Strathard Heritage Archive

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Loch Katrine Pipeline: Recovered Images

By James Kennedy

Images reproduced by permission of Scottish Water.

Anniversaries are important as they give us an opportunity to stop and reflect. When it comes to the simple act of consuming a glass of water, people living in Glasgow are still reaping the benefits of the vision of our Victorian Forefathers. Some 160 years ago the finishing touches were being put to the completion of a 26-mile aqueduct between Loch Katrine and a Service Reservoir near Milngavie to supply the city of Glasgow with a fresh water supply. Construction started on 20 May 1856 and was formally completed with an official opening by Queen Victoria on 14 October 1859. When this momentous event took place near Royal Cottage on the banks of Loch Katrine the Queen was accompanied by Prince Albert and their two daughters Princess Alice and Princess Helena. Consequently a second aqueduct was built and further adjustments were made to ensure a supply of good quality water to the increasing population of Glasgow.

Katrine Tunnelling, 1892, showing workers tunnelling through rock; with machinery to prop up the ceiling of the excavation.

The scale of the work is hard to image but it has now been brought to light by the discovery of an absolute treasure trove of photographs showing construction of parts of the aqueducts.

When Scottish Water was closing one of its buildings recently, several glass photographic slides were recovered from a skip, along with some books and drawings. The discovery coincided with a £12.5 million project to refurbish part of the overall aqueduct scheme. The photographs were found by Stephen Walker a leakage field technician with Scottish Water. In Stephen’s words: ‘I found these fragile glass slides from the construction of mainly the second aqueduct in a skip as we were moving offices. These pictures are an important part of the story and I’m delighted that we were able to save them’.

Steam engine workers at Mugdock, Milngavie, showing workers using a large stream driven trencher for digging trenches.
Siteline view, showing a worker operating a theodolite-like device to measure and check the route of the aqueduct.