The Firth of Forth Canal

The Canal

Daniel Defoe in his “Tour of Scotland” published in 1727 says of the canal…

“IF THIS COULD HAVE COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE FIRTH OF FORTH SO AS TO SEND THEIR TOBACCO AND SUGAR BY WATER TO ALLOWAY BELOW STIRLING, THEY WOULD PROBABLY IN A FEW YEARS DOUBLE THEIR TRADE”

 

Due to a financial problem, it was not until 1790 that this great engineering achievement was complete.

It was 39 miles long with aqueducts over the Luggie, the Kelvin and many other rivers. It had also 39 locks and 33 drawbridges. The locks we are interested in are Lock 31 and Lock 32,but first of all to get a true picture of the locks importance to the areas through which it flowed, we must broaden our outlook a little beyond the boundaries of the district of Drumchapel.

At lock 31 and 32 in our area, there were two semi-detached cottages specially built for the lock-keeper. They were three apartments, with stone floors, and an open fire with a chair (to boil water in pots) lighting was by paraffin lamps. There was no sanitation and water had to be carried from the pump at the side of the house.

There were stables at the side where they kept two horses for pulling the barges; while at the rear of the stables there was a washhouse, with a large iron boiler and two wooden tubs. The lock-keeper at 31 and 32 around 1880 until the early 20 Century was a “Tam Hewieson”, whose duty it was to open and close the locks, to enable the boats and barges to progress from lock to basin, thus make their way along one of the most important waterways of the 19th Century.

After 1868, the tonnage on the canal was 3,022,523 and revenue £87,145, but after that the Forth and Clyde canal as a means of transport began to languish. The falling off, of traffic was attributed to three cause’s Railway competition, preference of traders for rail rather than water transport changes in conditions affecting production in transport in part­icular trades. The Caledonian Railway bought it in 1867.

Farmers also received boatloads of dung from. The opening of the canal was a very important event in our parish history. The principal purpose in this area being the conveyance of coal from Temple coal work, and of stones from Garscube quarry. Farmers also received boatloads of dung from Greenock, but expensive duties made it an expensive item.

Passenger services were also popular. At first the company who managed the canal, gave a “passengers service of two boats, which were run three times a week for passengers and cargo”.

In 1808 three “elegant” boats were put into service: “Sta”, ” Charlotte” and Margaret ” immediately the service became a serious competition with the Stagecoach.

The service was afterwards increased to six boats per day. Propelled latterly by steam, the earlier boats were each drawn by two horses, who’s riders in red coats and peaked hats lent a picturesque note to the towpath. The canal declined early as a passenger carrier, but popular excursions continued to be made between 1820 and 1839.

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