Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Glasgow, The River Clyde


Like most river cities, life in Glasgow started with shipbuilding and the associated trans Atlantic shipping trade. These days preserved relics from the past stand alongside contemporary structures in the stretch of river that the tourist board want to promote most.
As an introduction to the way Glasgow has become popular with the tourist trade and the way it looks today particularly down by the riverside, the one event that breathed new life into the city was the 1988 Garden Festival with it's 4,300,000 visitors to a site adjacent to scenes portrayed here. As a result, there was a renewed awareness of Glasgow and a natural progression to becoming the European city of Culture in 1990.

( Following on from my last post, I decided to walk back to the city centre rather than take the underground subway in order to take in some of the sights in this post. )

The 1932 Finnieston Crane stands 50 metres tall and 77 metres wide as a symbol to the past glories of shipbuilding and engineering of the past. The capability it had for lifting up to 175 tons was used for lifting Glasgow built steam railway locomotives onto ships for export.

The 2006 Clyde Arc in contrast is a contemporary bridge with an unusual and interesting curved road, (nicknamed as The Squinty Bridge) that I need to re-visit photographically due to the traffic conditions at the time of day.


In 2008, the bridge was closed for two weeks while investigations were carried out into the failure of one of the supports and cracks in a second one. It was concluded that the bridge was safe and that single supports could be removed for maintenance. I was happy to cross it on foot .... keeping one eye up in the air !

At home !
P.S. Waverley, the last seagoing Paddle steamer in the world, began it's life in 1947 and after much of it's life plying it's trade as a leisurely scenic extension from a railway pier in Craigendoran in The Firth of Clyde, retired from normal service in 1973.
During the 1960's, passenger numbers dropped gradually due to Glaswegians deciding to spend their holiday money elsewhere. Although Caledonian MacBrayne have kept the ferry business buoyant on The Firth of Clyde until the present day (although not without some current Gourock / Dunoon issues ! ), a decision had to be taken at the final company merger in 1973 to dispense with the great ship. Having become too expensive to run, the steamer could not be given away and was sold to The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society in 1974 for a legal nominal fee of £1 !! Despite contracts being drawn up that the ship would never act as competition for the newly merged ferry company,"Cally Mac"(or CalMac) and the PSPS both thought that the ship would probably end up being a museum piece.  Numerous financial grants over decades and a large supporting membership of the PSPS are trying to ensure it's future, but it's typical tour later in the year for excursions in The Bristol Channel, South coast and Thames Estuary is once again in doubt as the company have only raised half of the money that they have identified for the immediate future.

Money to burn ! 
My own memories of the vessel consist of numerous sightings going up and down The Firth of Clyde when I spent five summer holidays there as a small boy. The most memorable and sad occasion was when we went for an outing to Dunoon on a smaller charter boat and seeing it sat marooned on a group of rocks a little way from the Pier in 1977.
I had to wait until August 1988 when I was fortunate enough to afford a day rail / boat excursion from Newcastle from the not so delightful Troon docks to Brodick on The Isle of Arran ( I did say that they weren't allowed to compete with Ferry routes !!). It was a very memorable moment when a trainload of people stood behind the pier wall sheltering from the howling wind catching a glimpse of the boat in the distance coming across the almost ocean like entrance of The Firth of Clyde...  with it's paddles lifting out of the water as it rocked from side to side !!
My second and most recent trip in late 2003 was an idea that my Bristol connection had of a more sedate sunday afternoon trip around the two bird sanctuary islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm in The Bristol Channel.
It was good to catch up with it here for my last sighting in April 2010 as it was preparing for the busy summer and autumn season.

