Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

STILL going ‘Doon The Watter’ after all those years

While the phrase referring to going ‘Doon The Watter’ is not really applicable these days, it’s far from unused, often seen/heard in any discussion of holidays in Scotland.

The phrase was born in the days of the Clyde steamers, when thousands travelled to the Clyde to board those vessels and sail Doon The Watter, or down the water to the many seaside towns and piers that lined the Clyde coast and its islands in those days.

Sadly, the steamers have gone, as have many of the piers, long neglected, often demolished, or left to rot and decay.

You’ll often see the term, and displays dedicated to it, in Glasgow museums.

I was reminded of it recently, when I chanced across a modern vessel moored near Riverside (museum of transport) recently.

Crummy pic I’m afraid, I wasn’t really kitted out for the job, and circumstances didn’t help – but then again, the best pic you get IS the one you get, which is always better than NO pic at all.

Modern day pleasure trips – Doon The Watter – from the site of the old Govan Ferry.

Doon The Watter

Doon The Watter


Nov 15, 2018 Posted by | Maritime, photography, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Help ma Boab! – They’re drilling for oil under the Clyde now!

OK, so I’m kidding, they’re not really drilling for oil.

I don’t know why they drilling here, but this is just outside Riverside, Glasgow’s museum of transport, and was the sight that greeted me when I arrived there this afternoon.

Glenlee is just out of shot, to the left, almost close enough to touch from this little platform.

It’s not a big drill, so probably no chance of finding a big underground cave – and draining the Clyde!

If you can’t see it, the drill is the yellow ‘pyramid’ just left of centre.

Hope the find what they’re looking for.

Clyde Drilling

Clyde Drilling

Nov 8, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Oh look! No HMS Tamar

Just for fun, after Oh look! BAE Systems, I thought I’d make a slight detour and revisit the view in that post, since I now know where this place is.

I’d read that one of the vessels had gone into the water recently, so was curious to see if was in the right place. As I noted in that original discovery post, making assumptions is not always a good idea, even if they seem obviously correct.

River Clyde BAE Systems HMS Tamar Gone

River Clyde BAE Systems HMS Tamar Gone

I didn’t look the ‘other’ way last time I was here, but I did this time, and looking in the windows of the flats on this riverside development was interesting.

It’s hardly being nosey, the side facing the river is largely glass so the rooms on that side is almost in plain sight if folk haven’t closed their curtains.

First thing I saw I liked – one of those cat hammocks held onto the window glass by four huge suckers, so the flat’s feline overlord can watch its empire below, and bask in the Sun. I hope the double-glazing it good though, or maybe even triple glazing.

The rest wasn’t so good, as my first passing glance (which may just have been in the wrong direction) appeared to show that the favourite decoration around those rooms was wine bottles.

Lots of wine bottles.

I had a look and was mildly surprised to see a flat (on the 4th floor) of the Glasgow Harbour development was only around £170 k.

I’ve looked at similar places nearby and seen prices close to £100 k higher than this – but in older and more historic properties (you probably don’t even want ask/know the price if they were by Thomson or Mackintosh, but there’s a surprising number of them around).

Interesting difference.

Oct 19, 2018 Posted by | military, Naval, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Oh look! A pole transformer, but…

A few weeks ago I happened to spot some tech details about pole-mounted transformers as used in the US.

Differing requirements (and probably regulations) make these more common there than in the UK, although there’s probably no shortage of them here once you move into sparsely populated areas, where they provided localised electricity supplies for areas which are isolated from the more common underground distribution found in more densely populated areas.

Here, they can often be found at the end of a row of poles carrying relatively high voltage wires overhead, until the reach the pole transformer, where the voltage is stepped down to something that can be more easily handled by lower voltage insulated cables running underground.

Last week, without thinking too much about it, I snapped a pic of one I happened to find myself standing beside while staggering around the banks of the River Clyde near Cambuslang.

I was really more interested in the rating plate than anything else, just to see what sort of voltage and current was being handled.

And this is what the plate told me.

Pole Transformer Plate

Pole Transformer Plate

Most of it is standard stuff, and I feel reasonably safe knowing I have a few metres between me and a meaty 11 kV supply. I’m probably at greater risk of more than half a tonne of metal and oil landing on me from a rotting wooden pole than of being zapped.

The only thing worth adding is that the O.N.A.N. cooling acronym refers to oil normal air normal.


Then I looked at the pic I’d taken of the transformer.

Pole Transformer River Clyde Path

Pole Transformer River Clyde Path

I was so busy worrying about the subject being backlit, and possibly going to turn out as nothing more than a black shadow against a bright sky, that I completely failed to notice the technical detail of what I was photographing.

Have you spotted the slight anomaly now that I’ve prompted you?

