Twechar local history

There is a long history of mining activity in the Twechar locality but it was not until the coming of William Baird and Co. to the area, about 1860, that a close-knit mining community was created. Pits were sunk at Twechar and Gartshore and a row of workers’ houses was built on the south bank of the canal, just east of Twechar Bridge. This soon proved inadequate and around 1880 the Barrhill Rows were constructed at right angles to Main Street, on its western side. At first there were four rows, supplemented by two more about 1900, by which date the total number of dwellings in the rows was 160. The row nearest the canal included a Gartsherrie Cooperative shop and accordingly was know as the ‘Store Row’. At first the houses had no sanitation and were lit by paraffin lamps. Communal wash houses were provided at intervals along each row. Most of the houses were of the two-apartment (room and kitchen) variety.

A great improvement was made in 1925, when Baird and Co. (in response to considerable pressure from the miners themselves, over the years) provided good quality modern housing for their mine workers at Burnbrae, Annieston, Sunnyhill and adjacent streets. There were 200 dwellings in all, some two-apartment and some three-apartment, built in two-story blocks of four. They were provided with bathrooms and electric lighting. When these houses were built the old row on the south bank of the canal was demolished. The Barrhill Rows, however, lasted until 1957. The Baird houses of 1925 are still in use today. Later housing was provided by Dunbartonshire County Council at MacDonald Crescent (1939), Alexander Avenue (1948) and Kelvin View (about 1955).

The coal mining industry begun by the Bairds in the 1860s lasted for just over a century. Twechar No.1 Pit, on the north bank of the canal to the east of Twechar Bridge, closed in 1964, while Gartshore 9/11, the very last colliery in the area, was shut down in 1968. Thereafter some Twechar men travelled each day to collieries such as Bedlay and Cardowan in Lanarkshire, until they too were closed, during the early 1980s.

Baird and Co. provided rail connections to their local pits at an early date but for many years much of their coal was transported to market by canal boat. During the 1860s the canal company permitted Baird & Co. to place a railway swing bridge over the canal, a short distance to the west of Twechar road bridge, for the purpose of forming a connection between collieries on either side of the canal. As part of the deal the coal company agreed to transport a proportion of its coal by canal although this requirement lapsed early in the twentieth century. However, the swing bridge continued in use until the mid-1960s, its hand-winding apparatus having been made redundant on 1 January 1963, when the canal closed.

The reopening of the Forth and Clyde Canal, in May 2001, brings with it great opportunities for the development of Twechar, which lies close to the canal’s half-way point.

For further information a book is available on the history of Twechar. This is called the Story of Twechar by Iain M Smith.

Copies can be ordered by contacting any library in East Dunbartonshire and the Auld Kirk Museum, Kirkintilloch.