FOR the best part of four decades the explosion at Clarkston Toll that killed 22 people has been Scotland's forgotten disaster.
Until 2002 there was not even a plaque erected in memory of the victims who died on October 21, 1971 when a massive explosion ripped through a busy shopping centre near Glasgow's South Side.
Yet it remains one of the worst peace-time blasts in Scottish history.
The disaster was caused by a gas leak that built up underground over the course of a week. It eventually ignited, erupting through 10 shops at Clarkston Toll.
A passing bus also took the full force of the explosion, which happened at 3pm on a rainy Thursday afternoon.
Most of the casualties were women shop assistants and housewives out shopping.
The car park above the shopping terrace collapsed, sending more than 20 vehicles plummeting into the rubble.
Two women had just got off at the bus stop, and both were killed instantly – one was Maureen Hume, Scotland's reigning badminton champion.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the disaster, a flower- laying ceremony will take place next to Clarkston Hall at 3pm on Friday.
A service will also be held in Greenbank Parish Church at 2pm on Sunday.
Alex Mackie, East Renfrewshire Provost, said: "The explosion took many lives from our community, but it touched many more – the families and children who were left behind in their grief, the many people injured and the many more people who knew someone affected by it.
"We are joining with the local churches and community to remember those events.
"It is a chance for all of us to pay our respects to those who lost their lives and those who lost loved ones 40 years ago."
For days before the explosion, shoppers and workers at The Toll had complained of an overpowering smell of gas. All that week workmen had been digging up the road, searching for the source.
The night before the blast they had worked under arc lights and, by the next morning, the terrace of shops was given the all-clear, although the smell still lingered.
But the force of the explosion, later described in the Fatal Accident Inquiry that followed as equivalent to a 300lb to 600lb bomb, blew out the front of 10 shops and ripped the heart out of the modern shopping centre.
More than half the shops at the Toll simply disappeared and rescuers toiled through the night and the whole of the following day searching for victims.
There were reports of passing pedestrians joining police officers and firemen desperately tearing at rubble.
More than 100 police officers and 20 fire brigade units, plus extra ambulance support from Glasgow, was called to the scene.
They transferred casualties to the Victoria Infirmary and Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride, where every available doctor and nurse was called in for duty. They were helped by colleagues from as far afield as Dumbarton, Paisley and Glasgow.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Fatal Accident Inquiry ran to 19 days, making it the longest inquiry Scotland had seen to that point.
But the jury at the inquiry found the accident could not be attributed to the fault or negligence of any individual or organisation.