Life at the end of the road

November 10, 2012

From Darnley to Barrhead :-)

Filed under: daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:03 pm

Well really, I suppose it should be from South Shields to Barrhead then Darnley to Barrhead, for after the Friday morning exam I was ‘off like a shot’ to spend the weekend with my in laws. The exam which had been responsible for many a blog free and sleepless night went without too many hitches, well lots of hitches, clove hitches, half hitches and timber hitches actually Smile Though I did make serious mess of the ‘west country stopper’ Sad smile

Rat-Tail Stopper Tying (Boating) 

a hitch used to take the strain of a mooring rope whilst transferring it from capstan to bollard. Not something we do on the Striven very often and when we do I’ve used a rolling hitch in the past but the MCA don’t like that. The part that I had been dreading was the visit to ‘Cyclops’ the 1949 mock  cargo ship that dominates the ‘seaman’s hall’


for the myriad of nomenclature associated with cargo handling vessels ‘as old as the ark’ had just not been sinking in. I was still getting my ‘gooseneck’ confused with my ‘duckbill’ and my ‘spider band’ with my ‘topping lift’ hardly surprising really  for the last time I saw a rig like this was on the bottom of Mounts Bay courtesy of one of these.

Surprisingly enough that part of the exam went very well so I will no be able to go back to work and load cars properly.


loch seaforth

MacBraynes "RMS Loch Seaforth"

My old Ford Prefect being off loaded at Armadale on the Isle of Skye from the Macbraynes steamer Loch Seaforth. The car was loaded at Mallaig. The crew handling the crane dropped the car from a height of about two feet and broke a rear spring. The Loch Seaforth had been displaced from its usual duties by new "Roll on Roll Off’ ferries.

Just like we did in the old days Smile Many thanks to Robert Chappell for that image.

I have to say that I just loved that mock up ship with all it’s winches, cables, chains, and pulleys but it has no relevance to 21st century seamanship, should go to a museum  and the whole ‘cargo handling’ part of the syllabus be revised.

Anyway, I was pretty pleased with my A- and got a lift to Barrhead with an equally chuffed B+ Smile The one tiny shred of ‘silver lining’ in this whole college ‘carry on’ being that I have at least had chance to visit my sick father in law at weekends. Something that I’d be hard pushed to do during term time and working on the Striven.

The ICI connection and Mary Queen of Scots

In truth I don’t see a great deal of wifey’s dad as he’s spending more and more time in his bed, the ‘wee drams’ and B&W westerns we shared in weekends past are becoming fewer by the day. Still it gives wifey’s mum a break and I can take wee Charlie out for long walks, something that he loves and now associates with me Smile 

Being something of an alien to this ‘urban life’ I try and escape from it whilst here, surprisingly enough it is quite easy and with a little research extremely interesting. Following on from last weeks jaunts around the Barrhead dams I thought I’d start from the other end so to speak.


Map picture

Last week I’d walked from Barrhead up around the southerly end of the largest reservoir and to the railway line and back. Today I discovered the ‘Darnley Sycamore’ online,


image from a site I’ve been visiting frequently of late Smile


It’s a fine old tree in this urban sprawl, of that there is no doubt, but 500 years old??? I’d be very surprised if it was the actual tree. Anyway, MiL dropped Charlie and I off in the car after we’d driven past some lovely houses on Parkhouse road, the last time I passed there it looked like this.

parkhouse road

Before that some ten or twelve years ago it resembled Beirut Sad smile


darnley flats

Not sure if that’s the exact spot, in fact it looked worse but I lifted it from another wealth of info here

After perusing the tree through the camera lens from the other side of the road we set off into the ‘Dams to Darnley’ park past the old mill, which is now an Indian restaurant and up along the Brock Burn.

 005 006 007

There are several old bridges across the burn and one or two paths that lead off in different directions but with a little common sense and help from the signposts it’s easy to wind your way up towards the old water works and reservoirs.


What I did come across unexpectedly was this old ruin


which was kind of difficult to photograph due to the undergrowth and very boggy ground.



It must have been a grand building at one time, wooden panelled and with a lovely curved gable but no fireplaces, suggesting some industrial purpose. At first I thought it was some kind of old mill but that would not seem to be the case.

