Artists investigating the story of the Galloway Glens’ dams, reservoirs and power stations are uncovering fascinating glimpses of a colourful cultural past.

Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson have been talking to people of all ages across the area about their thoughts, memories and attitudes towards the huge hydro projects of the 1930s.

Morag said: “The response has been tremendous and we’d love to hear more. We’ve lived in this area for more than 20 years ourselves, but the stories people tell us are helping us see the entire landscape through new eyes.

“For many there is a pride in being home to a huge source of renewable energy and a real sense of the importance of green power for the future.

“Some older residents have told us about the impact that the arrival of up to 2,000 construction workers had on this remote rural area – especially when they needed to let off steam. 

“We’ve heard how the camps had their own football teams and competed in the local league – with Glenlee winning the cup in 1932.

“And then there are stories about how the men hired a local bus to take them round the pubs and offload them back at the camps ‘pickled with drink’ at the end of the night.

“But there were other sides to life in the construction camps. We heard how the local minister Thomas P Hitman regularly did a round trip of 160 miles on his pushbike to attend to the men’s spiritual needs of the men and organise recreational activities. It seems the church eventually bought him a motorbike.”

The project, called Energise, focuses on the history and legacy of the Galloway hydroelectric scheme, exploring perceptions and responses to climate change with specific regard to renewable energy.

The artists have engaged with young people through schools and with the general public through open sessions and by inviting people to write using special postcards that have been distributed round public buildings. 

Once their research is complete Leeming and Paterson, who are internationally renowned photographers, and Dundee-based artist Jason Nelson, will create artworks inspired by what they have learned.

Energisehas been set up by Dumfries and Galloway’s Upland Arts Development organisation. 

Amy Marletta, Projects Directorat Upland Arts Development, said:“Just about everyone in the Galloway Glens has been affected by the hydro schemes. They help power people’s homes, give us areas to go walking or cycling, and clearly made a big difference to local society when they were being built.

“We are really pleased that people from the area are really getting involved and making their contribution to Energise.”

The project is supported by Creative Scotland and the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership.

McNabb Laurie, Galloway Glens Team Leader said:“The Galloway Hydro Scheme, constructed in the 1930s, continues to be distinctive influence on the valley. 

“At the time of commissioning it employed 90 staff. Automation and technological advances have reduced that to around 25 but, with an average electricity output each year of about 90% of Dumfries and Galloway’s annual requirement, the technology is still performing well today and the scheme is a notable player in the national energy mix. 

“Initial results from this project have been very interesting and I urge anyone interested to visit the project’s Facebook page for progress.”

If you would like to contact Leeming and Paterson with your thoughts, views and memories about the dams then email [email protected] or 07917102693.


Notes for editors 

About the artists

  • Photographers Ted Leeming and Morag Paterson are based in Dumfries & Galloway and work both collaboratively and as individuals. Collaboratively they have been focused on environmental arts projects including their seven year Zero Footprint and three year Polphaill projects exploring carbon footprints and the conflicts of man and nature in the context of the oil and gas industry. They also created the ‘In Flight’ installation in Dumfries in 2016 exploring issues around migration and climate change. 
  • Jason Nelson is an artist based in Dundee who has over 15 years’ experience as an artist and educator. Embedded in Jason’s practice is the way in which activity can empower and enable expression and action. His work is often a response to context and exists as a result of direct engagement with people, their environments and their relationship to it. 

About Upland

Upland CIC (Community Interest Company) supports artists and makers based in, and with connections to, the region. It will delivers, events, training, networking, support and opportunities as part of a year-round programme to benefit the region, its artists, communities and economy.

Upland CIC runs the annual Spring Fling contemporary visual art and craft open studios weekend in Dumfries and Galloway. It will work closely with other arts bodies in the region to further-strengthen the sector. Upland is based at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries andexists to:

  • produce and deliver festivals, events, and experimental projects of the highest quality
  • nurture an environment where artistic excellence thrives and grows
  • inspire and educate a wide range of audiences, customers and clients to understand, celebrate, be actively engaged in and supportive of visual art and craft practice
  • raise the profile of visual artists and makers locally, nationally and internationally fulfilling a crucial role in the culture and tourism of Dumfries and Galloway
  • build strategic partnerships at regional, national and international level
  • maintain a financially sound and adaptively resilient organisation
  • use, and encourage the use of, innovative and emerging digital technology
  • work to the benefit the local economy and the sustainability of local communities.

Its funders are Creative Scotland, D&G Council, Holywood Trust, The William Grant Foundation, ASWT, Barfill.Upland is very happy to help journalists. Contact us and we can set up interviews, provide pictures and photo opportunities. In some circumstances we can offer ready-written copy. For media information contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or at [email protected]or call Upland on 01387 213 218.