Life at the end of the road

November 5, 2012

Sore necks in South Shields :-)

Filed under: daily doings, South Shields — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:48 am

Eight thirty on Sunday night and another hectic weekend draws to a close, though this one has certainly ‘gone out with a bang’, two hours of continuous bangs in fact, but more of that later. Six full weeks ‘by with’ and only eighteen more days left to go of my ‘sentence’, still, at least my metal filing skills have improved and I can now rig a bosun’s chair Smile All of which I’m sure I’ll find very useful when our 21st century hybrid ferry arrives on Raasay next year. Not wishing to sound cynical or anything but when you haven’t seen your elderly parents for over a month it’s hard to be ‘upbeat’, especially when your wife cannot visit her sick father because you’re 400 fecking miles away, I know, I promised I’d stop swearing but it’s so frustrating.

Luckily I managed once more to hitch a lift through to Barrhead this weekend to be there instead of wifey who was stuck at Arnish with pigs, hens and the Dude. Arriving there on Friday night after a 170 mile drive courtesy of a friend with a car that does more than the 50mph and 25mpg that the ‘Old girl’ manages.

The ‘Barrhead dams’

To say that my father in law is unwell is a bit of an understatement and much of the time I spend there he’s in his bed but I like to be there for moral support, take Charlie for a walk, talk, watch the odd B&W western and have a ‘wee dram’ when he’s feeling up to it. Fort Apache being on the agenda when I arrived Smile

After good sleep on Friday and a good breakfast with FIL, he went back to his bed and I took Charlie out for a walk up the ‘Barrhead dams’.


Map picture

These reservoirs were built during the 1850’s by the ‘Gorebals Gravitation Water Company’ to supply drinking water to a rapidly growing ‘south bank’

In 1845 the Gorbals Gravitation Water Company (GGWC) was established in order to provide a clean water supply to the Gorbals and later to other, adjacent areas on the south side of the River Clyde. The Brock Burn was soon identified as a suitable source. Records detail the process of how the area was chosen and difficulties were overcome. The land was obtained from two landowners, Sir Hew Crawford and Sir John Maxwell.

The reservoirs of Waulkmill Glen and Ryat Linn were the first to be built. Records show that the early stages of the process were long and complex. The GGWC was hampered by various issues, including compensation for Sir Hew Crawford and the parliamentary bill that was opposed at all stages by the Glasgow Water Company. Despite this, the reservoirs and associated infrastructure were eventually built. Adverts appeared in the press for ground works associated with the reservoirs in January 1847, and between 1847 and 1848, Waulkmill Glen and Ryat Linn reservoirs were constructed as planned.

Harvey (1848) records between 800 and 1000 men were working in the construction of the water works. The complex also contains two smaller reservoirs (Littleton, named after a farmstead in that area, and Coalhill). The largest water feature, Balgray Reservoir, was built in 1853-1854 and apparently extended in the 1860s. In 1865 these reservoirs started supplying Barrhead. The reservoirs dominate much of the landscape in the southern part of the country park. They have various associated workings, such as the draw-off towers that stand in Balgray and Waulkmill Glen reservoirs and the remains of the filter beds and water courses. The towers are linked to outlets that control the water flow and allow the reservoirs to be drained if necessary. At the top of Waulkmill Glen the line of the Brock Burn was altered to run down a stone-lined waterfall. East of this, running below the road, are the sluice gates and associated buildings through which the water flows rapidly.

The structures were built from shaped and dressed red sandstone blocks, with the sluice gates set into the dam, with an arched façade which faces onto two square ponds through which the water passes. Opposite is a small, hexagonal structure, also related to the control and flow of water (Speller and Taylor 1996). The engineering work required to build the reservoirs and the gravitational water system was immense, and they are an impressive example of Victorian engineering at its best.

