Bridging the Dee at Corrour

Helicopter beside Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, in 1959Some time ago I wrote of the bridge-building activity in 1959, when several footbridges were constructed to replace existing structures past their best.

Malcolm Douglas, the first Nature Conservancy Council warden on the Mar side of the Cairngorms, told how he had been involved in a number of projects, including bridges over the Derry at Derry Dam, over the Glas Allt Mor, and, of course over the Dee at Corrour.

There had been a bridge of sorts at Corrour too. After a drowning accident in 1950, a wire bridge was built, described by Syd Scroggie after a visit in 1955 as a telegraph pole driven into each side of the bank with two parallel wires slung between them. I’ve heard other reports that the wires weren’t always very well tensioned, leading to some amusing or desperate crossings, depending on whether you were the one doing the crossing or the watching!

The need for replacement seemed quite clear, and the ubiquitous Dr George Taylor, of Cairngorm Club and Aberdeen University designed aluminium bridges for both Corrour and Derry Dam. They were financed by the Nature Conservancy Council and all built in 1959, with Malcolm and Bob Scott among those helping the students at Corrour.

Materials were flown to the various locations by helicopter, an option that had been considered and rejected on cost grounds by the Cairngorm Club for the erection of the Luibeg Bridge just over 10 years previously. However Malcolm said that the cost and time to move the materials by manpower and horsepower would have been greater.

“When the chopper first arrived in Braemar it caused great excitement. All materials had been trucked into the flat opposite Bob Scotts cottage and loading and some unloading labour at delivery sites was freely given by Bob and other Mar Lodge stalkers, plus some Braemar locals whose reward was a flight on the chopper to and from the delivery sites.

Recently a great set of pictures emerged depicting the building of the Corrour Bridge, from the Bill Ewen collection, courtesy of his grandson Alasdair, which can be seen below.

Helicopter landing beside Luibeg in 1959. Cairngorms bridge building

The helicopter coming in to land to pick up a load from the Derry Flats opposite Luibeg Cottage.

Helicopter ferring bridge materials in the Cairngorms in 1959

A load of wood slung under the helicopter, cradled between the landing skids. No long-line carries in those days.

Helicopter beside Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, in 1959

The helicopter landed beside Corrour Bothy

Helicopter carrying in a bridge girder for a new bridge over the River Dee at Corrour, 1959

Carrying in one of the metal bridge girders, Braeriach behind.

Malcolm Douglas and students carrying a rock drill to help build bridge at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, in 1959

Carrying a rock drill to the bridge site. NCC warden Malcolm Douglas is at the front.

Carrying the rock drill for Corrour Bridge, Glen Dee

Carrying the rock drill. Students, with Malcolm Douglas at the right of image.

Scaffolding on the River Dee for the building of the 1959 bridge

Rather shaky-looking scaffolding is the first step. Concrete bridge piers can be seen at either side of the river

Bridge construction at Corrour Bothy, Glen Dee, Cairngorms, 1959

Both sides and the decking now in place. That’s Bob Scott standing on the left of the picture, and probably Malcolm Douglas standing up on the bridge.

Completing the 1959 bridge over the River Dee at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Finishing touches

Bridge over River Dee at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms, on completion in 1959.

And the finished article. I think that’s Bill Ewen in the picture, with his family. A good piece of work still going strong almost 60 years later.

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5 Responses to Bridging the Dee at Corrour

  1. Mark says:

    Brilliant that you have got access to these photos. Your blog has become a invaluable archive of mountaineering history in the Cairngorms.

  2. That did look flimsy scaffolding! Also the helicopter used didn’t look up to the job either, although it obviously was. I’m sure some heavy horses would have enjoyed a week or so down there helping the bridge builders though – providing they could get enough actual grass to eat…

    • They did look at using hill ponies, but cost would have been as much and it would have taken far longer. We also considered ponies for the Garbh Coire Refuge rebuild, but same considerations applied: go with the best solution.

  3. Iain says:

    I’ve enjoyed seeing the process of how the bridges came to be. Many thanks

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