Ruchill, Lambhill, Possilpark, Cadder. Heading up the Forth and Clyde Canal from Maryhill
I grew up in Maryhill, with my bedroom window overlooking the Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Road. At that time it was neglected, overgrown, filled in for much of its length and it was hard to imagine it in its heyday. I was warned by my parents never to go anywhere near it when I was out playing. Since then it has been re-developed, all of the discarded cars and washing machines have been removed from it and dog walkers, joggers and cyclists who go along its towpath regularly are seeing more houses and businesses slowly appearing along the banks of The Nolly (as the canal is known).
Every other week I wander up to the canal to watch Partick Thistle Football Club play at what has been their home since 1909, beside the Firhill Basin on the canal. I know this stretch well but rarely have cause to go further east from Ruchill, through Possil and Lambhill. Whilst doing some family history research today, trying to track down a gravestone in St Kentigerns Cemetery in Lambhill, I took the chance to spend a morning wandering through Cadder, Lambhill, Ruchill and Possilpark.
The Forth and Clyde Canal
Work began in 1768 to cut the canal from east to west, work starting at what would later be Grangemouth. It was completed in fits and starts and in 1785 it reached Bowling, on the Clyde, the last section funded with government money raised from forfeited Jacobite estates. It became a way to transport supplies and goods across the country and industries soon built up along the banks of its 35 mile length. However changes in ship design and the growth of the railways soon led to its decline, and after 30 years of near dormancy it was closed in 1962, and some parts filled in.
At the time the canal was built much of the area north of Glasgow was farmland, heath and forest. Some sandstone quarries had been dug in the area of Possil Estate to build the tenements of Glasgow. By the mid-1800s these had all been filled in. A new industry started in the Lambhill area in the 1840s when ironstone pits were dug here. With the iron extracted, iron foundries and forges were soon established nearby. The last ironstone pit in this area was the Gilshochill pit, at the western end of Tresta Road just beyond the cemetery, used from 1850-1897 by the Summerlee Iron Company (whose well known works along the canal in Coatbridge are now home to an excellent industrial museum). During World War 1, as demand for iron soared, these Gilshochill pits were re-opened.
|Lambhill Stables and bascule bridge|
|The redeveloped Lambhill Stables today|
Possil Marsh and the High Possil Meteorite
Walking along the canal, past the allotments behind Lambhill Stables, there are a couple of paths that take you around Possil Marsh. This nature reserve has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest and bird sanctuary since 1954 . Miners cottages provided by the Carron Company used to lie on the opposite bank of the canal here, called Possil Raw.
|Bullrushes on the banks of the canal, which was frozen this morning as I walked along it|
|Possil Loch lies in the middle of Possil Marsh|
As you follow the path around Possil Marsh you will come to a stone at its northern end. This is a monument which commemorates the High Possil Meteorite. This is one of only four meteorites to have been found in Scotland. The others from Scotland are the Perth meteorite of 1830, the Strathmore meteorite which fell in 1917 and a meteorite found in fields near Glenrothes in 1998. The High Possil meteorite fell on the 5th of April 1804. Three men working in a field nearby reported hearing a whizzing noise, or the sound of a gong before the thud of something hitting the earth. A group of men working in a quarry near where it landed described hearing this whizzing sound for about a minute, then rushed over to where they saw something hit the ground. At the bottom of a drain they found a stone unlike any other from that area. The owner of the land, Robert Crawford, took possession of the two pieces of stone found and when he died in 1910 his sister presented them to the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow. Bits of it have been distributed to various institutions, including the British Museum, and some of it appears to be available for sale on the internet.
|The High Possil meteorite memorial in Possil Marsh|
|The High Possil meteorite on display in the Hunterian Museum|
The largest remaining chunk of it is still on display in the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow. This stony piece weighs around 150g and although extra-terrestrial in origin, coming from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it contains minerals similar to those found in basalt, with 9% nickel-iron alloys. Although it would have hit the atmosphere of Earth at 150,000 miles per hour, the slowing effect of the atmosphere means it would have struck the ground at a few hundred miles per hour. Made of debris from events that formed the sun and the planets, this chunk of rock is dated by radioactive dating at about 4500 million years old.