After some research into this building, I have come to the conclusion that the house was part of Upper Darnley and the Darnley Bleach fields. This to my mind is a significant finding. The Darnley Bleach fields were owned and run by no lesser figure than Charles Tennant 1768 –1838 who in 1799 in collaboration with Charles Macintosh invented a new bleaching powder that revolutionised the bleaching industry. One of the truly significant developments of the industrial revolution.
Charles Tennant moved on to start up the St. Rollox chemical works; which in the 19th century was the largest chemical works in the world, it also had the Largest chimney stack in the world. Tennants Company went on in later years via mergers and buyout to be come Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd. (ICI).

Once more lifted from

‘Bleachfields’ were places where cloth was laid out in the open to bleach naturally in the sunshine,


a process that required lots of clean water and of course sunshine, so it was a summer only task. This perhaps explains the lack of chimneys on the building which could have been accommodation for the workers, though they’d still need to eat??


Anyway this process proved to somewhat of a ‘bottleneck’ and it was Charles Tennant himself that solved the problem

Charles was quick to learn his trade (weaving) but also to see that the growth of the industry far surpassed the development of bleaching methods, which were very primitive. An important aspect of the weaving industry was bleaching cloth. At that time this involved treatment with stale urine and leaving the cloth exposed to sunlight for many months in so called bleaching fields. Huge quantities of unbleached cotton piled up in the warehouses. Charles left his well paid weaving position to try to develop improved bleaching methods. This led him to start his own bleaching fields in 1788, at Darnley, near Barrhead, Renfrewshire. From his father he inherited an untiring capacity for work. A neighbour, William Wilson of Hurlet (and wife Margaret Penman), initially had been very hostile at the introduction of a bleachfield next to his farm. He changed, after watching with admiration as Charles worked from dawn till late at night in his bleachfilds. his admiration led to a social invitation which had a great impact on Charles’ life, for he met and later (in 1795) married Wilson’s daughter, Margaret (1766–1843). Their marriage lasted forty-three years and she bore him nine children.

Charles Tennant’s Darnley Bleach Fields c.1800

Having acquired his bleachfield, Charles turned his mind and energy to developing ways to shorten the time required in bleaching. Others had already done much work on this problem and managed to reduce bleaching time from eighteen months to four by replacing sour milk with sulphuric acid in the bleaching process. Further, in the last half of the eighteenth century, bleachers started to use lime in the bleaching process, but only in secret due to possible injurious effects from the lime. Charles had the original idea that a combination of chlorine and lime would produce the best bleaching results. He worked on this idea for several years and was finally successful. His method proved to be effective, inexpensive and harmless. he was granted patent #2209 on 23 January 1798. He continued his research and developed a bleaching powder for which he was granted patent #2312 on 30 April 1799.

While still working in the bleachfields around the year 1794, Charles formed a partnership with four friends. the first of these, Dr. William Couper (His three sons married Charles’ three youngest daughters.), was the legal advisor to the partnership. The second partner was Alexander Dunlop (His brother married Charles’ eldest daughter), who served as accountant to the group. The third partner, James Knox, managed the sales department. Charles Macintosh, an excellent chemist, was the fourth partner. He is known for his technique of macintosh waterproofing and he also assisted in the invention of bleaching powder. Charles was indeed fortunate to have these men as his partners.

Immediately after granting of the patent on bleaching, Charles and his partners purchased land on the Monkland Canal, just north of Glasgow, to build a factory for the production of bleaching liquor and powder. The area was known as St. Rollox, after a French holy man. It was close to a good supply of lime, and since the area was rural, the land was cheap. Additionally, the nearby canal provided excellent transportation. Production was swiftly moved from the earlier bleachfields in Darnley, to the new plant in St. Rollox. From the first it was a splendid success. Production increased from fifty-two tons the first year, 1799, to over nine thousand two hundred tons the fifth year. Later a second plant was built at Hebburn, raising production of bleaching powder alone to twenty thousand tons by 1865.

