a wonder along it. The view to the Arrochar Alps from the end of the pier is stunning and always a good photo opportunity. Without the pier, my business and the village would be lost. I hope it continues to remain a working, well kept pier for many years to come, but this takes money as well as time and energy from people like Agnes”

Sue, Blairmore Hall Trust:- “Blairmore village is fortunate to have a natural heart to it’s community, and it centres around the pier. The pier is the reason most of the houses in Blairmore were built. The Village Hall was originally built as the waiting room for passengers departing from the pier, and the community land of Blairmore Gardens was formerly the field where livestock waiting to be shipped across the Clyde were held. Today, the pier plays host to the single remaining paddle steamer still plying the Clyde, the Waverley, whose visits provide a regular and welcome boost to local businesses. We also enjoy visits from the Puffer Preservation Trust and other groups and individuals touring Loch Long. Residents and visitors alike enjoy a walk along the pier, vying with ‘Sammy the Seal’ to catch a fish, or just admiring the magnificent views. It is vital therefore that the pier is maintained in a safe operational state so that we can continue to enjoy this facility at the heart of our community. The historic sight of the Waverley calling at Blairmore pier is a link to our past, an economic boon to our present and takes what’s best of the past forward into the future.”

Pat, Shore Community Hub - "The Shore Community Hub meet every Thursday in the Village Hall opposite Blairmore Pier. The Hub is specifically for the residents of the four villages along the shores of Loch Long and the Holy Loch and warmly welcomes visitors who are passing by either by road or by sea. It’s a pleasure to stroll along the pier and peruse the many commemorative plaques attached to the rails; watch out for seals and maybe do a little fishing. It’s enjoyed by residents, visitors and the children from our local primary school. In the summer months when the Waverley paddle steamer calls at Blairmore Pier, there is a buzz around the village as people  gather to greet its arrival and departure with merriment. The Shore Community Hub wholeheartedly supports this appeal for Blairmore Pier.

Margaret, Blairmore Village Trust: "The pier is vital to the ongoing development of the community as well as a link with the past. It is part of an integrated approach for the Hall, Blairmore Gardens and our surrounding area. When hosting events in the village it is an important focal point within the community. As part of 'Keep Scotland Beautiful', in 2018 the pier featured as an integral part of our Gold Award in the Beautiful Scotland Campaign and the overall winner in the Coastal Village category. Even our phone box features the pier! The link that our community has with the world renowned Waverley is also very important to all of us.Too many piers have been allowed to rot away and with them a large part of the Clyde and surrounding areas have lost a lot of their history. We will support and join in this years celebrations of its 165th anniversary."

How your donation will be used

Responsibility for the pier is currently a one-woman band; relying heavily on the kindness and voluntary support of friends and family. Between us we paint handrails, assist with berthing Waverley, order and fit plaques, hoist the flags, carry out small repairs. Having recently reached my 65th birthday and preparing for retirement, the capacity to keep the pier open and accessible is becoming more of a challenge. Health and safety considerations are greater with each year that passes and it is important that professional repairs can be done to compliment those that can be achieved by volunteers. This is a sample of current condition that needs attention.

Water logged rotted handrails need replacing.

Cross beam displaced in a storm

Some 'hammer head' timbers need replacing, (the plant pots cover the dangerous holes) and the Heritage Bothy needs external repair too.

This is looking down at one of the holes in the decking. Right down below is the water of Loch Long!

Such repairs come at a considerable cost, often requiring a work-boat with specialist machinery;  the pier doesn't  generate sufficient income to cover this. 

The funding raised will help to:

  • Engage a contractor to 
    • replace about 10 ‘hammer head’ surface timbers that have rotted through age, weather and wear
    • re-secure 1 cross-timber that has been dislodged in a storm
    • secure the mooring buoy on the pier, dislodged during a berthing manoeuvre 
    • Fix the Heritage Bothy
  • Source and apply a non-slip compound to the surface timbers to enhance personal safety in wet weather
  • Replace and/or repair any of the damaged wooden handrails along the 270 metres of handrails and fencing.
  • Refresh the paint on the 270 metres of handrails and fencing.

