Our first taste of Scotland proved to be better than was at first considered. The hotel at Lockerbie was more comfortable than we had expected and we found it was quite historical, as I understand Sir Walter Scott did some of his writing there. A room still carries a brass tablet with his name engraved thereon. As we had a very good breakfast it was decided that we should have our lunch on the roadside somewhere before we reached Glasgow and therefore we did not hurry on the way, as we only had 80 miles to cover.
Being Sunday, we again noticed the large number of cyclists on the road. Of course, some were only going out for the day, but there were scores who were laden with luggage and we presumed that these would be touring the country.
It is quite a common practice for two people to ride a tandem bike and set out by themselves. Mostly such couples would be a young man and a girl and as we had not means of ascertaining whether they were married or single we always presumed that the old song of a bicycle made for two was not out of date. Sometimes there would be two and even three couples on tandem bikes and again there would be a mixture of tandem and single bikes on the road together. I took a couple of photos. of such parties this morning, but as it was dull and they were riding quickly I am very doubtful as to whether the speed of the shutter was fast enough for the speed of the bike.
Yesterday we saw the best of all, but unfortunately there was not a good opportunity of taking the photo. It was a tandem bike with a man and a woman thereon and attached to it was a small and light sidecar in which were two tiny children about the same size and presumably twins. If I see that bike again I will certainly photograph it.
As all the roads are tar sealed and there are no hills of any consequence on most of them, England is an excellent country for the cyclists. There is one disadvantage, but that does not worry them. It is the rain. There seems to be no season of the year when the country is free from rain. This is now midsummer and yet we have had as many wet days as fine, especially in the north. However, the cyclists just have a thin waterproof cape which folds up into a parcel to fit an ordinary pocket and when I rains they just slip this on and forget about the weather.
Many of them also ride without anything on their heads. I agreed with that idea. As my New Zealand hat was not too fashionable in London and I did not have time to select a new one, I scarcely ever wore a hat in the city. When I was starting on this trip I again thought the hat would be a nuisance so I left it in the wardrobe at the Royal Empire Society and I have had nothing on my head since I left London. Notwithstanding that there is now not much hair on the top of my head and the sunshine top of the car is always open, I am very little sunburnt. There is one big difference between cycling and motoring and that is we frequently see the cyclists racing on the side of the road and although we pass them they never pass us.
The road to Glasgow is very pretty in places, but for most of the journey there is little or nothing to see. There is an absence of those walls of stone and earth. Wire fences are sometimes used, but we travelled for many miles to-day through land where there were no fences and we had to watch the sheep straying on the road.
I noticed these sheep were different from ours. They not only had their long tails, but the wool was long and shaggy. They also had black faces and black feet. I took a couple of photos. of some of these on the road, but their wool was so long that I am afraid their black feet will not be seen.
When we reached Hamilton we decided to have our lunch. We watched for a pretty spot and saw a lane leading off the main road.
We went down it and under a large tree amongst beautiful surroundings and a river flowing at our feet we had our lunch. When the meal was over I got into conversation with one of the residents and learnt that I had selected the estate of the Duke of Hamilton as our picnic ground. After wandering around it and seeing the watermill which was still in use, notwithstanding it was many years of age, we drove on to Glasgow.
The next town we went through was Bothwell. It stuck me as being strange that Hamilton and Bothwell should be side by side here when they are in the same position in Tasmania. We have passed through quite a number of towns here with names which have been copied in Australia or New Zealand. Just a little further on from Bothwell we saw Oatlands and yesterday we went through Bridgewater. We also went through a very pretty little town called Keswick. I remember when I was a boy and a name was being selected for Moonah that one of the councillors who came from the north of England tried hard to get the name of Keswick, but for some unknown reason to me, Moonah was selected. I thought of this incident as I was admiring the beautiful homes of Keswick on the side of a lake.
We arrived at Glasgow at 2.30 p.m., but it was nearly 5 o’clock before we could find accommodation. I knew there was likely to be some difficulty as the Exhibition is taxing the capacity of the boarding houses and hotels. We got tired of driving to first one place and then another, only to be told they were full. In the end I got one of the houses to telephone to some other places, but even that was not successful, although it saved some time.
At last we heard of a new private hotel which had been opened quite recently. Although the charge of £4 per day for the party was a little more than we expected, we were forced to accept it. I began to think that living in Scotland was going to be costly, as at lunch time we had bought eight slices of bread and a pint of milk at our hotel when we were leaving after breakfast and that cost 2/- and a tip.
However, there was better to come. After we got settled in our hotel Lois and I went out to see something of the place. We had been told to go to the Botanical Gardens. We asked two young ladies who were going home from tennis how to get there. She replied, “Just take a halfpenny tram ride and you will be put down at the gate”. This was too much for Lois and she burst out laughing and said, “Please say that again”. The girl could not see the joke and then we explained that in our country the cheapest ride we could get is 2d. We spent a halfpenny and got to the gardens.
As it was raining lightly we made for the glass houses. Just inside the doorway there is a fish pond with ferns growing in the centre. I noticed several Scotch people looking intently at the water. Thinking that there was some special kind of fish I joined them, only to find that someone had thrown a piece of round tin into the water and the Scotchmen were trying to decide whether it was worth while getting wet to see whether it was a shilling!
