The River Clyde has always played an important role in the history of Glasgow. It is often said, "Glasgow made the Clyde and the Clyde made Glasgow." The Clyde is approximately 100 miles long, the third longest in Scotland, rising in the Lanarkshire hills. Upstream it flows swiftly with spectacular stretches such as the Falls of Clyde near Lanark. From here the river flows between Hamilton and Motherwell then through Blantyre and Bothwell, past Uddingston and through Rutherglen and Dalmarnock and on to the city of Glasgow itself.
The Pre-Nineteenth Century River
Until the early nineteenth century, at Glasgow the river was a shallow estury with sandbanks and islets known as inches. 'Glasgow was checked and kept under by the shallowness of her river, every day more and more filling (silting) up,' wrote one of Oliver Cromwell's excise officers in the mid-seventeenth century. Although from around 1775 small coasters could safely come upstream and from 1818 foreign trading vessels could dock at the Broomielaw, many merchants had to off-load their cargoes at one of the ports outside Glasgow and have them carried upriver on pack horses or by small boats. Downstream and in deper water, Dumbarton, Irvine and Greenock were other main ports with Port Glasgow established by Glasgow merchants in 1662.
The Engineering of The Clyde
As international trade developed, pressure increased from the 'tobacco lairds' to deepen the river so that bigger vessels could dock in Glasgow itself. The Clyde was deepened in 1812 and this huge project- known as the Lang Dyke- was devised by engineers including James Smeaton, John Golbrone and Thomas Telford. It ensured that large vessels could come straight into the Broomielaw in the centre of the city.
Between 1768 and 1790 the Forth and Clyde Canal was constructed. Joining the Clyde at Bowling Harbour, the canal linked commerce merchant communitites of the East and West together. By the 1810's, Scotland's engineers were playing a leading role in the development of the Steam Engine, shipbuilding and engineering which was fundamental to this region of Scotland. The significant engineering advances relating to the Clyde paved the way for Glasgow to become the 'Second City of the Empire.'
The Twentieth Century and Beyond
Clyde shipbuilding played a vital role during the early twentieth century, especially during WWI and WWII. Places such as Clydebank were heavily bombed during WWII. The Clyde and its industries began to decline during the 1960s and only a few shipyards remain open today at Govan, Scotstoun and Greenock. However, the areas along the Clydeside are now undergoing massive regeneration. A new identity is emerging as a result, one of recreation, residence and business, fostered by Clyde Waterfront.