On the afternoon of November 26, 1912, a storm of hurricane proportions hit the West of Scotland, bringing more than half an inch of rain, and winds gusting in excess of 75 miles an hour. The storm was not the most violent on record but its peak coincided with the high tide causing more widespread damage. High tide at Glasgow reached over 25 feet, the highest value since 1882 so that the channel was 50 feet deep. Contractors cranes were blown over at the new Meadowside Granary. The steamships Architect and Clydeholm were damaged in the harbour and the Cervales was ashore.
Further down the river, Bowling Harbour was submerged and the Renfrew and Yoker ferries were suspended. Helensburgh was isolated with roads and railway flooded, Ashton esplanade was damaged and the esplanade at Fairlie was washed away. Some of the worst damage was recorded on the Cowal shore. Dunoon Town Council reported that 100 yards of the West Bay Promenade was swept into the sea, leaving the old sea wall. It was estimated that the costs of repair would be in the region of £2,000 to the town and £1,000 to private owners. The shore road at Strone was washed away.
What follows here are a number of photographs of the events and contemporary reports from the Scotsman newspaper in the succeeding two days, November 27 and 28. The storm and its after effects were well photographed as the height of the tempest struck in the early afternoon when there was sufficient light for photography.
“Renfrew Ferry stopped.—Not for sixteen years was there such a high tide in the Clydebank district as yesterday. The shipyards on the north and south banks of the river were inundated , and thousands of men had to suspend their labours for the day. The wind, too, blew with great force, and this was additional danger to be reckoned with by the men. All outside work in the yards of Messrs Beardmore and Messrs Brown was brought to a stop at about three o’clock. A torpedo boat started on her trials from the yard of the latter, but had to return after sustaining slight damage. The water rose to the level of the wall at Rothesay Dock, one of the vessels broke from her moorings, and great difficulty was experienced in saving her from going adrift.
“Renfrew ferry was stopped for over four hours, and on the south side the water flowed down the streets. The banks of the river were completely covered, and the lands up to near Blythswood House, the seat of Lord Blythswood, were completely submerged. Yoker Burn overflowed, and a public house in Glasgow Road was inundated to the extent of some feet. Besides numerous hoardings being blown down, the large fencing of the ground of Yoker Athletic Football Club was completely levelled. A woman was blown of her feet and sustained serious injuries.
“Damage at Renfrew—Renfrew suffered much, particularly in the Moorpark district. In the afternoon the water proceeded as far up the town as the Brown Institute. For a time Paisley tramways could go no further than the Cross, the water in several parts being five feet deep. Houses were flooded. Outdoor labour was at a standstill in the shipyards, which were flooded.
“Greenock lorryman killed.—flooding at the quayside—The most serious accident in Greenock occurred about midday, when the storm was at its height. In Sir Michael Street a gust overturned a horse and coal lorry belonging to Mr J. Martin, the driver, James Murphy, being pinned under the vehicle. When the lorry was raised, Murphy was found face downwards, with his arms spread out. He was seriously injured about the head, and had been instantly killed. Several workmen employed in Paul Jones & Son’s yacht-building yard narrowly escaped with their lives. There a new workshop built of wood over iron frames was practically wrecked, the ends being blown away, fortunately outwards, while the roof and sides were partially, stripped of woodwork. The frames, though bent out of shape, held together, and to this circumstance the men owe their lives. Throughout the town, not only chimney cans and slates were dislodged, but in several cases chimney heads and gables were blown to the street. At 62 Rue-end Street a chimney head fell through the roof into the house occupied by Mrs M‘Lean. The ceiling fell in on the occupant, but she escaped without injury. Steamer traffic to the coast was interrupted. The steamer Iona, for Ardrishaig, with mails and passengers, failed to make the passage, and returned to Greenock. The tide was higher than at any time during the past twenty years, and in consequence there was considerable flooding in the streets near the quayside.
“Gourock.—Much damage to property was caused, at Gourock. The tide covered the Esplanades, and the flood caused a stoppage of the cars to Ashton.
