Monday, August 26, 2013

On the canal

Now, way back in my family tree it would seem I have an ancestor (my great grandfather, one Joseph Cowan) who was a canal boatman. It might explain why I'm drawn to canals, even though I know little about them. It's why the Linlithgow Canal Centre was on my list of 'places I have to visit this summer', and I made it there yesterday.

The Linlithgow Canal Centre is run entirely by volunteer members of the Linlithgow Union Canal Society which was founded in 1975 to promote and encourage the restoration and use of the Union Canal, particularly in the vicinity of Linlithgow.

The canal itself was built to join Falkirk and Edinburgh. The history is here. Construction started in 1818 and the canal was opened in 1822. It was dug entirely by hand! It brought coal and stone into Edinburgh in horse-drawn barges.

Traffic in the canal basin yesterday.

The Victoria was built at Braunston, near Rugby, in 1972, to simulate a Victorian Steam Packet. She operated on the Welford arm of the Grand Union Canal before being purchased by LUCS in 1978. She was providing the transport for the half-hour 'taster' cruise on the canal yesterday. Significantly, Victoria was the first boat to transit the Falkirk Wheel after its opening by Her Majesty the Queen. Over the years she has been modified and refitted entirely by LUCS volunteers.

This way to the Falkirk Wheel, but not for us today! In 2001, when the Falkirk Wheel was built, the Union Canal was linked once again to the Forth and Clyde Canal.

Sharing the space with the wildlife, as Victoria nudges past this moorhen.

There are no locks - the canal follows the contours of the land between Edinburgh and Falkirk, all 31 miles. All the bridges are numbered.

Guard dog in action!

I was disappointed to find that I needed to be some sixty years younger to be eligible for a turn to drive! Our skipper was most knowledgeable and great with the kids!

The Centre has a small museum, in the old stable, with lots to see ...

... including this fine old curling stone! It was found in the mud at the bottom of the canal near Woodcockdale when the canal was emptied for repairs sometime in the 1970s.

Elspeth is the museum's curator, and was in charge yesterday. A volunteer, full of enthusiasm and knowledge. Turns out she's a Cowan by birth, so it was a 'Who do you think you are?' moment yesterday!

Photos © Skip Cottage

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