Paisley Canal Disaster
Next time you hear a rant about health and safety policy, consider the disasters that could have been avoided with a little more forethought. One such is the tragic loss of 85 lives on the newly-opened Paisley to Johnstone section of the long-planned Glasgow to Ardrossan Canal.
The section had only been in operation since November 6th. A service of great interest to locals had been set up: a pleasure barge – The Countess of Eglinton - running between the two towns of Paisley and Johnstone. For the relatively cheap price of 8d passengers could take in the views along the way and enjoy the novelty for most of travel on water. November 10th was a Saturday and Martinmas Fair Day, so a day of rest for many. The weather was unusually bright for a Scottish autumn thus a good crowd was eager to get aboard the vessel as it docked at about 1pm already full with those arriving from Johnstone .
It was evident that not all who wished to travel would find a place, so before those aboard could disembark at one end many on the dock surged forward and onto the barge at the other. A score or so were knocked into the water, where – few then could swim, and all were in stout clothing – some drowned. Worse rapidly followed as the barge with large numbers of passengers on the side nearest the dock capsized, trapping men, women and children in a covered passageway inside the craft.
It took a week to right the barge and ascertain how many had died aboard. Including those who perished after being knocked into the canal the death toll of the disaster was 85.
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