Minutes of an Ordinary Meeting of the Old Glasgow Club

Held at Adelaides, 209 Bath Street

On Thursday 10th October 2013 at 7.30pm



93 people



Ms Petrina Cairns (President)



Ms Cairns welcomed all members and visitors to the October meeting and explained fire drill procedures and housekeeping rules. It was also requested that all mobile phones be switched to silent or off.

Ms Cairns also said that now that the weather has changed that we should be thinking about contingency plans should there be adverse weather conditions. If you have any doubts about a meeting taking place, Ms Cairns said to phone Adelaides (0141 248 4970). Should the Director's decide to stand down a meeting that Adelaides would be informed as well as there being a post on the Old Glasgow Club website.



There were apologies from Margaret Thom, Brian Henderson, Anna Forrest, John and Marion Daly, Margaret Morrison, Margaret MacKinnon, Ian Cunningham and Ann Maxwell.



The minutes of the last ordinary meeting, held on Thursday 12th September were approved and proposed by Sallie Marshall and seconded by Isobelle Haddow. There were no amendments or matters arising.


President's Report

Ms Cairns congratulated everyone involved with Doors Open day. It was another busy and successful festival.

On Saturday 14th September was Renfrewshire's Events. Ms Cairns visited the Abbey, Renfrew Museum, Inchinnan Swing Bridge and Old Inchinnan Parish Church.

Ms Cairns had also managed to see Stephen Mullen talk on Tobacco, Slavery and Abolition. It was very similar to the talk that he gave to the Club in 2008. Ms Cairns said that she would thoroughly recommend it and hoped that everyone who took part had an enjoyable time.

Ms Cairns told us that Kelvin Hall had been awarded a 4.5 million Lottery Grant to transform it into a major museum facility.


"The site will be revamped to provide access to 1.5 million pieces from Glasgow's civic collection and Glasgow University's Hunterian Museum. The venue will also house the National Library of Scotland's Scottish Screen Archive and have a new role as a cultural, research and training centre.

The Kelvin Hall development is a joint project between Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Life, Glasgow University and the National Library of Scotland.

About 1.5 million objects, currently stored in various locations around the city, will be relocated to the redeveloped Kelvin Hall.

Among the many exhibits is the only surviving complete suite of interiors by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Mrs Cranston's Ingram Street tearooms.

The new development will allow these to undergo conservation works in public view.

The National Library of Scotland's Scottish Screen Archive - with more than 100 years of Scottish history on film and video - will also be housed at the venue.

Plans are also being developed for a new digital portal so that all three partners will be able to bring their collections together online.

Colin McLean, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said : "This is a groundbreaking project which brings together civic, university and national heritage collections for the first time in the UK."

Throughout the revamp, the Kelvin Hall will continue to house sports facilities which will be upgraded as part of the scheme.

(From BBC website).


Ms Cairns added that she hoped that it wouldn't end up in the same limbo that seems to have befallen the McLellan Galleries.


Ms Cairns said that there had been more good news, this time from Friends of the Necropolis. The Buchanan Sisters appeal which had aimed to raise 20,000 not only hit target but exceeded it. Ms Cairns attended an event, last Friday to celebrate the conservation of not only the Buchanan Sisters mausoleum, but mausoleum of the Black family, the King family, the Turner family as well as the Egyptian Vaults. They did so well.

Nigel Willis, Ruth Johnson and several of the tour guides from Friends of the Necropolis were justifiably proud of the restoration work carried out by Glasgow City Council Land and Engineering Services and Covanburn Civil Engineering. Several of the engineers were there to explain how the repair works was carried out, for example, using flagstones sourced from Linlithgow Palace. The gated entrances to the Crypts have been restored and painted to their original colours. All are very impressive and if you get a chance please visit them, said Ms Cairns. Their next aim is to raise 6,000 to renovate the mausoleum of Archibald Douglas Monteath.

Ms Cairns said that she had brought some copies of their Newsletter if anyone would like a more detailed update.


