History of Forth and Clyde Canal goes mobile

A PIECE of Glasgow's history is being brought into the 21st Century.

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Mobile phone users can learn about Glasgow's canal
Mobile phone users can learn about Glasgow's canal

Nearly 250 years after the Forth And Clyde Canal was built, a mobile phone app has been created to give details of the canal's past and to complement a series of walking heritage trails and information boards describing local industrial heritage and wildlife along the towpath.

The canal opened up a 35-mile passageway for boats from the River Clyde to the River Forth. It was wide enough to be used by large sea-going ships and became affectionately known as "Glasgow's Canal".

The app and the introduction of heritage trails will link the past with the present by chronicling the history of a 10-mile stretch of water from Port Dundas to Stockingfield Junction, then west through Maryhill to Lock 27 and Knightswood before twisting east to Lambhill Stables near the city boundary.

Unlocking The Story is a £114,000 initiative jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery's Fund Your Heritage and Glasgow City Council, which will involve communities along the canal banks in north Glasgow.

It is hoped the story of Scotland's first canal will encourage the public to visit, explore and learn about life on the waterway in a bygone era.

The project partners are the city council, along with the Scottish Waterways Trust, Scottish Canals, Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, Lambhill Stables, Glasgow Sculpture Studios and the National Theatre Of Scotland.

They want community groups and individuals to share personal stories, memories and photographs of the canal, which runs through districts such as Maryhill, Ruchill, Firhill, Westercommon, Hamiltonhill, Port Dundas, Lambhill and Blairdardie, as well as the communities near the former city route of the Monkland Canal.

Volunteers are also wanted to help create an interactive heritage experience by linking the historic past with cultural hubs such as Lambhill Stables, Maryhill Burgh Halls and Speirs Wharf.

Tracey Peedle, Scottish Waterways Trust development director, said: "There is such a fantastic story to be told about Glasgow's Canal, from its heyday through to its recent rebirth and reinvention.

"But what has been so exciting is the enthusiasm of those who came along to our early community meetings.

"People have a wealth of anecdotes and personal memories about their stretch of canal that they want to share and, interestingly, everyone is different in the way they see it.

"For some, the canal is a place to spend time with friends and family, whether walking, canoeing or cycling.

"For others, the canal is a place to 'get away from it all' and watch the wildlife. One person saw the canal in the city as a 'lifeline to the whole community'.

SHE added: "People are also keen to learn more about the wider history and natural and cultural heritage of the waterway and to be involved in telling that story to others.

"Through Unlocking The Story' we have a great opportunity to celebrate the canal and encourage more people to get out and about on the towpath, learning more about it and enjoying everything it has to offer."

Gordon Barr ,heritage officer at Maryhill Burgh Hall, is keen to extend the community involvement to include the former Monkland Canal, much of which has now been built over.

He said: "Unlocking The Story is a great opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved in bringing the story of the Forth & Clyde and Monkland canals to life whilst learning some new skills and meeting some new friends along the way.

"We are particularly keen to hear from anyone who has stories or memories relating to the canals that they would like to share.

"Perhaps their granny worked in the Bryant and May match factory in Maryhill, their uncle was the skipper of a puffer, or they were one of the contractors involved in the Millennium Link project to reopen the Lowland canals.

"We are also looking for people with old photos showing the canals or area around them, whether they show family picnics at Blackhill Locks, having a pint at Lock 27 or even feeding the animals at the Possil farm. We would love to see them all.

"For those who don't have memories or photos to share but who want to be involved, we also need lots of help recording anecdotes, cataloguing the photographs and creating the new interpretation materials – all equipment and training will be provided so no prior experience is necessary.

"We are also looking for future volunteer walk leaders to introduce people to the new heritage walking trails once they are up and running."

People who download the app for their phones will be able to scan in QR codes on new waymarkers – small posts – and existing signs on the towpath.

Users who scan the codes will then be able to see audio, video, photographs and text stories on their phone that will illustrate the history of the location they are at.

gordon.thomson@eveningtimes.co.uk

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