After walking round the rest of Possil Marsh I returned to Lambhill Stables and enjoyed a mug of tea and a lovely bacon roll at their cafe for £2.30.
|Waterman's House, Balmore Road|
Lambhill Cemetery, The Western Necropolis, St Kentigerns Cememetery
|Gatepost of the Western Necropolis|
I came here today to find the burial plot of my great-grandfather James Donnelly who was from the Gorbals. As a dentist working at Gorbals Cross (among other things he did) he made gum shields for Gorbals born boxer Benny Lynch, Scotland's first boxing world champion, who is also buried in St Kentigerns Cemetery.
|Gravestone commemorating Benny Lynch|
|The Crematorium in Glasgow's Western Necropolis|
Cadder Pit Disaster
|Funeral procession across Lambhill Bridge to the cemetery|
Also buried in the Western Necropolis are the twenty-two men who died from blackdamp as the result of a fire in Cadder No.15 pit, which started on 3rd August 1913. Twenty six local men were finishing their shift when the fire broke out underground. The pit that they were working in went down for 1000 feet and ran north, under the River Kelvin. Coal mining was common in this area at the time after the ironstone was largely exhausted, with pits from Anniesland and Maryhill, across to Bishopbriggs. Thousands of people lined the street to pay their respects as the funerals were held.
|Cadder pit disaster memorial in St Kentigerns cemetery|
The Catholic and Protestant miners were buried separately
|Former site of Cadder Pit Nos. 15 and 17|
Leaving Lambhill, if you head down Balmore Road you are soon in Possilpark. On the right as you head towards Glasgow lies the disused Possil train station. This station was opened in 1897, but closed in the Beeching cuts in 1964. In the 1980s and 90s it housed a bookies shop. A scrapyard lies behind the old station building and the building itself is in a bad state of repair, and surely unlikely ever to be restored to its former glory.
|Old Possil Station|
In 1850 Walter MacFarlane was running a successful foundry in the Gallowgate, on Saracen Lane, behind the Saracen Head pub. He bought 100 acres of the Possil estate including the mansion house, in order to expand his business and build a large new works. He demolished the house and felled the woodland to make way for his new Saracen Foundry. Once railway access was built he created a foundry covering 14 acres and built tenements alongside it for the workforce. A new street, Saracen Street, named after the place his business started, was laid out from Port Dundas up to the grand front gates of the plant. In 1872 10 people lived in the area of Possil, by 1871 10,000 people were living here.
|Possil from the air in 1947, with the Saracen Foundry off the top left corner, and today|
The Saracen Foundry became very specialised in fashionable, ornate ironworking. They built bandstands, water fountains, street lamps, railing and bridges which can be found all over Glasgow, Britain and the Empire. After World War 2 new materials and new tastes meant that the business began to struggle. Despite being one of the plants producing the red K6 telephone boxes of Britain, by the mid 1960s they could not carry on. The company closed, and the building was soon demolished. The area went into a spiral of decline with mass unemployment and subsequent social problems.
|Gates of the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark|
|Water fountain canopy from the Saracen Foundry, at the top of Saracen Street|
|Kibble Palace, Glasgow earlier this winter|
|Looking south down Saracen Street|
|Mural on Saracen Street tenement|
|Old Co-op building on Saracen Street. No idea what the jeep thing is all about|
|New Health Centre, Saracen Street|
I spent many a lunchtime in Possilpark Library when I worked here and am glad to see this grand old building still going strong. The horrible Health Centre building on Denmark Street always felt like it had been made particularly ugly and brutal to punish the locals in some way, and I am delighted to see that it has now been shut down and replaced by a bright, shiny new building. If one area of Glasgow needs investment in improving the health of its people all the statistics show that this is the area that could gain most. (see recent Guardian article)
|Former Askit Powders factory, Possilpark|
In the 1920s Adam Laidlaw started producing his Askit powders in this building, an addictive mixture of aspirin and caffeine which was taken by people for everything from headaches to colds, to hangovers and as a general tonic. Everyone over a certain age will be singing "Askit fights the miseries" on even hearing the word Askit. Eventually the brand was bought by a major pharmaceutical company but is no longer produced due to safety fears over its choice of ingredients.
