Dumbarton and the Denny Tank

Scottish Maritime Museum: Denny Tank
Scottish Maritime Museum: Denny Tank

Ever since our visit to the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine in March, John has been itching to visit its other site at Dumbarton, the Denny Tank. The book of Clyde walks we’ve been using recently includes a 5 mile circuit of Dumbarton, so it was conceded that we could visit the tank and do the walk at the same time. But, oh look! It says café. So, of course, we had to have lunch before exploring the museum.

William Denny & Brothers’ innovative, experimental approach made waves in the shipbuilding industry from the 1800s to 1963. (Don’t blame me for the terrible pun, that’s from the museum’s website.) They built the world’s first commercial ship model experiment tank which you can still see in situ, along with associated workshops.

Ho hum, that bit wasn’t really for me, but when we got upstairs to the offices I was much more interested. I’m not usually into model ships either, but this is none other than the Cutty Sark which was built by Denny & Brothers. The cat’s head is a genuine carving from the ship.

I got really excited by this next bit, though – a Banda machine! If you don’t recognise the name, you might know it as a Ditto machine in North America or Roneo in France and Australia. Bandas were spirit duplicators, and as soon as I saw this I was taken right back to my school days. The pong. The pale purple print. The primitive technology!

Also in the offices were these large boxes – Deacon Boxes – containing graphs from over 300,000 individual ship model experiments carried out in the tank. Honestly, the whole place looked as though the workforce could come back in and get on with the job at any time.

That workforce was strictly demarcated by sex, although Denny was one of the first shipbuilding firms to employ women. The men would be downstairs doing the experiments, the women would be upstairs in the offices working as tracer / analysts. I love finding out about the history of women’s lives and how things have changed. They all look so happy in these pictures.

If you’re still with me after all that, it’s time to get some fresh air. From the museum, we headed down towards Dumbarton Castle on its plug of volcanic rock where the River Leven flows into the Clyde. The riverside path boasted a CD tree and some fairy doors!

From here, we looped back into town to the Municipal Buildings. The archway is all that remains of St Mary’s Collegiate Church, founded in 1453 (although the arch has moved twice since then). The statue is Peter Denny, one of the shipbuilding brothers.

Our route then took us down to the River Leven. From the bridge we got a view of Dumbarton Rock again, this time from its other side.

On the other bank of the Leven we walked through Levengrove Park.

The view to the Rock and Castle was stunning.

Dumbarton Rock and Castle
Dumbarton Rock and Castle

Next, we retraced our steps to the bridge. Some of the boats looked as if they needed some attention…..

Our car was parked near the red sandstone ruin in the gallery above, the last remaining part of the former Inverleven Distillery. We returned home tired but happy after a good mix of culture and exercise.

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. This week she has a lovely garden for you, plus her usual international band of cyber-walkers. All welcome!

Irvine and the Scottish Maritime Museum

Scottish Maritime Museum
Scottish Maritime Museum
A bright, sunny day in Scotland at the moment is worthy of note. Two in a row are as rare as hens’ teeth – this lovely day was the same weekend as last week’s Monday Walk. We started our visit to Irvine with a wander round the Maritime Museum – separately as John wanted to look at the great hulking engines and boats …

… whereas I preferred the items with more human interest.

I particularly liked the “shipbuilders” working high up in the roof.

The Harbourside area around the museum is picturesque.

Across the road is the café (what do you mean, did we go in? of course we did!) and more boats.

As we walked downriver, we noticed a series (we spotted seven, there might have been more) of special paving stones with Scots words. Each stone was themed: here are two – any guesses what the themes are? Bonus points for defining any of the words.

We passed The Ship Inn and a sculpture of a carter and his horse.

Then we came upon a flock of swans and a very aggressive goose who advanced, hissing, on John when he pointed his camera at it. No wonder some distilleries use them to protect the whisky.

Next, we came to The Big Idea, a museum devoted to Scottish inventors which was opened to celebrate the millennium and closed through lack of custom in 2003. It’s rather sad looking, and its massive carpark seems to be its main legacy – although John enjoyed photographing the footbridge with the names of some of his heroes.

By now we had reached the sea – I thought this picture made me look quite sinister, as if I was standing on the edge of the world. That was the intended effect anyway.

On the jetty at Irvine
On the pier at Irvine
On a previous visit, we walked from this point along the beach to the next town, Troon – see Twixmas at Troon. There be dragons! This time, we retraced our steps to the museum and headed home to Glasgow.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.