The following link brings you
to a listing of all the camps, their locations and years of operation.
We have also included, where we could, approximate directions on how to
find these sites or the closest community to them. Any information or directions
that may be added, please send them along. Corrections are also welcomed.
It is unlikely that in most cases there is anything to see
today that would indicate the presence of a busy campsite and logging
operation so many years ago.
The camp buildings were constructed by members of the Unit, who found temporary accommodation wherever they could locally while construction was taking place. Tents were even used at times. The poor living conditions at some of these sites, coupled with the cold and damp climate resulted in unacceptably high incidences of illness. These conditions were responsible for at least two of the deaths of members of the Unit. The camp buildings were constructed in a similar fashion to those in logging camps back in Newfoundland, using rough lumber and logs. Dressed lumber was virtually unattainable at that time. This technique was something the local people had not seen before.
Fairburn camp, where my father Steve Pike spent most of his time, was located in Aultgowrie, a small settlement of three or four houses and a farm or two, nestled by a bridge over the Orrin River between Muir-of -Ord and the village of Marybank, in Ross-shire. This camp was one of the longer running ones, in operation between 1940 and 1945, and was also the site of one of the sawmills. Today, there is no apparent sign of the activity that took place there during that time period. I grew up there, along with my older brother and two younger sisters. By the time I was old enough to remember anything the camp buildings had been dismantled and the machinery removed. Our house was a few hundred yards from the camp site. However, back then it was evident that there had been a lot of activity a few years earlier. Probably the most significant evidence was the long banks of sawdust, which lay a few hundred yards to the west of our little cottage, and across the narrow road from where the camp lay. At that time, these sawdust banks were very evident, and became one of our favourite places to spend a warm summers day at play. Our favourite activity was probably digging caves and tunnels in the easily worked material, which by that time had settled a bit and was reasonably dense and stable. We are probably fortunate that we were not buried alive at some point, and now I understand why my mother would do her best to discourage us from such activity.
Today, the sawdust banks have settled to a much lower profile, and have completely blended in with the adjacent landscape. However, when we were there a few years ago, I dug down a few inches through the top soil, and there it was...sawdust, and lots of it. There are a couple of other relics, too. The cement foundations for the sawmill machinery can still be found readily, and the rusted out remains of an old truck still lie in the woods, just off the single track road beyond the camp site.
Reforestation on the adjacent hills has taken place. The impact of having such a large number of foresters and their equipment and machinery thrust in to their midst must have been quite a change for the local residents, who were used to the peace and quiet of the rural countryside. Of course, when I was young and living there, I never thought to ask for their comments...