Boatbuilding thrives in Plockton



West Highland College UHI have teamed up with Plockton High School to support delivery of the Am Bata boatbuilding project.

The Am Bata Trust was formed seven years ago by the then principal teacher of technology, Jamie Kean, and a board of trustees, with the aim of keeping alive the traditional woodworking and boatbuilding skills of the Highlands and Islands.

A specialist boatbuilding facility was added to the technology department at Plockton High School and many boats have been built and repaired there. However, in recent times it has become more and more difficult to attract commissions for boats that would cost in the region of £6,000 in order to cover the costs, and the project was in danger of being wound up.

Now, with the support of the college, the school will no longer have to fund the cost of teaching from sales and repairs and will be able to offer commissions for new boats at a cost of around £1,500-£2,500. The college’s intervention is designed to further extend the curriculum opportunities available to school pupils in Skye and Lochalsh, with courses already delivered in school and college sites by college staff including childcare, computing, ECDL, hairdressing and construction.

Neil Jardine, faculty head of technology at Plockton, welcomed the support of the college.

“This project has been fantastically well supported in the past by a variety of individuals and their organisations,” he said. “First of all, the skills of Mark Stockl, boatbuilder, from Ullapool have been paramount in inspiring and challenging our pupils. But we also need to continue to thank others who add a real community dimension to the project including our own school technician for technology and science, James Phimister, Bruce Taylor of the Forestry Commission, Sandy Murray of SSE and Magnus Gunnarsson. Without their contribution in the past to source and transport the high-quality local larch and oak that are crucial to the project and their continued efforts as we go forward, we could not possibly deliver such a high-quality learning experience for our pupils.”

Mr Jardine added: “Without a firm financial footing on which to proceed, we simply could not continue with the project. We are now really excited to know that we have our full complement of eight pupils ready to start work and hope that in future years we may be able to offer places to pupils from other schools.”

Plockton High School Rector Susan Galloway said: “Am Bata is a project which, under the tutelage of Mark Stockl, offers students a high quality experience. We are extremely pleased at the support which this very special project in our school is now receiving from West Highland College UHI and at being given the opportunity to extend our partnership working with the college.”

For regular updates regarding boat repairs or commissions, visit the Am Bata Facebook page, or contact James Phimister at Plockton High School. For information on the Am Bata Boatbuilding course at Plockton High School, contact Neil Jardine – 01599 530800.

Pictured are Mark Stockl, school technician James Phimister, rector Susan Galloway, Donald Galbraith of WHC UHI, head of technology Neil Jardine and students Iain Bullivant, Alexander Teago, Iain Talbot, Michaela Plomer and Robert MacInnes. Missing from the photo are Danny Russell and Calum Campbell.