Gourock Pier (Murdoch)
“Effect of high tide at Port-Glasgow.—At Port-Glasgow the tide was exceptionally high, the embankments of the harbours being inundated, and the water in the harbours being level with those of the firth. Close upon high tide the water of the East Harbour rushed over the dock gate like a waterfall and filled the graving dock. At several parts of the town the streets were flooded, notably at the Dockhead, where the water lay to a depth of close upon two feet. Shops were flooded and had to be closed, while the tramway car service. was maintained with great difficulty. Workmen going home for dinner had to wade through the water knee deep. Fortunately the wind was from the south, and the timber ponds, being sheltered, suffered little damage. A large shed in the shipbuilding yard of Messrs Robert Duncan & Co. (Limited) was blown down and three men were injured, while the roof of the joiner shop, extending about 150 feet, was also blown off. A chimney fell through the counting house roof of Messrs Ferguson Brothers, shipbuilders, and several windows were smashed, but no further injury was sustained. A workman in the employment, of the Clyde Shipbuilding and Engineering Company’s yard had his foot seriously injured by the falling of a large piece of corrugated iron. Uprights and staging in all the yards were blown down, while owing to the unusually high tide, blocks, barrels, &c, were floated out to sea. A young woman narrowly escaped serious injury by a wall being blown down in Argyle Street, while in the same neighbourhood a man was rendered unconscious by a bill-posting station being blown down upon him. Work in most of the shipbuilding yards had to be suspended during he afternoon.
“Dumbarton and Vale of Leven.—Dumbarton suffered considerably from the storm. When the tide rose the shipyards and engine works were flooded, and the men had to leave their employment about midday. Water from the Leven invaded the High Street, flooding a large number of the shops and interrupting the tramway service. When the gale was at its full fury it was almost impossible to make one’s way along the street. The town’s Broad Meadow lands are protected from the Leven by a high embankment, but the waters rushed over this, if they did not actually break through, and flooded the hundred acres embraced in the Broad Meadow and Meadow Park. There was also flooding at other parts of the town, and pedestrians had considerable difficulty in making their way about. Communication was temporarily cut off by both railway lines being submerged at Dumbuck.
“A Renton woman named Mrs Stewart was blown to the ground in the afternoon at Renton, and had her ankle dislocated. Several children were also blown off their feet, while a large hoarding was blown across the Main Street and clean through the large plate-glass window of a Renton butcher. The river Leven overflowed its banks at Dalquhurn Works, Renton, with the result that a number of the employees had to cease work. Several houses in that neighbourhood were also flooded.”—Scotsman, November 27, 1912
All along the Cowal coast the towns from Innellan to Strone were pounded by heavy seas.
Storm at Innellan
Storm at Dunoon
Dunoon Pier in the height of the storm
Waves breaking at Dunoon Pier (McGeachie)
Waves breaking at Dunoon Pier (McGeachie)
“High tides on Ayrshire coast.—extraordinary flooding.—Tempestuous weather was experienced on the Ayrshire coast all day yesterday. The storm was preceded and accompanied by a rapid fall of the barometer, and about two o’clock, when it ceased falling, the mercury was at a lower point than has been reached since the great storm of November last year. The gale reached great force, and, occurring at spring tide, there was an unusually high tide, the water reaching the top of the quay walls at Ayr Harbour, and flowing halfway across the streets. Great volumes of water were thrown up by the sea on the esplanades north and south of the harbour, and the south esplanade was a river of water three feet deep, which poured in a cataract into the harbour at the end of the slip dock. The wind lifted great clouds of spray from the sea and carried it far inland. No serious accident occurred, but a good deal of minor damage was done to house property. Much rain fell in the earlier part of the day, and the rivers and burns were in heavy flood.”—Scotsman, November 27, 1912
Storm at Fairlie
Breaking seas at Largs on November 26, 1912
Millport in the Storm
Storm at Millport
Storm at Millport
The Ayshire coast had also suffered greatly in a storm the previous year, on November 5, 1911, when the streets of Largs were inundated.