When the first Ordnance Survey maps were produced the reservoirs were all completed and are labelled as ‘Gorbals Gravitation Water Works’ (1857, 1:2500 and 1863-68, 1:10560). The first revision of these maps (1896-1899, 1:10560 and 1897, 1:2500) indicates the change in ownership of the reservoirs, which were now labelled ‘Glasgow Corporation Water Works’, the GGWC having ceased to exist.


We walked all the way from the ‘toon’ but there is some handy parking right by the western end of the larger Balgray reservoir.


About halfway around the reservoir you come to where the Brock Burn enters under a bridge,



though this could obviously be diverted at one time by dropping planks into the stone slots at the other side of the bridge.



Not that Charlie was the least bit interested Smile 


All he cared about was that white foamy stuff Smile


Greatly overgrown now but once the wooden boards where dropped in the water would be diverted this way along a stone lined channel



to join this overflow here before crossing under the main road and ending up here.


Or if you prefer here,


Barrhead dam

which is how it looked in 1899 Smile



That upwelling is actually from water flowing from the larger reservoir across the road’



through this old tunnel.

The ‘Emmerdale connection’

Now you’ll have to forgive me but I don’t watch TV and certainly not soaps so when wifey phoned me to tell me that ‘so and so and so and so’ off ‘Emmerdale’ were on the ferry it meant nothing to me. However they’d been over to Raasay for the day visiting Calum’s road, and their friends had fallen victim to the disgraceful Raasay roads having put a hole in the cars sump and lost all the oil Sad smile Luckily Simon of had gone to their aid, but sadly the car was blocking the road and wifey could not get home Sad smile

Sorry, it’s 7:45am now and I’ve just awoken late, after the best nights sleep in six weeks, but I’ll tell you all about that later when I finish this off, for now I have to get ready for college.

Anyway, here I am back again after another ‘hard day at the office’ Smile Where was I?? well the poor couple with two toddlers and two dugs were well and truly stranded and of course there’s no phone signal just where the car was. So she sends the Dude to walk home and tries to raise help from a little further up the road, of course she’s no phone numbers and is running out of credit so passes the task onto me two hundred miles away.

After phoning just about everyone on the island a friend of a friend phoned someone in Dundee and managed to secure a cottage for them for the night . Though as it happened even that turned out to be not so straightforward, however, last I heard the family had a roof over their heads. I just hope they send a bill to the council for all the damage to their car and kick up a stink about being stranded on Raasay.


Ten precious minutes

The reason I slept so well is due in no small part to me seeing my wife for the first time in a month Smile It was a bit like a prison visit for I wasn’t sure she’d make it to Barrhead before my lift took me back to South Shields. Then just before I was due to leave she arrived and we’d ten precious minutes together before I was taken back to ‘The Village’ Sad smile

Local friends on the island had rallied round and offered to watch our animals, collect the eggs and get the Dude to school so that wifey could be with her father and mother for an important hospital appointment. It is at times like this when you realise how lucky you are living in such a small and close community.


The 176 mile drive back was mainly in the dark, busy and longer than usual due to the traffic, however I was in good spirits for not only were folk at home helping out but so were my fellow ‘prisoners’ Smile


Arriving in the ‘toon’ at 18:30 it became pretty apparent that something special was going down,



for there was nowhere to park and it seemed like the whole of Northumbria was heading down to the pleasure beach and some pretty amazing fireworks.

Me I just got into my caravan, opened the ‘stable door’ top and got on with my cooking a delicious pork stir fry,


to this Smile All two hours of it from the warmth of the Thomson Glenelg Smile and being so far away and high up didn’t get the ‘sore neck’ that everyone else in South Shields must have today Smile



  1. What a lovely dog Charlie looks!
    I hope the famous people will contact the council re the roads, though from my personal experience, it makes no difference but if all visitors/victims did it, it might have a cumulative effect.
    There is nothing I can think to say about the fact that you are having to be away from home for so long, esp when some of the material is obviously outdated/irrelevant, No one making these decisions obviously has an inkling of what it means to uproot and remove you!
    Roll on the end, it is good that you are making the most of it in terms of exploration and personal survival!

