Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

There was this bike

One of those things I’d seen a pic of years ago, but had forgotten all about, with not even the foggiest idea where it was.

Then I tripped over it last night.

This is ‘BANKIES BIKE’ (don’t ask about the apostrophe – it was too dark and too faded for me to see for sure, I may look closer in daylight one day), which was an unexpected find just as I reached the Forth and Clyde Canal and was about to turn around and head back home.

There’s surprisingly little about it to be found online.

I know it was a sculpture commissioned to mark regeneration of the surrounding area some years ago, by the local council, but although I found a link to the sculptor’s web site, which promised details – it’s dead.

So, I got lucky and some kind person had parked their little car right beside it, so you can get a good idea of the size and scale of this thing.

It even had a D-Lock to help prevent it being stolen (and thrown in the canal) – but that MIGHT not be needed for his particular bike.

Bankies Bike

Bankies Bike

I thought I’d pull back a little, for little more context, but I kind of missed out the Forth and Clyde Canal, which was running just along the bottom of this wider view. The vertical thing on the right is actually a bike-counter sign seen side on, which shows an active count of the number of bikes passing on the canal path.

Bankies Bike Location

Bankies Bike Location

A closer look at the sign on the left, the stone at the bottom of the blue sign with the distances marked is for the Forth and Clyde canal.

Forth And Clyde Canal Signs

Forth And Clyde Canal Signs

Another sign just along from this one gave some more distances, with the one showing 9 miles back to Glasgow being the one that interested me. However, I wasn’t going back that way, just being nosey.

Interesting to note the 1/4 mile difference between them – obviously the folk that installed these two signs never spoke to one another. Or looked at one another’s work. They are NOT 1/4 mile apart.

Trust me, I know what 440 yards looks like, and there’s not much more than 40 feet between them.

Forth And Clyde Canal Other Signs

Forth And Clyde Canal Other Signs

01/09/2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Referred to as Glasgow Cat Cafe – it’s not in Glasgow!

(Before anyone gets catty, be clear I am SLATING rubbish media coverage and PUBLICISING the café correctly).

You may have noticed a small series of articles that ran in the media, some time around June of 2017, first publicising the imminent arrival of a Cat Cafe in Glasgow, then making a big issue out of revealing its location in the city centre.

That same source MAY have produced subsequent updates, but they did not come up when I searched for info last week – all I got were the original articles from earlier in the year.

I happened to be in the Merchant City area recently, and recalled the news of the cat café, although I had forgotten the address. The Merchant City area is not that big, and I did recall that the word ‘Trongate’ had featured in the stories. However, although I walked all of the relevant area… no café to be seen.

Since I had to go back a few days later, I did a quick search for those articles, and found that it was located at 2 Trongate – an abandoned former bank, easy to find under the shadow of the Tron Steeple, so off I went.

Here’s what I found.

2 Trongate

2 Trongate

2 Trongate

2 Trongate

Strange name for a Cat Café – ‘wbf TO LET’.

(And another set of pics that show Glasgow’s intrusive ‘pole problem’!)


I had a quick search around for some back story to this, it would have been nice to know what happened – but it seems the media lost interest, and nobody else seems to have bothered.

While this would have been a nice location (for me, as this is where I tend to arrive in Glasgow city centre), I can be pretty sure I won’t be seeing the actual Cat Café as finally delivered, IT’S IN CLYDEBANK!

I guess that still counts as Glasgow – Greater Glasgow that is (since that boundary includes Clydebank), but the café has not updated its own web site, still (at the end of October 2017) showing…

Glasgow’s first cat cafe, in a city centre location

Not for all the tea in China, could we even resist launching a café celebrating our huge love of cats, and a nice, fresh brew! Cats (猫). Tea (茶). You’ll also be able to enjoy plenty of other drinks, plus tasty food — including vegetarian and vegan. Purrple Cat Café is opening its doors late 2017, as the ultimate place to meet and relax with (feline) friends.

See the source for Purrple Cat Café.

Pretty sure some unidentifiable back street in Clydebank is not “a city centre location“.

Try finding this online:

9B Kilbowie Court
Clydebank, West Dumbartonshire
G81 3AJ

While I can’t really go there, I also can’t find Kilbowie Court on the maps or in Street View. I think the problem is that the location on the map is fixed by the postcode, and that only identified a mail delivery area, not the actual location. The markers on some maps look like someone was playing darts with them. Also, assuming Kilbowie Court lies somewhere off Kilbowie Road… that’s a LONG road to search along.

(Anybody wants to send more specific details or pics, I’ll be happy to do another post that nails the place down, and show what it looks like so it can be spotted.)

I DID try wandering around Street View, but the street pics are 2016 at best just now, and much is dated 2012, so no chance of spotting something new in 2017.


29/10/2017 Posted by | Civilian, Lost, photography | , , | 2 Comments

Clydebank Titan crane designated Engineering Landmark

One of my regrets is the fact that there were no digital cameras when I was doing my first ‘real’ job. Because my education bridged what I might describe as ‘old and new’ electronics, I was always ending up inside dying Scottish factories, patching up their ancient electronics if possible, or replacing them with something newer in order to gain a few more years production at minimum cost – nobody could afford new plant (except whisky, which seemed immune for a time.)

Nowadays, it would be easy to pocket a small camera and record the places where I worked, but when I was wandering around those factories that did not realise just how little borrowed time they were on, taking pics with film gear would not really have been practical, and I’d probably have thrown out on my ear.

Today, I think the factories I have in mind are all gone, literally razed to the ground in most cases, so no chance of even going back for exterior pics.