Largs in a storm in February 1910 (Hampton)
Largs flood on November 5, 1915 (Simpson)
“Shopkeepers’ plight at Saltcoats.—streets impassable.—Some exciting incidents occurred at Saltcoats. It was one of the worst storms of recent years, causing a great amount of damage in the town. About noon heavy seas were breaking over the braes at the harbour, and the water, rushing through the narrow thoroughfare into Dockhead Street, flooded it. The shopkeepers hurriedly prepared to keep out the flood which was coming into the shops both at the rear and in front. They shut their doors and used clay to fill up the crevices and make all water-tight. In some cases the flood got in before anything could be done. Business was suspended, as customers would have to wade through two or three. feet of water to make their purchases. The principal thoroughfare presented an unusual sight. The wind lashed the flood into waves and the spindrift was carried over the houses. Here and there were to be seen men with brooms trying to keep the cesspools clear, and brushing the water away, but their efforts had little result. At Quay Street the inhabitants had an early visitation from the flood. Part of the thoroughfare is low-lying and runs to the harbour. The sea at once got into the houses, and the street was impassable . It was nothing short of a calamity to many of the households, composed to a large extent of the poorest in the community. Their beds and bedding were soaked, furniture damaged, and they themselves had to seek shelter elsewhere till the water receded. Their houses were in a pitiable state owing to the mud left by the flood. A wild sea was running at the east shore, which always suffers badly in a south-west gale. Large waves were breaking over the esplanade, and, striking the sea wall, rose in columns of spray, which was carried over the railway and over the houses. Owing to the volume of water thrown on the line, it became flooded, but traffic was not interrupted, although the trains had to proceed cautiously. When going past the Canal Street crossing the carriages were almost buried in spray, and they emerged with the sea water running from their roofs. At West Beach the flood invaded Windmill Street, getting into the houses, and some residents had to be rescued from their homes. Winton Circus experienced the fury of the gale, the sea breaking over the esplanade, flooding the road and preventing access to the houses. Some or the residents managed to get into their houses through the gardens at the rear, and after scaling a boundary wall. Some windows were blown in near the centre of the town, and the streets were strewn with slates and broken chimney cans.
Troon Esplanade in November 1912
Troon, the Cross in November 1912
“Serious flooding at Troon—dwelling-houses surrounded by water.—In Troon there was the most serious flooding that has been experienced in the history of the town. Driven by a south-westerly gale, tempestuous seas broke on the south shore, and at twelve o’clock, an hour before full tide was due, the water forced its way over the sea wall, and, rushing in considerable volume down West Portland Street, soon rendered the streets in the vicinity of the Cross impassable. Subsequently the wind increased in violence, and the seas were driven further inland, the water rising to a depth of from three to four feet in some places. Portland Street and Ayr Street were completely under water, while Templehill Street, at the south end, was also submerged. In some of the adjoining streets, particularly in the vicinity of the Cross, where the water was dammed by the harbour railway embankment, most of the tenement properties were wholly surrounded by water to a depth of several feet, and the occupants could reach or leave their homes only by forcing their way through the flood on foot. At the first sign of approaching danger shopkeepers took the customary precaution of shutting their premises and erecting storm-boards, so that for the remainder of the day business was suspended in the town. The post office was one of the first public institutions to feel the effects of the storm, and was obliged to close its doors about one o’clock, urgent and necessary business being subsequently conducted in temporary premises under difficult conditions. The Police Station was also unapproachable, and the higher grade and elementary schools had to be closed early on account of the playgrounds being submerged. While no estimate of the damage can meanwhile be made with assurance, it may be mentioned that on the occasion of the serious flooding in November of last year, the loss to merchants alone amounted to £1500. So far as can be ascertained, meantime there has been no loss of life nor serious injury to person.”—Scotsman, November 27, 1912
The following day, there were further reports from towns where communications had been interrupted.
“Glasgow—43 cases treated by Ambulance Associaton.—The storm in Glasgow had completely subsided yesterday, and during the day and in the evening the weather was dry, and the temperature low and suggestive of frost. Traces of the force of the gale were still plentiful, and a large number of minor accidents to passengers in the streets were reported. During Tuesday no fewer than forty-three cases were attended by the St Andrew’s Ambulance Association, and of these ten occurred within an hour. Many of the persons treated had been injured by being blown against vehicles or being struck by articles dislodged from buildings or lorries.
“The damage to shipping.—The aspect of the harbour , where for a time the water had been almost level with the quays , had yesterday returned to the normal. A visit to the principal docks, however, showed occasional evidences of damage done by the storm. The three-vessels in Queen’s Dock which were damaged by the French barque Marischal de Noailles, which was loosed from her moorings at the buoys, appeared to require some overhauling of deck fittings. Two of them, the Avoca and the Bayard, which were due to leave on Tuesday, were delayed to undergo repairs, the former having received considerable damage to her bridge, while the latter was dismasted.
