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Timber Ponds Clyde

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Clyde timber ponds, 2010
Clyde timber ponds
© James T M Towill

Timber Ponds were set up along the southern shore of the River Clyde in the early days of wooden shipbuiling, occupying the area between Port Glasgow and Langbank. The industry required vast quantities of thoroughly seasoned timber, and with shipyards occupying most of the shore line from central Greenock to eastern Port Glasgow, demand was prodigious.

The ponds prevented the timber from floating away and allowed the logs to be organised according to type, length of seasoning, and ownership. Extreme weather could result in the logs breaking free of the ponds, closing the river until they were recovered. Remnants of the timber ponds still exist in the lines of vertical wooden posts sticking out of the mud, and rectangular areas can still be seen in aerial views of the surrounding riverbed.

Imported from North America, timber crossed the Atlantic from Quebec to Port Glasgow. In 1825 this trade amounted to some 19,000 tons, and reached almost 28,000 tons by 1834. The timber was unloaded at the mid-harbour, then chained together with rafters and floated to the ponds. At their peak, the ponds extended as far as the Gare Loch, but the arrival of precut timber and steel construction by 1914 meant that few remained in use.

Current practice is to place green, unseasoned timber in vast kilns, gradually reducing the moisture content until the sawn material is stable. This technology was not available in earlier years, when ancient practice was to leave the unsawn logs to lie on the tidal mudflats and season, for months or even years.

Taggart connection

Clyde timber ponds, 2008
Clyde timber ponds
© Thomas Nugent

The location was also home to one of the most significant scenes to take place in Glasgow police drama Taggart, episode 52, Season 18, aired on Monday, January 14, 2002, Death Trap.

DCI Mike Jardine receives a telephone call from one of the characters, Sheenah, arranging a meeting. However, she fails to appear and he receives another message, this time from a male caller, arranging a further meeting beneath a railway bridge over the River Clyde. At the site, we hear footsteps, see Jardine being struck by an unidentified figure, then thrown over the railing into the river below.

As the episode continues, we see the main characters of DS Jackie Reid, DI Robbie Ross, and DC Stuart Fraser called to the mudflats at Langbank, where we see them silhouetted a grey Glasgow sky as they walk towards a body covered by a blue sheet. Jackie Reid slowly draws the sheet back to reveal Mike Jardine's face, gently pulls some leaves clear of his face and strokes his hair as the others look on.

The final shot is of the coffin, and then the plaque, which reads:

Detective Chief Inspector
Michael Jardine
1961 – 2001
Taggart Death Trap,


Taggart Death Trap,
Taggart Death Trap,
Taggart Death Trap,


Taggart Death Trap,
Taggart Death Trap,
Taggart Death Trap,
Taggart Death Trap,


Photographs

Timber ponds info panel, 2008
Timber ponds info panel
© Thomas Nugent

External links


Aerial views


Map

The line shows the typical extent of the ponds, but at their height, they extended much further east and west.

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