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Drillers at work in Balblair
Forestry Memories
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No: 4127   Contributor: Norman Davidson   Year: 1966
Drillers at work in Balblair

The photographs come from the collection of Billy Mackay senior (former FC Vehicle Inspector - Longman) and the images have been sent by his son Billy Mackay (Aberdeen). The photographs initially belonged to Billy senior’s friend Roy McCormack who was a member of one of the Civil Engineering teams before emigrating to Canada in 1969.

The location is most likely Balblair Forest at Bonar Bridge, Sutherland which had a hard rock area at the west end. Roy had written a laconic comment on the back of the photograph:

‘Bonar Bridge 5-6 months of solid drilling - from right to left, Roy McCormack, Tom Bruce and Tommy Matheson from Bonar Bridge’.

This iconic photograph expresses well the dusty conditions from drilling the rock in dry weather but can in no way describe the ear splitting noise of the rock drills and the bone jarring vibrations from the solid handles as the men pressed the machines down into the rock holes changing to longer and longer drill pieces. Every so often the compressed air which operated the percussion system and rotated the drill bits would jet though the holes at the cutting edge of the drill bit and blast the rock dust upwards though the rock hole to cover only the legs and feet of the drillers if they were lucky. I leave the reader to imaging doing this for 4-6 months – no earmuffs, no vibration proof handles and no dust masks!!

Roy and Tommy are the two drillers here and Tom Bruce in the middle will have been clearing debris off the rock to give the drillers a clean clear solid area to drill the next series of holes. Note the two air hoses running back to the tractor compressor.

Any stories of drilling exploits would be very welcome.
Picture added on 27 June 2018 at 18:44
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