40 Years On

Photography and Text By Derek Clark

1976 was the ultimate long hot summer in Scotland. It seemed to go on forever and the school holidays, for once, coincided with the good weather. I spent three weeks of those holidays with my family on a campsite at the edge of Loch Long (a loch is like a lake only more Scottish:o).

We would spend as much time playing in the water as possible, cooling off as we screamed and laughed for most of the day. Then, without warning, a siren would sound from the opposite end of the loch, a noise that wouldn't be out of place during a WWII air-raid. A voice would call out "Torpedo" followed by at least another twenty people calling out the word again. We would then get out of the water, onto the beach and wait patiently. Several minutes would pass and then the siren would sound again to signal that it was safe to go back in the water. It could be a little annoying when this happened again and again, but as kids, we also thought it was kinda cool that the torpedo base had just fired a test shot beneath the dark salt water. We always looked for a sign, but of course all the action happened way below the surface.

The torpedo base was operational between 1912 and 1986 and 12,000 torpedoes were said to have been fired down the loch in 1944 alone. I went back to photograph it forty years after that long hot summer and thirty years since closing. Fire had already ripped through the base and part of it had been demolished. Graffiti artists had made their mark and vandals had smashed every window. It's only a matter of time until what's left of the base is gone forever.

As a boy, I had seen this base as a dark and secretive place. Who knew what went on it there. I would often fantasise that it was full of spies and James Bond type characters. But it's 40 years on and I'm seeing it in a new light. Another part of my childhood gone. The future isn't what it used to be!

Derek Clark

Documentary photographer based in Scotland, UK. Winner of UK professional Photographer of the Year 2012 in the News category and member of The Kage Collective.