There are NO overhead wires arriving at this transformer!

Just loop above it – delivering the 11 kV primary from a small ‘tree’ of insulators just visible at the rear of the pole.

Between the tree and the transformer, I’m guessing (since I can’t actually look closer until I go back) that’s an isolator in the middle of the loops, so the transformer can be manually isolated for maintenance. If I get back down there, I’ll also have to remember to have a look at the cable runs on the pole, since there must, presumably, be a rather high voltage type there, which would be interesting to spot.

Funny how you can completely fail to notice a significant detail, even when staring right at it.

Worth remembering, as it seems some of the WORST evidence gathered during police enquires comes from… EYE WITNESSES!


Sep 28, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , | Leave a comment

Diggers on the river

I first spotted this group on the River Clyde a few nights ago (this matters, since I’m never there at a time to see them in action), together with some other plant and machinery plus skips on some more (smaller) pontoons moored nearby.

I think I wrongly assumed (then) that these were involved in dredging the river here, because I’d been discussing the old dredgers that used to be seen on the Clyde, with chains of buckets that scraped the riverbed, and would occasionally come up with odd body part or two, just help get an episode of Taggart started.

Having passed this a few more time, I think they’re actually involved in maintenance work on the rocks which I believe reinforce much of the riverbank, as I spotted fresh rocks on the decks, and on the banking in the background.

Pity I tend not to be around during working hours, I’d know for sure – but then again, that would be too easy.

Clyde River Works

Clyde River Works


So, not sure what made the memory cells fire at the right moment, but while passing the rocky pontoons I forgot to stop and catch earlier – I remembered!

Skips’n’rocks – clearly they can take quite a weight before there’s any danger of them sinking.

Serious point to note – how the load is balanced on that pontoon.

Forget that, and enjoy the red faces as the whole lot leans over, and all the goodies slide into the river.

River Clyde Works Rocky Pontoon Digger

River Clyde Works Rocky Pontoon Digger

(Another) Update

I happened to be in the museum of transport (Riverside) a few days after taking this pic, and was a tad sad when I watched the clever (but small) conveyor system that shows a selection of the ship models, and flashes up details on a screen as each model passes.

It’s a very nice feature, but I suspect shows far fewer of these models at any given time than was previously on open display in the gallery they once occupied upstairs in Kelvingrove.

The reason I noticed this was down to the time I spent waiting for a model of a Clyde dredger to come around.

But it never did as there is not a single one on the conveyor.

Nor did there appear to be a dredger in any other of the shipping, or Clyde, related displays.

I don’t usually complain, but this surely has to be a mistake, given that the River Clyde, and the Clyde Channel, is largely man-made in respect of it commercial and shipping access, and not having a single representative of the thing that mad that possible in the busiest years just seems wrong.

Sep 4, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , | Leave a comment

Oh look! BAE Systems

Although I’ve seen plenty of other pics of BAE Systems facility on the Clyde, it’s not somewhere I’ve been, and from past trips down the river, was sure it far down it compared to my usual haunts.

I was having a bit of an explore last night, just a little bit further from my usual reach, and decided to look at some new flats along from Riverside (transport museum).

I was more than a little surprised to find they faced the BAE sheds I was used to seeing in the news – not so far down the River Clyde at all!

I guess I must have spent too much of my time wandering around the likes of Yarrow’s and John Brown’s in the past, and had just made a mental assumption that this place was somewhere near those sites, and had never even bothered to check.

Chalk up another success for the warning “Never assume, it will make an ass out of u and/or me“.

I’m guessing this is the Royal Navy’s Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Tamar. Designed for a crew of 60, HMS Tamar has a maximum speed of around 24 knots and can go 5,500 nautical miles without having to resupply. The ships is also equipped with 30 mm cannon and a flight deck capable of accommodating a helicopter.

River Clyde BAE Systems

River Clyde BAE Systems

One of two OPV’s being built on the Clyde for the Royal Navy (beside HMS Spey), part of a manufacturing and support contract worth £287 million. Both will be in service by 2021.

According to the Ministry of Defence, work on the new vessels is currently sustaining 800 jobs at shipyards on the Clyde.

Aug 29, 2018 Posted by | Naval, photography, Transport | , | Leave a comment

I found The Site Of Allan’s Pen (it’s on Glasgow Green)

I usually preach “Look Up” to people walking around Glasgow, as there are many interesting finds to make in the city centre by doing this. I’m sure many features are missed by many people, too busy looking in shop windows and the like.

But the more general “Just open your eyes and look” is equally valid wherever you may be.

In this case, I was near the new Polmadie Footbridge works, on a part of the Clyde Walkway that has access back up to the main road, and was wandering around the spot (ok, I was photographing abandoned Buckfast bottles) when I noticed a slightly different stone set in the wall along behind the undergrowth along this path, so had a closer look.