    Comment by may cruickshank — November 5, 2012 @ 8:46 am

    • I couldn’t agree more, May, about roads and the idiocy of spending money on a course that teaches guys who have been at sea for a lot of their lives things that they know and do already, especially being so far from home.

      Not long now, Paul – until the next time….

      Comment by Sue — November 5, 2012 @ 9:37 am

      • Hi Sue, that will be the third car this year that has put a hole in it’s sump and lost all the oil. All of them tourists and all of them unlikely to visit Raasay ever again. These dreadful roads are hurting the islands economy.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 8:45 pm

    • Cheers May, it’s not just me, the average age of the class must be over forty and many of us have wives, families and ‘issues’.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

  2. Simon should tell the victims of the road about the stream of apparently complaints whch go unanswered and sggest that perhaps it’s time to start to go down the ‘sue them’ road. I hate this ‘I’ll sue’ culture which we live in but maybe it’s the only way to get any action. If they have to pay enough in damages it might penetrate that they are better off to fix the damned roads and be done with it. Anne Macdonald

    Comment by Anne Macdonald — November 5, 2012 @ 5:08 pm

    • I too hate this ‘all rights and no responsibilities’ culture where people sue for tripping over cracks in the pavement or slipping on meat pies left on the floor. Alas I think it’s the only way HRC are going to take any notice Anne.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 8:48 pm

  3. I can’t help thinking the Council are looking for another Callum to take care of the road free of charge, after all they have shown their lack of interest in it to date! Like Anne I am not in favour of the Sue them culture that seems to be Growing in the UK but on occasions involving the rural roads and lack of upkeep there does not seem to be an alternative. Cost of repairs, overnight stays and probably breakdown truck and transport home will certainly put a dent in the pocket of all those who have fallen victim to these poorly kept roads. The council cannot use the excuse they quote so often on the mainland of heavy traffic and bigger trucks carving up these roads. In my humble opinion they have absolutely no excuse!

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 5, 2012 @ 6:32 pm

    • No excuse whatsoever Graham, they make a fortune out of pier dues from Raasay, if they spent a little more on the roads they would make even more money and the whole islands economy would benefit.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  4. bit off the wall with what I’m about to suggest but, have you noticed this culture of “comminity service” that seems to be handed out to all miscrients these days. the huge if not 99% of the “service” is undertaken in towns and cities by removing gaffiti or some other pick up litter job! would it not be better to start a road gangs, whereby these individuals are made to clear drainage and re cut run offs so that the water doesn’t sit and consequently create pot holes. they could hand trim hedgerows and fill pot holes with a shovel and compress it with a vibrating (whacker) plate. this way we all have our Callums who are doing the “community” in general a service.
    you could go down the route of the chain gang from the prisons, but thats streching it a bit…

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — November 5, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

    • Great idea Steve 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

  5. Are you sure those were real fireworks, Paul? Or were you just that happy to see Barbara?
    Or more likely still, perhaps the folks in South Shields were celebrating your return!

    Comment by drgeo — November 5, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

    • Fireworks DrG, it’s like Syria here at the moment. At least yesterdays extravaganza was accompanied by music, what we have now is an endless barrage of what sounds just like small arms fire. I kid you not it’s like being in a war zone here, I’m glad I’m not a dog, horse, cow or hen because it’s quite alarming 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

      • Quick, erase your answer above and substitute this one: Yes, I have heard stories about hearing music playing and fireworks going off, but never before experienced it until I met the gorgeous swineherd. Our love is like a red, red, rose!

        Comment by drgeo — November 5, 2012 @ 9:47 pm

      • Now don’t start this carry on DrG or you’ll have me a tearful, emotional and gibbering wreck 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 5, 2012 @ 9:58 pm

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