In 1988, some 25 years ago, plans for a Glasgow World Maritime Heritage Centre were proposed which would use and develop Yorkhill Quay and its immense transit sheds and cathedral-size spaces inside (once the base of the Anchor Line) to help tell the story of shipbuilding, engineering, maritime discovery and international trade which made Glasgow famous and brought considerable benefits to continents and countries.
Also planned was a possible tourist-rail link up to the Kelvin Hall where the Transport Museum would continue but its shipping models, the entire collection being of international importance, would form part of the new Maritime Heritage Centre.
The proposal came from myself, archivist Michael Moss, architect and civic campaigner Geoffrey Jarvis, and Campbell McMurray, then of the Scottish Maritime Museum and future director of the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth. Space was available for some ships alongside and it could have accommodated steamships including the Clyde-built Royal Yacht Britannia.
At the same time, I introduced the idea of an arena (the London Docklands Arena used former docks). One reaction to the proposal came from local interests in Greenock and Irvine who claimed this would work against their plans, none of which came about. Clydeport was more relaxed, albeit with eyes focussed on housing developments on both banks of the Clyde. The city planners pointed out, correctly, that a new roundabout and road layouts would be needed at Pointhouse and Yorkhill.
The seeds were sown and we have the new roads; the Riverside Museum at Pointhouse next to Yorkill Basin; the Hydro entertainment arena; and the excellent Glenlee sailing ship, without which the museum would look a lonely pavilion. The museum is an interesting building and roofline but is too small, regardless of the frequency of pot-pourri displays. In particular the former Clyde Room of ship models, recognised as substantial and of world status at the Tramway and then at the Kelvin Hall Transport Museum, is posted as missing. If you can find its scattered remnants you can no longer walk round them, nor view from many perspectives to appreciate scale, time-line, beauty and significance.
Study becomes scant and the positioning is forlorn, like the back room of a small burgh museum. The re-creation of a Clyde Room should be a priority.The few other maritime artefacts should also be developed and, greatly added to. Little is shown about how ships were made, and used. No attempt was made, I believe, to put into the Riverside Museum the effective and family friendly display at Braehead of shipbuilding and travel, and that out-station of the Scottish Maritime Museum was closed instead.
There needs to be an additional new building, preferably at Pointhouse/Yorkhill. A maritime heritage centre? Other cities of the world would give their eye-teeth for our marine achievements. In Britain the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is of a good scale, paradoxically promoted and funded by Sir James Caird of Glasgow from the 1930s onwards.
Apart from the Denny Collection, its interests are mainly up to the Nelson era. Glasgow and the Clyde became shipbuilders to the world after that.The international story of Glasgow in shipbuilding and shipping requires full display, interpretation and enjoyment by a global audience. An additional benefit of such a centre would be that more space would become available in the Riverside Museum to restore the displays of trams and trains to the level expected of a city which was the largest centre in Europe of railway locomotive building. Land should be reserved and the Scottish Government, the city council, the National Heritage Lottery, engineering institutes, Glasgow University archives and others, should join forces to make it happen.
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