I didn’t realise it had an inscription and was a plaque, since the embedded metal letters and the stone are now almost the same colour under the gloomy light down there, but it turned out to be an interesting spot.

This pic is the best I could do at the time, it wasn’t very light, and flash didn’t help. Unfortunately, the weathered stone and metal lettering appear much the same colour, and even trying to enhance the pic made little difference, such is their similarity.

I’ve tried repeating this on a sunny day, the result was even worse.

The grey stone and the grey metal letters are just too close in terms of colour, and the letter are flush with the stones, so both would need to be cleaned to make a difference.

The Site Of Adam's Pen

The Site Of Allan’s Pen

Fortunately, I have quite a nice collection of Glasgow references to look through, and was able to identify this one, although I had never come across it before.


Pen in common parlance means to coop up or confine. In the present instance, in East-end vernacular it is a big close or passage. Thus a close was generally taken to be a passage about five feet wide, but a pen close was always considered to be wide enough for the passage of a horse and cart. Allan’s Pen however, so far as the writer can remember from the remnant of it remaining in his day, through which he has passed many a time, would be about eight feet by eight. It was virtually a subway or tunnel, the side walls of stone and arched with brick, extending from the south-east exit of Glasgow Green to Rutherglen Bridge, and was constructed by Alexander Allan of Newhall to give him unbroken access from his demesne to the river. This was done by turfing over the erection. It was an outrage on the public rights, but no action was taken as happened later in the Harvey’s Dyke case. But the river coming down in high flood with broken ice during the ensuing winter destroyed the greater part of the structure, on seeing which the proprietor made only half-hearted efforts at repair. Meantime his action had incensed the Bridgeton people, who were at that period mostly employed as hand-loom weavers and nearly all strongly imbued with Radical ideas. The result was that every one became Mr. Allan’s enemy, and he, while largely interested in the sugar trade of the West Indies, was also a manufacturer in the city and gave out webs to be woven. In this he was boycotted, as the weavers declined to work to him, even at increased rates. This was the first check that his arrogant and over bearing attitude to the public got.

The origin and history of Glasgow Streets

The plaque seen above appears to have been installed by a descendant.

Creation of the Clyde Walkway removed most, if not all, remaining evidence of the ‘Pen’.

I need to make a return trip, having seen that there may be a further marker on the street above, which I didn’t cover.

There are also recent, but not very old, pics of the same wall while there were still tenements above, and show the wall before the trees and grass were added to the path. Unlike today, the plaque was in the open and obvious, it is now lost behind trees and bushes.

Try here for one such pic.

Return trip

I did make the trip back, and the marker I read of was indeed located on Newhall Street, above the plaque.

Allan's Pen Marker

Allan’s Pen Marker

I didn’t see it as I passed behind it, from which direction the (weathered) concrete marker looks like little more than a broken plank sticking out of the ground (sorry).

There’s a second marker, even less noticeable than the first, probably due not only to their thinness, but also the angle it sits at relative to the road.

Allan's Pen Marker 2

Allan’s Pen Marker 2

While the Sun lit the first obliquely, and picked out the wording, it was behind this one due to the angle, so its engraving was not so easy to make out.

A closer pic shows the detail.

Allan’s Pen Gate refers to the fact that these two markers sit on either side of a short road that leads off Newhall Street towards the Clyde Walkway and Glasgow Green, also the Polmadie Footbridge (being rebuilt as this post is being written, having been closed and demolished for safety reasons some time ago).

Allan's Pen Gate

Allan’s Pen Gate

It’s a pity these markers are not more noticeable, and just melt into the background if you’re not aware of their presence.

Since I was there anyway, I took a more general and wider shot of the wall and walkway where the plaque is mounted, giving a similar, but present-day view of the online pic that shows the tenements and grass/tree free view of the same site some years ago, and prior to the demolition of those tenements.

The plaque is located on the wall behind the space between the two benches.

Newhall Street and the marker are up the steps to the left, and behind the tree.

Allan's Pen Clyde Walkway

Allan’s Pen Clyde Walkway


Aug 1, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

When the River Clyde collapsed (even more)

I’ve already been lucky once, and found some remaining evidence of how the banks of the River Clyde subsided when the tidal weir failed and allowed the river level to fall below its now long-established normal level.

I thought the subsided walkway I found that day was all that was left of the damage caused during that event, since it had taken me so long to get anywhere the affected area.

I was wrong.

Wandering even further west of that damage, along Adelphi Street, I came across an even more extreme case of subsidence following the loss of water level during weir failure.

The first find looked impressive enough, but this second area had even better (worse?) evidence remaining of the damage.