“One of the most remarkable illustrations of the abnormal nature of the flood, so far as shipping was concerned, was the stranding of the small coasting steamer Carnlea, together with the tug by which she was being towed from Bowling after having been launched a few hours previously. The vessel was lifted a considerable distance beyond the bank of the river, and yesterday she was well out of the reach of the water, even at full tide. It is evident that re-launching is the only means of getting her off the ground. The four-masted Norwegian ship Lancing drifted from the anchorage off Greenock on Tuesday, and grounded on the shore at Craigendoran. Yesterday the ship was towed back to the anchorage.
“Man drowned off Girvan.—When the steamer Dunvegan , trading between Girvan and Irish ports with coal, arrived at Girvan Harbour on Wednesday afternoon, the captain told a thrilling tale of the vessel’s experience in Tuesday’s gale. The Dunvegan left Dublin on Monday evening and arrived off Girvan at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, but was unable to make the harbour owing to the heavy seas on the bar. After cruising about for a time, another attempt was made to make the harbour, but this was equally unsuccessful, and as the gale increased about ten o’clock the captain was forced to run, across the firth to Lamlash for shelter. While running before the gale about 10 a.m., one of the large seas which continually swept the vessel from stem to stern washed one of the crew overboard. Lifebuoys were immediately flung to the unfortunate sailor, and the steamer was put about, but by that time the man had disappeared under the water. His name was Robert M‘Master, an A.B., who resided at Portavogie, County Down, Ireland, and he leaves a widow and child. The captain of the Dunvegan says that he never before saw such a heavy sea in the Firth of Clyde as that of yesterday, and he has had twenty years’ experience.
“Damage at Dunoon—West Bay promenade nearly washed away.—The West Bay Promenade at Dunoon, which is a popular thoroughfare with visitors during the summer season, was nearly washed away by Tuesday’s storm. Large portions of it were completely carried away by the storm, and several of the houses there were flooded. One lady in one of the West Bay houses had to be taken out of her house in a boat, the water flooding the lower flat of the house. It is estimated that several thousand pounds will be needed to repair the damage at the West Bay Esplanade alone. The pier at Dunoon has been badly damaged. The large iron gates at the goods entrance were torn from their position by the waves, and the glass screen at the passenger gangway was blown in. On the pier several of the wooden planks have become loose. At Kirn Pier a large portion of the gangway down the pier was washed away.”—Scotsman, November 28, 1912
Storm damage on the west promenade at Dunoon
Storm damage on the west promenade at Dunoon
Storm damage on the west promenade at Dunoon
Assessing the storm damage at Dunoon
Storm damage on the west promenade at Dunoon
Storm damage on the west promenade at Dunoon
Storm damage on the west promenade at Dunoon
The village of Strone also suffered considerable damage.
Storm damage at Strone Church
Storm damage at Strone
Damage to the coast road at Strone
Strone Pier with storm damage
The aftermath of the storm at Strone
“Lochlomondside.—The effects of the storm at Loch Lomondside and Vale of Leven districts were only fully known yesterday. Great havoc was done by the gale at Loch Lomondside, where the farmers have suffered much from the storm. Many of the Loch Lomond fields are under water, while on all the Loch Lomondside estates large numbers of valuable trees have been blown down. Yesterday the Loch Lomond district presented a wintry appearance, the hills being covered with snow. Some motorists had to leave their cars and walk part of the way along Loch Lomondside owing to so many trees falling on the road as they passed along. The Vale of Leven was isolated yesterday so far as telegraphic communication was concerned.