Going further down Saracen Street and turning right past the Seewoo Chinese supermarket onto Possil Road you pass the former site of the fantastically named Rockvilla School. Built between 1874-77 in an area known as Rockvilla in the days before any housing was built here (and later called Hamiltonhill), this school had a roll of up to 650 children. Closed in 1964 the building was B-listed but fell victim to the mysterious Glasgow fires that clear troublesome buildings from the cityscape and it was demolished in 1996. The separate entrances for boys and girls at the bottom of their respective stairwells can still be seen, a strict requirement of the school authorities of the city at that time which looks incredibly silly here when it meant two concentric flights of stairs had to be built.
|Rockvilla School, Dawson Street|
|Old entrance doorways to Rockvilla School|
At the top of Dawson Street, behind the site of Rockvilla School is "The Whisky Bond". Originally built as a bonded warehouse for Highland Distillers in 1957 it is now used as offices, studios and gallery space. Glasgow Sculpture Studio have a gallery on the ground floor that is always worth having a look around as they do have imaginative and unusual exhibitions on. Applecross Wharf is home to some of the oldest canal buildings in Scotland. Built as warehouses these whitewashed buildings are now used as the offices of Scottish Canals.
Just north of this bridge lies "Old Basin House". Built in 1790, engineer Hugh Baird later lived here and ran several local businesses whilst living here, including the Old Basin Inn on the other bank of the canal. A few walls of this old pub still stand. To carry on south across this bridge you would come to Oakbank Hospital and the Astoria cinema that I have written about previously.
|Whisky Bond building by the canal|
|A bascule bridge at Applecross Wharf|
|Old Basin House, built 1790|
Hawthorn Street, PossilPark
Going back to the other end of Possilpark we come to Hawthorn Street. The former Possilpark Tram Depot, built on this site originally in 1901, stands here a shadow of its former self. It was converted into a bus garage in 1958 by its owners, Glasgow Corporation Transport but has been closed since the year 2000. There is a huge amount of empty land lying derelict behind this facade.
|Possilpark Tram Depot, Hawthorn Street (and local youth)|
|The Peugeot Ashfield Stadium|
Literally around the corner from Ashfield's ground stands the home of their Possil rivals, Glasgow Perthshire. The Shire were formed in 1890 and play at Keppoch Park, in front of a huge pigeon loft. These two teams can give Dundee and Dundee United a run for their money in having the shortest distance to travel for derby matches in Scotland (they played on the 6th Feb 2016, a 2-2 draw).
|Keppoch Park, Possil|
At the other end of Hawthorn Street where it crosses Balmore Road lies the former Mecca (and after the second world war The Vogue) cinema. If the Astoria was the rough cinema in Possil, this was the posh one. Opened in 1933 in was changed to become a bingo hall in the 1960s. More recently it has been home to the Allied Vehicles garage and a kilt hire shop.
|Vogue cinema, Balmore Road|
|Vogue cinema today, with Glsgow Tigers Speedway mural|
|Former ward at Ruchill Hospital, now demolished|
|The water tower, all that remains of Ruchill Hospital|
|Ruchill Hospital water tower|
|View towards Park Circus from Ruchill Park with the windfarm on the horizon|
|View towards North Woodside, with the floodlights of Firhill Stadium sticking up above the new flats|
|View south from Ruchill Park with the Armadillo in the middle and Glasgow Uni tower on the right|
|Looking north towards the Wynford, with the large mural on Maryhill Road beside East Park Home visible|
|Ruchill Church Hall|
Anyway I have written too much already. I enjoyed my day having a closer look at things which I often walk or drive past without paying much attention and I would encourage you to go and do the same (especially for the bacon rolls at Lambhill Stables).