Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Today is the anniversary of one of the worst mining disasters in the UK.

I remember very clearly hearing that a serious accident had occurred at a coal mine just a few miles from Kirkintilloch, and finding out later the extent of the tragedy.

A fire at the Auchengeich colliery broke out early that morning just as miners were travelling down in bogies to begin their day’s work. 47 of them were trapped underground and couldn’t be saved. It’s likely that they died from smoke inhalation. The fire was eventually put out by flooding that section of the pit.

Most of the men who died lived in and around Kirkintilloch, and one of them lived in our street.

This week-end a number of special events to commemorate the tragedy will take place in the district. I understand there are hopes that a book will be written and also a documentary made on the subject.


This picture shows the Gypsy Queen on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Townhead Bridge, Kirkintilloch. The bridge, which is the original wooden one, has been raised to allow the boat to pass through. The photo must have been taken some time before 1914; that was the year St Mary’s was built and the church steeple would have been clearly seen between the bridge-keeper’s cottage on the right and the Temperance Hotel across the road.

The construction of the canal began in 1768 and took 22 years to complete. In the early days traffic of all kinds used the waterway and even in my childhood there were horse-driven barges, fishing boats, coal-fired boats and pleasure boats like the Gypsy Queen.

This next picture, taken from the steeple of St. Mary’s, looks down on the bridge and the main street stretching south. The first building on the left across the canal is a public house. Following the “no licence” vote all the pubs were closed, and that property became the police station, but a few years ago it opened again as licensed premises. The steeple on the right is that of St. Andrew’s Church which was demolished many years ago.

I remember when the bridge was replaced by a steel swing bridge in 1933. Then in 1967 a proper road bridge was built on an embankment, but this closed the canal at that point with the result that rubbish of all sorts collected in the water on both sides of the bridge.

Over the years many folk campaigned to have the whole length of the canal re-opened, and this happy result came about in 2001.

Last year a Marina opened not far from Townhead Bridge and Kirkintilloch is now claiming to be “The Canal Capital of Scotland.”


“The Nieuwezijds Canal” by the Dutch artist Gerrit Berckeyde (1638-1698)


I was very pleased with my Haiku Homestead blog which began again last week.

The theme of today’s blog is Autumn and I give some interesting answers to the question “What exactly is a haiku?”


More memories of childhood -

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day,
Lulled by the moonlight have all passed a way.

Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me.

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chanting the wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapours are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.

Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart,
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me! (Stephen Foster 1826-1864)


This a lovely record of “Goodnight Sweetheart” played by Ray Noble and his Orchestra with vocalist Al Bowlly. (If you don't care for Charlie, you can always close your eyes). Ray Noble was an English band leader who moved to America in the 1930s and continued his successful career there. Among the songs he wrote were “Love is the Sweetest Thing”, “The Very Thought of You”, “The Touch of Your Lips” and the big band number "Cherokee.”


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