Ms Cairns informed us that the Commonwealth Games baton rally was launched yesterday at Buckingham Palace. THe baton contains the Queen's hand-written message to the Commonwealth and will visit all 70 competing nations and territories over the next 287 days, until the opening ceremony on 23 July 2014. Ms Cairns said that she, unfortunately didn't get allocated any tickets but hoped that some of the members had been luckier.

Ms Cairns also said that a search had been launched today for 4,000 individuals to carry the Commonwealth baton around the country before the start of the games. Starting in Edinburgh on 14th June, the baton will travel around all local authorities before arriving in Glasgow on 20th July. Roughly 100 people per day will be required to carry the baton.

Nominations are open for 'local champions', anyone over 12 who has made a contribution through sport, volunteers in youth groups or are positive role models for young people.

Nominations can be made online at www.glasgow2014.com


Secretary's Report

Mrs McNae said that Cumbernauld Historical Society had extended and invitation to members of the Old Glasgow Club

to come along to their talks. Should any members be interested then please contact Mrs McNae.

Mrs Mcnae drew attention to events that are taking place in Glasgow over the coming weeks:

Glasgow Museums have many interesting exhibitions on at the moment -

Jack Vettriano : A Retrospective at Kelvingrove Art Galleries until 23rd February 2014.

Burrell's Masters of Impression at The Burrell Collection until 5th January 2014.

Red Road at People's Palace until 28th February 2014.

For more information about exhibitions and events look at www.glasgowlife.org


Annual Charities Christmas Fayre which brings together 50 Scottish based charities is on at Glasgow City Chambers on Tuesday 12th November from 10.00 until 16.00.


Mrs McNae introduced Lucy Gray and John McCartin who wish to speak to members about a project that they are both involved in called, Glasgow North Quarter.


Glasgow North Quarter

John McCartin introduced himself and Lucy Gray, who are students from the Architectural Department from Strathclyde University.

Mr McCartin told us that 25 students from the Architectural Department were working in conjunction with Glasgow City Council on a project called Glasgow North Quarter Memories Project.

They are researching the history, infrastructure, stories, memories of the area. They would love if the members could tell them about how people lived, what took place, what it was like to live and work there.

The question really would be - where did you live, where did you shop, which pub did you drink in, what did you do, what happened when the motorway was put in ? Did the neighbourhood change.

Mr McCartin and Ms Gray said that they would be there at the end of the talk to hear members stories, or, if anything was remembered at a later date then Mrs McNae would be able to give information on how to get in touch with them.



Ms Cairns (President), welcomed and introduced our speaker for the evening, Mrs Joy Blair, who is a Past President of the Old Glasgow Club. Tonight's talk is called, "Sail to Port Eglinton on the Ardrossan Canal."


Mrs Blair introduced her talk by telling us that when she took early retirement that hadn't entirely been her own choice, (although she had left before she had been made to leave) that she had taken up a project. A friend had said that she had something that might be of interest for me, I was invited for coffee and before I knew it I had signed up for something. It was the Discovery Award, a Duke of Edinburgh type award for the over 50s.


For my Silver part of the award, I chose the Discovery Challenge. This challenge is a journey. For my journey I chose the journey that I took every day as a school girl. Mine was on the train, from platform 5 at St Enoch Station that stopped at Eglinton Street Station. My mother always told me that the train route followed the route of the old canal. This had remained with me and so I retraced the route and history of the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal.


The 4th Duke of Portland, William Bentinck (1768-1854) had bought the Fullarton Estate after his marriage to the very wealthy Miss Scott of Balcombie, who had claims to over 300 seams of coal in and around the Kilmarnock area. With the purchase of Fullarton House, the 4th Duke was now in control of Troon Harbour.


The 12th Earl of Eglinton, Hugh Montgomerie (1739-1819) owned Eglinton Castle and Ardrossan Harbour. Ardrossan Harbour was where coal and pig iron were exported to Europe, North America and Ireland for many years.