All was not smooth sailing however. In 1798 James Knox and Robert Tennant (Charles younger brother), went to Ireland where they struck a deal with the Irish bleachers, for the use of the process. Although the Irish bleachers admitted a saving of over GB£160,000 in 1799 alone, by using the Tennant process, they never paid for its use as agreed. They welched on their word and on the contract. As a result the partnership lost a great deal in time and money. Further losses came from challenges to the patents in England and Ireland and the outright pirating of the process. In spite of these worrisome problems the partnership as a great success. It continued for fourteen years when the rights under the patents expired.

Charles continued to expand his horizons during this time. When the partnership ended he purchased the company. As a forward thinking business man, he was in a class by himself. His company, during the 1830s and 1840s was the largest chemical plant in the world.

As a dedicated reformer Charles played his full part in the movements of the day. A great deal of unrest followed the Napoleonic wars, which had the effect of increased wealth for the manufacturing classes but poverty for the working classes. Charles and his son John were active in a time liberal views could be construed as treason. He worked for many years in the reform movement, but it was not until he reached the age of sixty-four that his effort bore fruit with the passage of the Reform Bill of 1832. His ideas and active support helped create one of the most productive periods of social progress and reform, in almost every area, in Scotland’s history.

Charles Tennant, in spite of the many demands on his time from outside sources, never lost sight of the main business in his life, the St. Rollox chemical works. By the year 1832, St. Rollox was consuming thirty thousand tons of coal a year. The system had not been designed to handle this volume. It just could not do so efficiently. He plunged into a study of possible solutions to the problem. His imagination and interest were fired by a new way of transporting people and freight. This involved using wagons, pulled by a steam engine, on iron rails laid on a level roadbed. He had heard of this from his good friend George Stephenson, the great railway engineer. he quickly realized this was the answer to his problem at St. Rollox. From 1825 until his death he was one of the prime movers in railway expansion. He was mainly responsible for getting a railway into Glasgow, over the fierce opposition of the canal proprietors.

Never one to overlook a sideline, Charles decided he must not forget the waterways. In 1830 he started his younger sister Sarah’s son, William Sloan, with some small schooners. He saw this as a way to control the transportation of chemical products to nearby markets. At the time of Sloan’s death in 1848 they had the largest fleet in Glasgow, and were running nineteen vessels.

A little further up the path you start coming upon the old water works and it’s associated buildings.


This one being a relic of the former ‘Glasgow Corporation Water Works’



and this being another.


020 017 016

Fine sandstone memorials to the Victorian engineers and craftsmen that built them


Just look at the stone work on the sides of this steep channel that drops some 20m from the reservoir to below the buildings.



Notice how the stones are laid in such a way as to reduce the ingress of water, pure genius Smile

Immediately above the water works is the first reservoir and from here on we were onto familiar ground.

  026  028


030 029

A sole swan giving Charlie and I the ‘bums up’ Smile we also saw a dipper in the fast flowing burn above the first waterfall.

Not my photo, but one from and the last time I saw one of these was in Trout Beck at the bottom of Kirkstone pass in the Lake District when I was about 13

Another rescue

I wish I had a pound for every halfwit that I’ve rescued from the north end of Raasay. My phone went off at 20:00 and came up ‘swineherd mobile’, immediately I went into panic mode for I’d spoken to a very tired wife some two hours previously just after she’d finished feeding the pigs and sorting out the ‘Arnish eggs’ after a hard day on the post. My son had been in bed all day sick and she was ready for her bad at 18:00 so why was she phoning me on the mobile as there’s no reception at the house. First thing that goes through my mind is that my boy has taken a turn for the worse, fortunately not.

Now if you don’t like swearing read no further, I know I said I was giving it up but I’ve had a few drinks, my father in law is really sick, my son ill, my wife full of the cold and two hundred miles away from her family and some pair of jakey’s turn up needing a lift to the village eleven miles away. I rather despair, these clowns being too tight fisted to bring their car over to Raasay had left it at Sconser and decided to walk up to the bothy  (on the recommendation of a blog reader who should have known better). Do they get the 9:25 ferry so they can make the gruelling walk in the daylight, not a chance, do they get the 10:25 ferry then they can get there in the dusk, nope. These numpties get the 11:30 and buy a Mickey Mouse torch at the Co Op Sad smile get lost, get tired, and need running back to the village. Of course they are eternally grateful and give wifey a full £10 for her trouble, an hour away from home and sick child, a gallon of fuel, their generosity is rather outstanding.