“Helensburgh isolated.—From noon on Tuesday till yesterday morning, Helensburgh was pretty much isolated from the outside world, as there were no trams nor steamers available, and both telegraphic and telephonic systems had broken down owing to the gale. To get anything like a parallel of the local conditions prevailing on Tuesday one has to go back for over thirty years, when a somewhat similar state of matters prevailed. The flooding on the line between Craigendoran and Helensburgh was such that no train could go through. The 12.52 train from Helensburgh did not leave the station, and the 10 a.m. train from Fort-William was held up at Upper Helensburgh for the day. In the evening many of the daily travellers from the City reached Dumbarton or Cardross , and completed the journey to Helensburgh on foot or by driving. Unfortunately the supply of vehicles was limited, and those who did the journey on foot had a trying experience. Near Camis-Eskan the road was flooded to the depth of a couple of feet for nearly 150 yards, and this had either to be waded or a wide detour made through the fields. The journey from Glasgow to Helensburgh took from five to seven hours. Motor cars left Helensburgh to proceed to Cardross and Dumbarton, but at one time no fewer than eleven cars were held up at Camis-Eskan. The large cars, with high wheels, had a chance of rushing through this lake, but lower cars, in making the attempt, were brought to a standstill with their engines submerged, and had to be extricated by horse haulage. A breakdown of the telegraph and telephone also took place about noon. No mails left the town between 10.20 a.m. and 6.15 p.m., when the postmaster had a mail dispatched by road. No mails arrived from the morning till midnight. This late mail contained telegrams which had been handed in at Glasgow and elsewhere for transmission. The town suffered greatly from flooding along East and West Clyde Streets. The water lay about 18 inches deep in some of the shops in West Clyde Street, and in many dwelling houses the water surged through the lower flats. Here and there great breaches were made in the sea walls. It is estimated that about £1000 will have to be spent to make good the damage to the batteries.”—Scotsman, November 28, 1912
Helensburgh and the Gareloch were also affected by the storm on November 5, 1911. One event from that year was the stranding of the Allan Line steamer Siberian.
Helensburgh on November 5, 1911 (McNeuer and Bryden)
Row (Rhu) on November 5, 1911 (McNeuer and Bryden)
“Liner ashore in the Gareloch. The Allan liner Siberian, which went ashore in the Gareloch off Shandon on Saturday, floated at night, and after drifting about for a time she again took the shore, this time at Rowmore Point, further up the loch, where she lies well up on the shore. Yesterday two tugs made unavailing efforts to get her off.”—Scotsman, November 7, 1911
“The Allan liner Siberian, which grounded in the upper part of the Gareloch during Saturday’s gale, is being emptied of bunker coals and stores. The steamer was carried well up on the beach by the heavy seas.”—Scotsman, November 11, 1911
“During the past week unavailing efforts were made to refloat the Allan liner Siberian, which lies on the beach off Rowmore Point, in the Gareloch. The crew put on board to keep up steam have now been, withdrawn, and it is understood that no further efforts, will be made to float the vessel till the high tides in the spring.”—Scotsman, November 7, 1911
The spring tide in December seems to have allowed the Siberian to be refloated. At any rate she was back at her anchorage in January 1912, when she had a notable collision with the Lucy Ashton, related in a previous article.
In 1912, the wet and stormy weather continued into December. Towards the end of that month, serious flooding was reported in the Vale of Leven and Lochlomondside.
“Lochlomondside.—The excessive rainfall at Loch Lomondside and Vale of Leven during the past few weeks has resulted in extensive flooding. On Saturday the loch had risen so high that the North Lodge on the Cameron House estate, Loch Lomondside, fully three miles from Alexandria , was surrounded by water, while the main road to Luss at Auchendennan Bay was completely covered with water, with the result that all traffic had to take the roundabout way through the Auchendennan policies. Rain fell heavily on Saturday, and the loch was still rising. The Loch Lomond roads have been badly cut up, and many fields are under water. The river Endrick has overflowed its banks, and much flooding has taken place in the lower reaches of the Strathendrick valley. It is eighteen years sinca the river Leven was so high. On Saturday the boat shed and house of Mr John Sweeny, boathirer, Balloch, were completely flooded out while entrance to Messrs Lynn’s boat-hiring establishment at Balloch could be gained only by means of planks placed across the water. Owing to the Balloch Sawmill being flooded work had to be suspended there. The disputed ground there in connection with the Balloch right-of-way case was flooded. Owing to the river overflowing at Renton, work had to be suspended on Saturday morning at Cordale Works there. Many acres of land at Strathleven, Bonhill, and Lower Dalquhurn, Renton, are under water, while the road along the river bank at Dillichip Works, Bonhill, was impassable. Entrance to some of the houses on the bank of the river had to be obtained by means of planks.”—Scotsman, December 23, 1912
Flood on Loch Lomond, December 23, 1912
Cameron Lodge on Loch Lomond, December 23, 1912
An Argyll car on the Cameron Brae on Loch Lomond, December 23, 1912
“More flooding in Vale of Leven.—A wild storm of wind and rain again swept over the Loch Lomondside and Vale of Leven districts yesterday. Rain fell heavily from nine o’clock in the morning, and the rainstorm was accompanied by a strong gale. The river Leven again rose considerably, and along the river bank flooding again occurred, the road being impassable at various points. At Auchendennan Bay, Loch Lomondside the motorists and country vanmen had a trying time getting through the Loch Lomond road there, where Loch Lomond had overflowed. The gardener’s house at Cameron House policies, Loch Lomondside, was flooded, and the occupants had to take refuge in the stables.
