The figure of Donald Cameron of Lochiel, a respected clan chief, stands tall on Parade Square in Fort William. Known for his leadership during the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, Cameron's statue reflects Fort William's deep historical ties to Scotland's political struggles. Cameron of Lochiel's participation in the rebellion was pivotal, marking the town's deep-rooted commitment to cultural and political autonomy. His figure symbolizes resilience, deeply embedded in the town's spirit.
Adjacent to the statue, the Duncansburgh Macintosh Church adds another historical layer to the Parade Square. Established in 1893, it was named in honour of the then parish minister, Rev. Alexander Duncansburgh Macintosh. The church represents the rich religious history of the area and its links to the Church of Scotland. Its presence signifies the enduring importance of faith and community in Fort William, providing a spiritual sanctuary amidst the urban landscape.
Not far from these landmarks, a poignant War Memorial pays homage to the local soldiers who lost their lives in World War I. Unveiled in 1922, it serves as a sad reminder of the town's sacrifices and the heavy toll war has taken on Fort William's community. The soldier, depicted at the moment of the ceasefire, captures the relief and sorrow of a battle-weary town at the end of the Great War.
Lastly, the Fort William Railway Station, which opened in 1894, marked a significant turning point in the town's development. The arrival of the railway fostered growth and connected Fort William to the broader world. Nowadays, the station also serves as a departure point for the famous Jacobite Steam Train, familiar to many as the "Hogwarts Express" from the Harry Potter series, further highlighting the town's connections to popular culture.
Intertwined in their histories and significance, these four landmarks serve as the compass points of Fort William's identity. From the statue of Cameron of Lochiel to the Duncansburgh Macintosh Church, from the War Memorial to the Railway Station, each stop weaves another thread into the fabric of the town's rich historical tapestry. As one stroll through the city, it becomes clear that Fort William, steeped in tradition and yet forward-looking, has always been where history is remembered, lived and breathed every day.
During the intensity of World War II, another significant chapter in Fort William's history was written. Not far from town, the Commando Basic Training Centre was established at Achmacarry Castle. This centre would train many who wore the coveted Green Beret, a symbol of courage and dedication to their mission. The training utilized the rugged local terrain, challenging future Commandos and preparing them for the rigours of war. The relationships formed between the permanent staff, Commando trainees, and locals during these challenging times have proven to be an enduring bond that has lasted to this day.
A commemorative stone on Parade Square honours this unique relationship in the town. Commissioned by the Commando Veterans Association, it is a tangible token of gratitude towards the people of Lochaber and Fort William for their support during such crucial times. The unveiling of this monument by Donald Cameron of Lochiel, the XXVII Chief of Clan Cameron, on 13th November 2010, has further strengthened the town's connection to its wartime past.
This remarkable period in Fort William's narrative demonstrates the town's crucial role during the global conflict. From the Donald Cameron statue to the Commando commemorative stone, the landmarks narrate the story of a city that has seen pivotal moments of history unfold on its very grounds.
Incorporating the train station, the church, and the war memorial, we see a vivid tapestry of Fort William's past, characterized by resilience, faith, sacrifice, and progress. These landmarks are enduring reminders of the town's vibrant history and its continuous march towards the future. As we walk the streets of Fort William, we are stepping on the very paths where history was made and legends were born, further enhancing the town's distinct charm and character.