Because of the difficulty of transporting coal to the ports from Glasgow and Ayrshire the Duke of Portland and the Earl of Eglinton got together and planned a canal to ease the transportation of this black diamond. The Duke of Portland changed his mind and decided to build a wagon way between Troon and Kilmarnock. This was before trains, so the coal was transported by horses. He got to know Stephenson who was developing the steam engine but the engines were too heavy so the Duke stuck with the horses.


The Earl of Eglinton stuck with the canal idea, but unfortunately each Earl of Eglinton left the next Earl in debt. He badly wanted to build the canal since he had invested so heavily in Ardrossan Harbour, wanting to make it the principal port for Glasgow. In order to do this he needed sponsors. The sponsors were  George Houston of Johnstone who was a very wealthy self made man, Archibald Spears, Hamilton of Grange, William Dixon, Hugh Brown of Beith (coal and lime), John Brown (one of the first in Scotland to drain land and fill with lime), John Love of Paisley, General Andrew Graham Stirling, Robert Walkinshaw of Glasgow, Baillie John Orr of Paisley, Robert Smith of Barshaw, William Pinkerton of Paisley and John Love. Some of the investors would benefit directly as the Canal would pass right through their lands.


In 1800 William Jessop (civil engineer), best known for his work on canals and harbours was employed to report on the scheme. In the same year John Rennie (civil engineer) made a survey, plan and report on Ardrossan Harbour and gave his authority to the canal scheme. In October 1804 John Rennie reported on the canal route, estimating that a canal for vessels of 25 tons would cost approx 130,000 or approx 166,000 if 60 ton vessels were used.

In February 1805 Thomas Telford produced a report estimating that a 32 mile canal from Tradeston to Ardrossan Harbour would cost somewhere in the region of 134,000.


There was a meeting of initial investors at the Tontine Inn, Paisley where the plan was approved.


The canal needed an Act of Parliament, which was applied for. The Company of the proprietors of the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan canal was incorporated by an Act of Parliament which received Royal assent from George III on the 20th June 1806. This bill allowed for funding to be raised by the sale of shares. The Earl of Eglinton, Lord Montgomerie and Lady Jane Montgomerie subscribed 30,000. William Dixon at this point withdrew his interest and decided to build a wagon way instead.


The canal was to have main turning basins at Glasgow, Johnstone and Ardrossan. The canal was to be built in three parts. The first section would be a contour canal of about 11 miles. A contour canal follows the land and is level and requires no locks making navigation quick and easy. The second section was to have a series of 8 locks to lift the level up to the summit near Johnstone. The third section would use 13 locks to bring it down to sea level at Ardrossan Harbour. There were to be 35 bridges, 5 aqueducts (one of which is still in use today at Paisley Canal St), 2 tunnels, one at Causeyside Street and one at Ralston Street along with tow paths for the horses.


Construction began in 1807 and the first boat, Countess of Eglinton was launched in October 1810 and was initially a passenger service that ran only between Paisley and Johnstone. The full length to Port Eglinton was completed in 1811.

The cost of completing the first section had consumed all of the initial funds. Extra funds were needed but initial investors were reluctant to raise more funds because the canal already fulfilled its purpose for them. The plan to extend to Ardrossan was soon suspended and the Earl of Eglinton was furious. He didn't benefit from the canal at all.


The boats were 70 feet long and 6 feet wide. The hull was constructed of light iron ribs and the cabin was covered with oilcloth. They covered the distance between Glasgow and Paisley in 50 minutes. They were towed by teams of 2 horses which were changed every 4 miles.The canal that Telford made ensured that all the tow paths went under bridges, albeit neatly. Initially the horses weren't that well cared for and then it was decided that the horses would perform better if they were well looked after. The boats now carried spare horses and the Captains were in charge of keeping the horses fresh.


At it's height there were 64 passenger boats and 14 railway wagons in operation on the canal and it was a popular service for passengers. In 1815 they were carrying just over 300,000 passengers and by 1835 some 370,000 people were using the route.


