Liniclate Community School

(Sgoil Lionacleit)

Unusual for the area both in terms of its size and architectural style, Liniclate Community School (although the Gaelic name, Sgoil Lionacleit, is almost always used) is a large modern building which is rather at odds with its surroundings, located amongst the machair of the crofting settlement of Liniclate in SW of Benbecula. The largest building in the Southern Isles of the Outer Hebrides, it comprises a six-year non-denominational comprehensive school with 257 pupils (2015) who come from the islands of Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist and Eriskay, but not Barra. The school was designed to combine its educational purpose with community facilities, including a library, museum, theatre, sports hall and swimming pool.

Built 1988-89 at a cost of £8 million and officially opened in May 1990 by Secretary of State for Scotland Malcolm Rifkind (b.1946), it was designed by the Architectural Services Department of Western Isles Council, the project architects being Donald and Helen McDonald. The architectural brief desired an "inviting atmosphere and high level of natural light". The principal contractor was Rimmon Construction of Inverness. It comprises two floors, arranged around a glazed central courtyard. The smaller upper floor nestles under the extensive slate roof, with light provided through Velux windows. This is said to have been the largest slate roof in Britain when it was built.

The building comprises a steel structure, designed by consulting engineers W.A. Fairhurst and Partners and built by Rippon Structures of Auchtermuchty (Fife). The walls of the lower floor are of concrete blockwork, with concrete beams forming the floor of the upper storey.

The small museum (Museum nan Eilean - Sgoil Lionacleit) primarily hosts changing exhibitions. The library meets the needs of the school, offers lending facilities for the local community and has a significant local history section. The 25-m (82-foot) swimming pool with depths varying from 0.9m to 1.8m (3 feet to 5 feet 10 inches) required an excavation almost to bedrock and determined the exact position of the school. Its roof structure is of laminated pine beams, rather than the steel used elsewhere, to avoid danger of rust in the humid atmosphere. The ceiling between these beams is clad in pine stripwood.

Originally built with a hostel for pupils coming from the more remote islands, this fell from use as Castlebay School in Barra began to support all six years of secondary education, and causeways were built to Berneray and Eriskay.

A wind energy demonstration project saw a 60 kW wind turbine installed in 1990 to work alongside the 180 kW diesel generator to heat the school and its swimming pool. However the combination system never worked effectively and was abandoned in the late 1990s, although later revitalised as a commercial development, the Liniclate Wind Turbine. The school still monitors power output as a demonstration in physics and environment classes.

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