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There were several National Garden Festivals held around the UK during the 1980's and early 1990's in order to revitalise and promote development to the run down and problem areas of specifically chosen towns and cities by the Government of the day (Liverpool, Stoke, Glasgow, Gateshead and Ebbw Vale). Although the actual festival sites have usually in the short term been unsuccessful in their outcome, the promotion and success of some of these places has been an outstanding success. Having once lived in a modern house for six years adjacent to one of these sites, I was shocked to discover that after 22 years, large parts of this site in Glasgow remains largely overgrown and unsold.

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The land next to the banks of The River Clyde however is much sought after and is the premier location for starting the redevelopment of this site back in 2000 with the building of the futuristic looking Glasgow Science centre, IMAX cinema and .... Glasgow Tower !!
The £10 million Tower with it's two lift elevators and emergency staircase has the ability to rotate with the wind and consequently is the tallest structure in the world to do so. Unfortunately due to the complex nature of the tower, it has been be-set with technical problems and closed to the public on 3 lengthy occasions for at least 5 years of it's life since construction in 2001. On one occasion during January 2005, it took five hours to rescue the occupants from one of the lift elevators.

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Unfortunately with it's history, you wouldn't get me going up there !!

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Standing next to the historic Finnieston Crane, The Clyde Auditorium on the North side of the river is a 3000 seat concert hall built in 1997 otherwise affectionately known as The Armadillo.

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Although the unique looking structure may look like an animal from a distance, it is meant to show several upturned boat hulls representing the shipbuilding history on this site.


Concert goers reflect on their overnight accommodation at The Hilton

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Lastly, I end up back in the city centre a famous shrine to some for shopping and another lesser known shrine to the hard hat workers of past and present that made the city what it is today !



  1. A great tour round modern Glasgow. I have to say I prefer the grandeur and sheer profligacy of the old city centre.
    I'm glad you enjoy cities........saves me going. thanks.

  2. Interesting city. I love the bridge and modern architecture but the last photo is my favourite!

  3. This part is more modern and technical. I always try to see both part in a town: the old and the new ones.It seems to me that the Auditorium has some elements from the structure at Thames Barriers. Am I wrong?

  4. I like seeing the new architecture of this city.

  5. This place is full of modern architecture, the bridge looks like from S&F movies:)

  6. I like the armadillo and the "shrines" but I'm with you on the fantastic structures--it's probably best to enjoy them from afar.

  7. Is great to walking in the harbour with blue sky!
    Here let me remember Sydney Harbour Bridge and
    the Opera House!
    The Clyde Auditorium is also very unique!

  8. Very impressive and modern architecture!
    Love the modern bridge!!!
    You have so many interesting information's about
    those cities (I should learn from your post's)!!
    Greetings dear J.!!!!!!

  9. I have never been to Glasgow thank you for sharing its sights :-)

    I too remember those National Garden festivals. I missed them when they ceased to exist.

  10. It's like reading a history book (an interesting one) when I scroll through your post. I'm not sure I want to go up in the Glasgow Tower either. What an unusual, but beautiful structure the Clyde Auditorium is. I like modern looking buildings and this one certainly is! Another good post! Have a great weekend. Mickie :)

  11. 4.3 million? Do you really mean that?? I absolutely love the fact that they kept the crane to use as part of the landscape architecture!!! With all our modern technology and equipment, I think people don't have an appreciation for the amazing feats that were accomplished in days gone by. The crane is a great reminder. What a perfect way to provide a glimpse and appreciation of the past along with the present. I would love to be able to look back in time to watch that crane lift the great locomotives. I can get lost in stuff like that!! Why does it bring tears to my eyes to see the Waverly retired from normal service. So are you saying that its future even in touring is still in doubt? Beautiful photos, J. And a great choice for your last photo.

  12. Bridges (like the Squinty Bridge) or towers (like the Glasgow Tower), the more sophisticated they are, the more problems they might generate.

    However, what would life and tourism be without the sight of thse amazing structures and the human experience they provide?

  13. Ciao J., it is fascinating to see how the river is a kind of common thread between the men of the past and the present and imagine how the landscape around it is changed!
    Have a good week!


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