The new boats that were introduced in 1830 were long, shallow wrought iron canal boats that could take around 60 passengers a distance of 12 miles at an average rate of 8 miles per hour, stoppages included. The boats could reach speeds of 10 miles per hour, and although 14 journeys were made each day, no damage was caused to the canal banks by their wash.


There are two well known disasters on the canal. A few months before the canal saw its first boat, the poet Robert Tannahill drowned himself during a bout of depression, by throwing himself into a deep pit which carries the water of Candren Burn down to a culvert under the canal. This came to be known as Tannahill's Hole. The other disaster happened not long after the canal's opening in 1810. It was a holiday for the Martinmas Fair and many people had taken a trip on the canal. As the boat came into Elderslie many people tried to disembark and many people tried to embark. Despite the attempts of the boat men to push off again, the weight of the people pushing onto the boat caused it to suddenly overturn, throwing passengers into the cold water. Even though the canal was only about 6 feet deep, the coldness of the water and the steep sides of the canal mixed with the problem that few people of that time could swim caused the deaths of 85 people.


The construction costs of the canal were so high that it never made a profit or provide dividend on it's shares. It cost so much to maintain and run the canal that even after 20 years the accounts still showed an outstanding debt  of around 71,000.


With the advent of railways, the dredging of the River Clyde allowing ships to sail directly to the centre of Glasgow, meant that Eglinton's dream of a canal from Ardrossan to Glasgow would never be fulfilled.


In the 1820's the canal company planned to build a railway from Ardrossan to Johnstone to finish the link. Further capital was raised. Building started at Ardrossan, reaching Kilwinnig before running out of money. Then in the 1830's  Dixon suggested that the canal be turned into a railway and complete the link from Kilwining to Johnstone. This fell on deaf ears and the scheme was allowed to fold.


The canal was sold to Glasgow and South Western Company and an Act of Parliament closed the canal. 1882 really was the end of the canal, there was one last sail on the Sunbeam boat down the canal. Much of the canal route was used to construct the Paisley Canal rail line. This line still uses the River Cart Aqueduct.


There are still some parts of the canal visible in Johnstone, it's actually a lovely place to have a picnic. Coats Thread built a great canal basin at Ferguslie which is still there, they preserved it. The Gate House is also still there, along with a small part of the canal and tow path. Also the old Counting House. It's brilliant that it is preserved, maybe not how an historian would want it but it is preserved for all to see. Houses that back on to this part of the canal have also been renovated and restored. You can see the Aqueduct, it's readily accessible and has hardly needed any repairs in it's life. Telford realised that putting down a cast iron trough meant that the water didn't go into the stonework and cause problems.


I've taken you for your sail, I hope you're not too cold or wet now.


Q  The church you were talking about where you gave the talk. Is Tannahill buried there?

A   I don't know. I did want to explore, there were lots of old graves but it is an iffy area and would have needed

     permission to explore.

Q  I'm curious about the boats. Were there specialist boat builders ?

A   120 passengers towed by 2 horses ! Houston's son looked into gig boats which glided at 12 miles per hour, rode

     the waves and didn't cause a wash. Boag engineers, machine makers and iron boat builders, Dimity Street in

     Johnstone made the boats. The first ones were wood and then there were lightweight metal ones.

Q  I was interested to see your 4.20 from Platform 5. It must be an old board with Eglington Street shown on it ?

A  That's correct, the name was changed to Cumberland Street, I don't know where I got a photograph of that board



Vote of Thanks

Ms Cairns (President) thanked Mrs Blair for a wonderful talk which had enough content for 2 PHDs and said that she was very glad that Mrs Blair had chosen the canal for her Discovery Award. Ms Cairns added, you really brought the canal to life and I know where I will be exploring this weekend.



The Quiz was won by Ms Jane Collie who correctly identified the statue to be James Lumsden, a former Lord Provost of Glasgow.





Next Director's Meeting   - Thursday 7th November 2013

Next Ordinary Meeting     - Thursday 14th November 2013


Ms Cairns thanked everyone for coming and wished all a safe journey home.

                                                                                                                                                 Shona Crozer

                                                                                                                                                 Recording Secretary