Chance to trace the history of Scotland’s canals

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The public will soon be able to delve into the 250-year history of Scotland’s inland waterways.

Scottish Canals’ historic records are being transferred to the National Records of Scotland.

They feature hand-drawn plans, maps, and other records stretching back to when the canals were industrial highways carrying coal, goods and people.

Among the collection’s items of national significance are the diagram for the Monkland Canal’s Blackhill Inclined Plane – a precursor to The Falkirk Wheel which carried boats over a height difference of almost 100 feet via a rail system; and

a notice from the British Office of the Admiralty ordering the Crinan Canal to ‘extinguish all lights’ at the outbreak of WWII. The collection contains thousands of records dating from 1790 to the present day.

The historic material initially accepted by National Records of Scotland amounts to around 20 per of the records currently held by Scottish Canals, and will see NRS take on responsibility for their storage, conservation and care. The project means that the records will be publically accessible for the first time and cared for by a group of highly qualified experts, safeguarding the history of Scotland’s canals for generations to come.

Angharad Stockwell, records manager at Scottish Canals, said: “Our records stores hold some incredible documents that give a real insight into the elegant engineering and unforgettable stories of Scotland’s canals. From the notice to extinguish the lights of the Crinan Canal at the outbreak of World War II to the original designs for the ingenious Blackhill Inclined Plane, our collections provide a snapshot of pivotal moments in both the history of our canals and Scotland itself.

“We’re delighted that National Records of Scotland will be caring for these historic documents, safeguarding them for generations to come and, for the very first time, allowing the public to explore them.”

As well as documents from the canals’ days as the thoroughfares of the IndustrialRevolution, some of the more recent documents in Scottish Canals’ collections will also be cared for by National Records of Scotland. These include documents related to the Millennium Link project, which restored Scotland’s canals to a navigable state for the first time in decades, as well as maps and plans for the creation of The Helix and The Kelpies.

Tim Ellis, Chief Executive of National Records of Scotland, said: “We are delighted to add these records of Scottish Canals to our already extensive archive of company records,

letters, reports and more relating to Scotland’s waterways. They include some fascinating additions to the NRS collection of maps and plans, one of the finest in the UK, and the care and diligence of our archivists will ensure that they are preserved and accessible for future generations.”

Scottish Canals is also seeking oral histories from anyone who worked, played or lived on Scotland’s canals in the recent past. Anyone with a story to tell is urged to get in touch with Scottish Canals via enquiries@scottishcanals.co.uk.

Anyone wishing to view the records can contact the enquiries team at National Records of Scotland.