edited when sober in the interests of local harmony and a possible law suite Smile


  1. I’d have offered them a bed in the barn and run down to the village in the morning.

    Comment by Gary Sutherland — November 10, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

    • I’d have told them to walk Gary 🙂 these halfwits just haven’t got a clue, 22miles on the Raasay roads is like driving four times that on the mainland and you cannot get petrol here. A tank full will last you so many journeys to the village and back so an extra one could mean the difference between getting home or walking and this isn’t the first time it’s happened. I don’t like to see anyone stuck but this is shear incompetence, anyone wishing to walk 14 hard miles in winter should have the sense to set off at 9:00am not midday.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 10, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

  2. Well Done on the A- Paul! All the hard work starting to pay off and a great way to start the final two weeks in the Village!
    Very impressed with the mass of links re Barrhead in today’s blog and the previous ones, I am sure I like many others have learnt some new things about the area from your good self and just want to say a big thanks. Always great to here off places where members of my family have lived.
    Those Victorian craftsmen certainly would be proud to know that there hard work is still standing up well and proof that in those days things where built to last and endure, something many of today’s builders could certainly learn from!
    will you be stopping off anywhere on the way home with the van or is it to be one long push? Think you will beat me home before I finish the reel to reel tapes, got 24 0n CD’s now and still a mountain to do!
    All the best and safe travels

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 10, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

    • Cheers, Graham,

      I’ll be hoping to make is far as my parents in the day, it’s so long since I’ve seen them that I fear my father will not recognize me. To be honest I’m not sure if he knows who I am anyway but he used to be good at hiding it, after two months away I’m not so sure he’ll even bother trying 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 10, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

      • Hopefully he will have a glimmer of recognition, no doubt your mum will have been showing him pictures of you to help keep some inkling for him. Have a safe run home.

        Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 12, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

  3. Oh was looking at the picture of your Ford Prefect in transport and it reminded me of the pictures I have of Thomson Caravans being loaded in a similar fashion at Grangemouth in days gone by! I also have a picture of one on a large rowing boat be pulled across Loch Ness in the 50’s, Amazing how things where once transported! Still trying to work out how they got Static caravans over to some of the Islands before roll on roll off ferries, certainly earned there money transporting them!

    Comment by Thomson Caravans — November 10, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

  4. In a few short weeks you’ll be home again, at which time when hikers straggle to your door you can offer them overnight accommodation in the Thomson… at South Shield prices!

    Comment by Drgeo — November 11, 2012 @ 4:20 am

    • Morning DrG,

      I’m in a better mood this morning, think I would have just taken them halfway and told them I’d not enough petrol to go any further 🙂 To be honest I’m more annoyed at the pair of clowns that ‘offered wifey’ to taxi them. They knew how ill she was, knew how ill my boy was and know just what the whole family is going through right now. We are not the only people on Raasay with a car and it is just the same distance from the village to Arnish as it is from Arnish to the village.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  5. congratulations on the fine grade, you should be proud of yourself. skritches to young charles, and regards to mrs. lateotr, hoping everyone at home feels better soon.

    Comment by Jeannette — November 11, 2012 @ 5:37 am

    • Cheers for that Jeannette, just looking for somewhere exciting to take Charlie out 🙂 First though it’s down to the shop for fresh rolls and the Sunday papers though, imagine that, walking to a shop from your home 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 8:36 am

  6. congratulations on the A- Paul, well done … as for the hikers, I’m lost for words at their actions and “generosity”, I too don’t like to see people stuck, but maybe they need to learn a lesson the hard way

    Comment by cazinatutu — November 11, 2012 @ 5:41 am

    • Morning Caz and thanks, re the hikers, I’m mellowing by the minute 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 8:37 am

      • which bottle is mellowing you !!
        on the subject of old-fashioned cargo loading, I think they still use it on the Scillonian

        Comment by cazinatutu — November 11, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

      • Hi Caz,
        on the subject of old-fashioned cargo loading, I think they still use it on the Scillonian

        Alas not, both the Scillonian built 1977 and the Gry Maritha built 1981 that serve the Scilly Isles use proper hydraulic cranes. You would have to go to Africa or the far east to find a ship with winches and derricks, they are the only places left were the huge man power required to operate this ancient things is cheap enough.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

  7. Hi Paul

    Great blog – really enjoyed reading about the bleachworks and the work of one of those industrial giants without which these islands would not have made the progress they did during the ‘industrial revolution’. Lots of downsides to this revolution, but many a trail blazed none-the-less.