Depending on the funding available, some of the work can be phased, and some can be undertaken by volunteers supplied with materials.

Finally, and importantly, some of your donations will be used to develop new and sustainable ways to generate on-going income (e.g. YouTube channel for generating income, explore options for registering the pier as a film-set location).

Sunrise or Sunset? 

Please donate and contribute to this worthy, unique and special project.

This is your opportunity to support a living structure. The pier is not a relic, it is a current, and ongoing icon which is still operational and remains as living history. Indeed it is a privilege to have been able to help rescue this historic treasure; which gives back priceless rewards much greater than the effort it requires.

Please help me as I continue to strive to "secure the future & honour the past" of this beautiful,  much loved pier; for future generations to enjoy. If you feel unable to donate funds, and I understand that can be difficult;  please support the campaign by sharing it with your friends, family and colleagues. Your generosity and support of any kind is greatly appreciated and could really help the pier to shine...whatever the weather.  

Thank you for your interest and your support - please come and visit in 2020!

Agnes 

 

Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation

£100 or more

8 of 100 claimed

Limited Edition Personalised Plaque on the Pier

A limited edition personalised plaque with your own message and featuring the logo of the 165th anniversary of the pier. Your inscription could be commemorative, memorial or anything of your choice. The plaque is stainless steel, with an ink engraving measuring approx 10cm x 5cm ( 4"x 2") and can accommodate approximately 40 words. The plaque will be fitted to the handrails of the pier for posterity and a photo can be emailed to you.

£1 or more

Roll of Honour

Everyone who kindly donates anything will have their name recorded on a 'Roll of Honour' video to be published for posterity on the Blairmore Pier YouTube channel. This will be a public thank you from the team of supporters here at Blairmore Pier, to you, for your generous support. Please select option 1 to be included or option 2 to be excluded. Thank you.

£30 or more

8 of 100 claimed

Certificate of Appreciation

You will receive a 7x5" printed certificate, set within a note-card that features a coloured printed image of an original watercolour by local artist Margaret J Staley . The original was donated to PS Waverley to help raise funds and is being re-produced with their kind permission.The image is entitled 'A Link with the Past' showing PS Waverley at Blairmore, set in the 1970's and ghosted with images of the Victorian era.

£200 or more

4 of 20 claimed

Limited Edition 165th Anniversary Work of Art

Hand made by a talented local artist, and incorporating the 165th anniversary logo, this specially commissioned work of art is a unique form of one dimensional decoupage, combining an image of the iconic Scottish stag and uniquely and creatively linking that with Blairmore Pier. Set in a quality, contemporary, dark wood frame and measuring approx 33cm x 33cm (13"x 13"). An unframed mounted version is also available.

£300 or more

1 of 10 claimed

165th Anniversary - The Pewter Package

Your choice of 1 of 2 limited edition commemorative items; a 6 oz Whisky Flask or a 7 x 5" Photograph Frame. Both are made of quality pewter, featuring a celtic design and inscribed with the 165th anniversary logo. In addition this package includes a 4x2"stainless steel inscription plaque on the pier, with your choice of content of approx 40 characters. A photo can be emailed to you.

£1,000 or more

1 of 10 claimed

165th Anniversary - Short Break - Diamond Package

1) A short break for two people (pets welcome) at the luxury self-catering cottage 'The Old Ticket Office', a Listed Building on Blairmore Pier. Choice of Fri to Mon (3 nights), or Mon to Frid (4 nights); dates to be mutually agreed. 2) A celebratory Scottish Welcome Pack o 3) A dedicated section in a published book commemorating the 165th anniversary of the pier, capturing your own stay and contribution to the preservation (optional).

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