NOT for the first time, and certainly not for the last, I was wrong about the content of the archive photograph. At first glance I thought it was a workman removing iron fencing as part of the wartime effort to gather scrap iron to be melted down for steelmaking to ensure Britain had enough armaments and warships.

However the picture was taken in Clydebank in August, 1937, before war had broken out. It was in fact the removal by welder’s torch, not of the whole fence, but the “menace” of the spikes on top.

The photographer noted that the danger of spikes had been brought up in Parliament by the local MP David Kirkwood who asked Walter Elliot, Conservative MP and Secretary of State for Scotland, whether he would follow Clydebank Town Council’s lead, and have spiked railings adjacent to houses removed “in view of their ugliness and the danger which they cause to life and limb?”

Loading article content

The Secretary of State replied that it was no longer the practice of local authorities to put up spiked railings so he did not feel legislation was required. Where have we heard that from politicians?

Incidentally, whatever happened to all the railings that were removed for the war effort?

It has been claimed it was no more than a public relations exercise, far more iron was ripped up than was necessary, and most was dumped at sea.