    I’m lost fpr words too about idiots who don’t realise how long it takes both to walk and drive in places like Raasay. The distance on the map has no bearing on the time – even in summer it has taken a good few hours to walk from Arnish to the bothy or Kyle Rona and back – and that was with a car left ‘by the kiosk’, let alone walking all the way from the ferry as well!



    Comment by Sue — November 11, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    • Morning Sue,

      The distance on the map has no bearing on the time

      I very much doubt they had a map, smart phone probably but not an actual map that you could lay out and see just how far it actually was.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 9:49 am

  8. Hi Paul, Well done, almost finished, soon be back home. The bleachfields stuff was very interesting. Never heard of any of it before. Extraordinary what lies on your doorstep -so to speak (40 years ago or so!!)

    Comment by Iain — November 11, 2012 @ 10:25 am

    • Hi Iain, I too had never heard of a ‘bleachfield’ until the other day, then I discovered that Whitefield near Manchester (near where I worked) was named so because the fields were white with bleaching cloth 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 10:38 pm

  9. I’d have given them the “biker’s salute”!
    On a more pleasant note, well done on your grades, keep at it even though it seems they need to step into the 21st century!
    The Vics certainly built things to last, and with a certain style .. witness Bazalgette’s pumping station – a humble task, but with great elegance (bit like that wee gent’s in one of your pics!)

    Comment by caadfael — November 11, 2012 @ 10:34 am

  10. Well done on the exam result Paul.

    I’m enjoying the walks too.

    Perhaps you could practice that West Country Stopper on ‘errant walkers’? After all, if they are asking to be transferred from a bit of a “bollards” to the Striven’s capstan… I fail to see how they could object to you making sure they’re properly secured while in transit. :-))

    Not long to go now, so enjoy the last two weeks as best you can.

    Comment by Carrie — November 11, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

    • Hi Carrie, Not long to go now, so enjoy the last two weeks as best you can. ten days and counting 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 11, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

  11. In case the caravan starts closing in on you:

    Comment by drgeo — November 12, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  12. Great post; crammed with interesting info. I stayed with the chicken-on-a-raft for three minutes and twelve seconds before realising…It’s a cat thing, honest 🙂

    Comment by kingdomcat — November 12, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    • Well KC, that was one minute and twelve seconds longer than me 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 12, 2012 @ 7:59 pm

  13. Great post. Really interesting.

    One of the few things that has stuck in my mind from O-Level history (apart from John Wilkes being a “a gay, dissolute, dissipated man-about-town” 🙂 ) was that one of the effects of the Industrial Revolution was the freeing-up of large areas of bleachfields so they could return to cultivation. I’d never heard of bleachfields, and I couldn’t get my head around the concept there were so many of them that the land they used had an economic and social significance. Nowadays, I just hang the bedsheets on the washing line so they come out nice and white and crispy 🙂 .

    Comment by San — November 12, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

    • Hi San,

      one of the effects of the Industrial Revolution was the freeing-up of large areas of bleachfields so they could return to cultivation.

      Interesting snippet San and well remembered, I’d certainly never heard of it before despite living in Lancashire where there must have been many.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 12, 2012 @ 9:14 pm

  14. Fascinating picture of the Loch Seaforth at Armadale. The picture is actually mirrored to reality. I recognise the three men in the foreground, all workers of MacBraynes, two drivers and a docker.

    Comment by The Purser — November 26, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

  15. You r picture of the Darnley flats are actually the flats in Priesthill across the railway line,.

    Comment by John — July 16, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

    • Thanks for that John.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 27, 2014 @ 6:34 am

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