One such place is/was John Brown Engineering in Clydebank, birthplace of ships such as the QE2 (I used to walk through the sheds there, where the patterns were stored in case a part had to be re-manufactured), and latterly a manufacturer of odd things such as floating power plants driven by jet engines. Apparently these were popular in the Middle East, and floated on rivers.

I really wish I had pics of these now, because places like Brown’s and the Rothesay Docks on the Clyde have been cleared of almost all evidence of their past.

One exception is the last Titan crane standing in Clydebank.

It has survived the now obligatory clearing and tidying that means we have little industrial heritage, since anything that might upset a sensitive eye, or a tourist, gets obliterated nowadays.

I have to confess to never having noticed the Titan crane when I was in the yard, but it was probably at the end I didn’t get to.

The Titan was built in 1907, by Sir William Arrol & Co, and cost £24,600.

Used in the construction of many of the largest ships ever built on the Clyde, such as the Cunard liners, it was also used for many of the Navy’s battleships, and survived the Clydebank Blitz undamaged, as the enemy’s raids missed it completely.

In 2007, the listed structure was refurbished as part of a £3 million tourism project, and became a museum dedicated to the history of shipbuilding in Clydebank. Fortunately for visitors, the works included the installation of a lift, since the Titan’s platform is some 150 feet (46 m) above ground. So visitors can see some spectacular views as well.

International Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark

The crane has now been recognised as an International Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark, an award given by the American Society of Civil Engineers Board of Direction and endorsed by the American Society for Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineers, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Last year (2012),  it received the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage award.

It becomes  the fifth “engineering landmark” in Scotland along with the Forth Rail Bridge, Forth and Clyde Canal, Caledonian Canal, and Craigellachie Bridge in Aberlour.

Via Titan Crane joins Eiffel Tower on list of world engineering landmarks | Glasgow & West | News | STV

22/08/2013 Posted by | Civilian, Maritime, World War II | , , , , | Leave a comment

Sewing Machine Collection & Singer Archive gains recognition

On July 25, 2013, the Sewing Machine Collection & Singer Archive cared for by West Dunbartonshire Council became Scotland’s 39th Recognised Collection of National Significance.

I only discovered the Recognised Collections at the start of this year, and the list was indeed only 38 then, when I wrote up a short summary: Scotland’s Recognised Collections

I found this helped, as these collections can become a little complicated – some collections are spread over a number of museums in different locations, while some museums hold a number of collections.

To achieve this status, a museum must show that its collection is of national importance, and with some 800+ examples of sewing machines in it collection, that was probably not too hard. Operating until its closure in 1980, the Singer factory became a significant factor in the economy of Clydebank, and once employed 16,000 workers. The collection has it roots in the closure of the Singer factory, when a request was made by former employees for old machines, in order to create a museum. From there, the collection grew, assisted by appeals and support from people who donated old machines to the collection.

The American corporation built its flagship European headquarters in Clydebank in 1885, after outgrowing its Glasgow premises. At its height it employed 15,000 staff on a 50-acre site, making more machines than its rivals put together.

Ray Macfarlane, Chair of Museums Galleries Scotland’s Recognition Committee, said: “The quality and importance of this collection is unequivocal and it is not only of national but of international significance. This is reflected in the collection being the largest in Europe of its kind and second only to the Smithsonian Institution globally.”

It has been described as the largest publicly accessible collection of its kind in Europe, and has machines from 130 different manufacturers from Europe, America, and Asia, and  documents the development of sewing machine technology over nearly 100 years.

Via Clydebank sewing machine museum given Recognised Collection status | Glasgow & West | News | STV

And Clydebank Museum collection sews up bid For National Recognition

You can get an idea of the scale of the Singer factory from this aerial view of the Singer Sewing Machine Factory, Kilbowie Street, Clydebank. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing west. | Britain from Above

After its closure in 1980, it was eventually demolished during the 1990s, and the site became a business park.

The most memorable feature of the factory was it clock tower, for which the company created the largest clock face in the world – the Singer’s Clock, a 26-foot wide timepiece mounted on top of a 226-foot tower, decorated with Roman numeral hours measuring 2 feet high and having hands around 6-feet long. It took four men a quarter of an hour to wind the giant clock mechanism twice a week.

The tower was demolished in the 1960s, shortly after the clock had stopped ticking, but in 2013, a smaller installation inspired by the original was installed in Clydebank’s Dalmuir Park.

The following news reports show the two version:

The Singer sculpture that turns back time | News | Clydebank Post

Clydebank Singer factory clock artwork unveiled – Heritage – The Scotsman

25/07/2013 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Gift of sight for Blitz survivor

In a remarkable story, we learn of John Gray, who, at the age of 87, underwent a successful operation to restore the sight of his right eye, damaged during the German bombing carried out when Clydebank was blitzed on the nights of March 13 and 14, 1941.

The only survivor pulled from a building destroyed by a landmine dropped by the Luftwaffe, Mr Gray had been on firewatch, and although he suffered terrible injuries, and was trapped for eight hours, he lived to tell the tale, but had lost the sight of his right eye as a result.

Recently, his left eye suffered a severe form of disease, meaning his vision would eventually be totally lost. However, past examinations had shown his right to have an undamaged retina, and surgeons at the Southern General Hospital were able to remove the damage lens, and insert an artificial replacement.

After sixty years of non-activity, there was concern that Mr Gray’s brain might no longer process the information from the right eye, however, after a few weeks things began to operate normally, and Mr Gray can now read small print, and has progressed to the stage where his eyesight will allow him to sit a driving test.

07/04/2008 Posted by | World War II | , , , | Leave a comment


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