I find it amazing that this degree of damage could follow after what amounted to only hours of reduction in the level of the river compared to its usual height, maintained for decades by the weir, yet so quickly defeated as the banks drained.

If that was your cycle path – you’ve had it (it’s OK, they marked out a new path to the left).

River Clyde Tidal Weir Subsidence Adelphi Street

River Clyde Tidal Weir Subsidence Adelphi Street

Poor lamp.

River Clyde Tidal Weir Subsidence Adelphi Street

River Clyde Tidal Weir Subsidence Adelphi Street

This was the most impressive section – just look at the row of kerb stones suspended in mid-air after the ground fell away below them.

You probably couldn’t have made that happen if someone had offered to pay you to do it.

River Clyde Tidal Weir Subsidence Adelphi Street

River Clyde Tidal Weir Subsidence Adelphi Street

I don’t suppose anybody else is in any pleased about this, but I have to confess I am, as I really wanted to see what had happened, and was disappointed at not being able to make it along for a look at the time.

(OK council, you can fix it all now.)

Jun 8, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, council, photography, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Polish fire on the Clyde

Remember the (presumably stolen) suitcase I came across on the banks of the Clyde last week?

Click the thumb for bigger reminder:

Polish On The Clyde

I was along the same path this week, and guess what?

Someone took an intense dislike to the case and stuff still inside, and set fire to it.

You should be able to recognise the spot, but there’s no case there now, just some charred remains.

Funny thing – they left all the books and papers scattered around the spot untouched. They might have taken the time to throw them on the fire and at least tidy the spot up a little.

Polish Fire

Polish Fire

One good thing – I found a nice new ballpoint pen there this time.

May 31, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , , , | Leave a comment

That 1988 rowing pic I asked about?

While I blog for my own reasons, independent of any readers, it’s still sad to note that the few comments/responses the material once got have dried up completely.

I guess ‘Social Media’ has killed this sort of thing.

I posted a pic taken from about the River Clyde in 1988, with rowers shown on a section of the River Clyde I couldn’t identify from present day aerial views…

Clyde Rowers From The Air

Clyde Rowers From The Air

Now that I know where this is, I also know why it wasn’t immediately obvious where it was, and why it didn’t make for an easy find using present day aerial views.

The first problem was one of assumption, deliberate or otherwise, that the pic had been shown with North at the top.

I know it’s a notional thing, but if this scene is inverted compared to its appearance on a map – those rowers are actually rowing downriver, to the south east.

The building seen to their right can still be found at the back of Richmond Park. Such buildings can usually be found and identified on old OS maps, but this one seems to be absent.

Clyde Riverbank Building

Clyde Riverbank Building

Incidentally, this pic caught one of Glasgow City Council’s safety initiative from years gone by – when all the spikes were sawn off their railings and fences. This followed a number of incidents where children (and others) had managed to fall and impail themselves on these old features, sometimes fatally.

The second problem was just nature – seen from above, most of the ground detail is now hidden below trees, and simply cannot be seen.

Don’t forget – the Google view below is inverted compared to the original pic shown above. That little building is on the south (lower) bank seen in the view below. You can also see how the trees have grown to completely the cover the view of the path and two benches seen in that original view.

Even this view is now out of date – the area on the south bank of the river (where the building still lies) is currently fenced off and has been cleared for extensive land works, not further identified.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

Polish on the Clyde

It’s funny how some spots of the River Clyde’s banks seem to collect rubbish, while others seem to stay clean, and the odds of finding something interesting (carried along and dumped by the river seem to be low.

I’ve mentioned this before, and think the reason is down to the route the river takes, and it doesn’t pass close to populated places near people (who can drop goodies) until it reaches Glasgow.

However, in this case, although the stuff was on the riverbank, it wasn’t the river that dumped it there.

Looks like some Polish traveller had their luggage stolen, and it was taken down to river, where it could be raided on a steep bank out of sight of the road.

Nothing of value was left, only a selection of Polish literature, notes, and cheap stuff like odd pens.

Polish OnT he Clyde

Polish On The Clyde

There was ONE interesting detail though – the packaging for a soft (toy) hand gun.

While not illegal, increasingly restrictive firearms’ legislation in Scotland, and the chances of a “Shoot first and ask questions later” response by armed police, who can’t be sure if a good replica is a genuine firearm or not, or the state of mind of the person issuing threats with it, are sufficiently high to render it a ‘Bad Idea’.

Soft Pistol Packaging

Soft Pistol Packaging

The damp had got to the printing, and while I could see the details identifying the usual ammo and its weight (plus the obvious muzzle velocity claim), it wasn’t clear if this was CO2 or spring powered.

Oh… Found it!

Armed police arrest man after ‘gun’ report

(Just kidding).

May 20, 2018 Posted by | Civilian, photography | , , , | Leave a comment

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