“Telegraph wires broken.—At Helensburgh the gale was severly felt. Between five and six o’clock the telegraph wires giving communication, with Glasgow and the outside world broke down, and an hourr later the four telephone trunk wires broke down, thus completely isolating Helensburgh from, both telegraph and telephone systems. A heavy door of a furniture van was blown across Princes Street and hurled through the plate-glass window of the shop of Mr Renwick, outfitter.
“Scow sunk in Loch Lomond.—narrow escape of two men.—During the storm of wind and rain at Loch Lomond a scow loaded with forty tons of cement was sunk. The scow, belonging to Mr John Sweeney, Balloch, arrived at Loch Arklet Waterworks Pier, Inversnaid, yesterday, with a cargo of cement for Messrs Charles Brand & Son, Glasgow, contractors at the Glasgow Corporation works there. Two men were in charge—Joseph Curran, Alexandria, and John Duncan, Bowling. When the scow was alongside the pier the storm increased with such violence that they made for safety to the Inveruglas shore, on other side of the loch, two and a half miles distant. After battling with the waves the scow sank stern first about a quarter of a mile from the Inveruglas shore in a great depth of water. The two men managed to escape in a small boat after an exciting experience. The mast of the scow just missed the small boat as it sank. The accident occurred about two o’clock. The two men reached Balloch last night with the Loch Lomond steamer.”—Scotsman, December 25, 1912
“An adventure in the Gareloch.—During the gale on Christmas Eve a boat belonging to the C.T.S. Empress in the Gareloch, and manned by an officer and ten of the ship’s lads, had a narrow escape from being swamped through the waves breaking over the boat while the passage was being made between Row Pier and the ship. Unable to make the Empress, the boat got under the stern of the steam yacht Hecate, and the lads hung on to the mooring-chain. The boys got safely on board the steam yacht, where they spent the night. Helensburgh Pier railings suffered damage by floating logs. The spire of the Parish Church in Clyde Street was stripped of its lead covering.
“Houseboat capsized.—In Lochlomondside and the Vale of Leven district the storm continued throughout the night with great severity. Yesterday the Vale of Leven was isolated, so far as telegraph communication was concerned, while the river Leven rose six inches at Balloch since Tuesday. A houseboat was driven from its moorings at Balloch, and capsized, while a portion of the Vale of Leven Football Club’s barricade at Millbum Park was levelled to the ground.
“Incidents at Dunoon.—Tuesday night’s storm was one of the most severe experienced in the Dunoon district, and in some respects it surpassed last month’s storm. There was a nerae gale of wind from tho Tvost , and thero was a heavy sea running in tlio firth . Tho steamers were all behind time in arriving at Dunoon, and some were unable to land their passengers at the pier. Messrs Macbrayne’s mail steamer Grenadier, about 6 p.m., made three attempts , to take the pier, and was unsuccessful each time. She manoeuvred about off Dunoon for ahout three-quarters of an hour but at last had to proceed to Greenock. The North British steamer also attempted to take the pier about six o’clock, but was blown out to sea again by the force of the gale, and had to proceed to the Holy Loch. One of the small houses on the Glebe was flooded by the burn which runs alongside overflowing, and the occupants had to beat a hasty retreat. The late Caledonian steamer did not call at Kirn or Dunoon Piers, bat proceeded to Hunter’s Quay, where she landed her passengers for this district and then proceeded to Rothesay.”—Scotsman, December 26, 1912
Dramatic postcards of stormy weather on the coast were available for most piers and resorts. The north facing bays were susceptible to flooding and damage from less common nor’westers.
Ashton, Gourock (Robertson)
Rothesay in a storm (Valentine)