George Leslie Ltd today announced the caisson that will be used in the Lochmaddy Pier extension project, commissioned by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, was successfully launched yesterday (Tues 6th Sept) at 2000h GMT to begin its journey from Belfast to Lochmaddy, North Uist.

Block Maddy leaving Belfast Docks
Credit : Belfast Harbour

The caisson is a 12.0m wide, 12.5m deep, 33.0m long concrete structure that weighs in at just over 3200 tonnes. It is being towed from Belfast up the West Coast of Scotland by two boats (Voe Earl & Voe Jarl) 235 miles, from Belfast to Lochmaddy and expected to arrive in Lochmaddy on Saturday 10th Sept 2022.

Credit – Eilidh Carr, North Uist

Engineers on site will then begin to enable the fitting of permanent fenders of the caisson – named “Block Maddy” by school children of the local primary school.

Sarah Jane Macsween, Headteacher of Sgoil Uibhist a Tuath came to learn of the project when talking with George Leslie’s Site Engineer, Uist resident Iain MacDonald. 

Sarah Jane said “When I first heard about the project, I was intrigued by the engineering involved. I welcome any and every innovation that will help to improve connectivity to the island. I wanted our children to be aware of this construction and its importance for our local community. Through their involvement our children have learned about the scale of the engineering and the journey involved in transporting the caisson from Belfast to Lochmaddy. After teachers and children learned about the pier extension, every class held a competition to name the caisson.”

After deliberation, George Leslie’s Project Manager Frazer MacLeod announced the winning name to be “Block Maddy” / “Bloca Loch nam Madadh”

Miss MacSween said, “I am so pleased that two pupils independently came up with the same winning name, one with the Gaelic name ‘Bloca Loch nam Madadh,’ Ellie Jayne Ellwood P3 GME and one in English ‘Block Maddy’, Elsie Durie P2 GME. I am delighted that the effort of these pupils will get to attend the ‘ribbon cutting’ at the Lochmaddy Pier in the Spring of 2023, when the finishing touches have been completed”

Tony Fry, George Leslie’s Construction Director said “We are pleased to reach this key stage in the project and look forward to ‘Block Maddy’ arriving safely for its installation in Lochmaddy. We recognise the importance of this project for the island connectivity of Uist residents and George Leslie are delighted to be constructing lifeline service infrastructure for our island communities”

The names put forward by the four primary school classes were as follows:

•    Bloca Loch nam Madadh and Block Maddy (joint first) GME 1-3 class
•    Cassion of the Hebrides – GME 4-7 class
•    Cassie – GLE 5-7 class 
•    Mister Big McBrick – GLE 1- 4 class