We passed on to the other side and Lois was greatly excited when she saw a New Zealand Rangiora growing about two feet high. It was a measly shrub compared with what we have in the open in New Zealand. This made us realise that the climate here must be very much colder than New Zealand, for this and several other New Zealand trees that we saw in the glass house have to be grown in this way in Scotland. We also saw an Australian blue gum, but it had grown about 8 feet high and was so spindly that it was tied to a post and was more like a creeper than a tree. We were just enjoying the fun when we were called by an official who told us it was closing up time and we were to go out. When we told him we were just admiring the New Zealand trees and we were from New Zealand he took us to where the New Zealand national flower was growing, but again it was a very poor specimen compared with the native specimens in our bush. We had quite an interesting conversation and then we left for the hotel.
Although we could have walked home quite easily Lois preferred to wait in the rain until the tram came so that she could have another halfpenny ride. Here I am at 10.30 sitting by the window writing at this by daylight, notwithstanding that it is raining and a dull night. To-morrow we are having breakfast at 9 o’clock so that we can get an early start for the Exhibition and therefore I will now have my bath and get some sleep.
We duly arrived at the Exhibition Ground, which is a few miles out of the city. It was raining when we started from Glasgow and it was raining when we entered the ground. This had a depressing effect upon us and also the exhibition people. They told us the last week was the worst they had experienced in the month of June for over 20 years. Certainly it was very bad.
The Exhibition covers several acres of land and the exhibits of the different countries and industries are in separate buildings.
One of the places I visited was a wool store and here I saw some of the wool from the queer sheep I had seen on the road to Glasgow. I ascertained from an attendant that many of the sheep in this district are of this breed, but they also have other breeds. They are called “black face” sheep and their wool is long and coarse. I pulled some of it and found it almost like hair. This wool is used for making carpets. At the same time I was shown some other Scottish wool which was the finest I had ever seen.
Just before lunch time we came across a Rotary building and I received a very happy welcome. Dr. P. Lavery was in charge at the time and made me promise to return with the rest of the party. We then walked around from one stall to the next one. Some very good and some were very ordinary. We inspected the New Zealand stand, but it was not nearly as good as the Australian pavilion. I enjoyed reading the last few copies of the Evening Post.
Although it was wet there were about 50,000 people in the Exhibition Grounds. I believe the official records showed the attendance of 51,050 persons. We had our tea there and then saw some more of the shows until about 10.30. We were very tired when we got home and we were all of the opinion that it was not as good as we had expected. Perhaps we expected too much, as it had been well advertised in London and on the boat on the way over. Also, it must be remembered the wet day spoilt some of the sights.
The next morning I started early for Andrew Stevens & Sons Ltd. a large firm of ship builders on the River Clyde. At the Exhibition I had met a man in one of the shipping rooms and had mentioned to him that I would like to see some of the ship building. He very kindly arranged for me to go to Stevens’ yards, where they were building a ten thousand ton boat for the P. & O. Company, and also some warships for the navy. I had a little trouble in finding them, as I did not know my way about Glasgow, and as it is a city about the size of Sydney with a population of over 1¼ millions, it takes a little watching, otherwise I would have got lost.
I had to cross the Clyde in a ferryboat and this was very interesting. The Clyde is only a narrow river and I could almost throw a stone across, but they cannot build a bridge just at this spot because there are so many large vessels coming up and down the river. Consequently, the government runs this ferry boat free for all kinds of traffic.
There is a small steamboat for the pedestrians and a punt which could take eight fair sized cars.
While I was waiting to get across to the other side I took a couple of photos. of the yards, showing one of the cruisers, as I knew I would not be permitted to enter the yards with a camera. I also took the punt which is a double decker arrangement, as the banks of the river are too high for the cars to leave from water level.
The yards are completely fenced with barbed wire and walls. As soon as I drove into the gate the guard at the entrance stopped me, but as soon as I mentioned the name of the director I was to see I was permitted to park the car inside and I was shown the way to the office of Mr. McQuarrie. Here I was cross examined in a very nice manner, but I was able to show credentials and satisfy the director that I was not a spy, nor was I interested in ship building from any other point of view than merely a tourist’s curiosity.
Mr. McQuarrie then sent for one of the senior engineers and I was given to him to be shown the whole working. I tried to get permission for the ladies to accompany me, but that was not given and when I got into the yards I saw how utterly impossible it would be for women to get around and see the places where I was taken. I was first taken to the boiler room. Here I saw great machines making huge boilers for the boats they were completing. It would take too long to describe the machines. At one of them I saw four men guiding a sheet of steel plate which was having holes punched in it for rivets. This plate was about half-an-inch thick and it was hard steel and yet this machine was cutting out the holes as quickly and easily as I could punch my finger through a piece of newspaper. I picked up one of the pieces and it was given to me as a souvenir.
The ship itself was about 100 yards square and there were scores of machines doing all kinds of steel work. I went to other rooms and saw a propeller shaft being turned on a lathe. This shaft weighed many tons and yet there was only one man watching the turning operation. There were large planing machines which make true rough edges of large forgings also weighing many tons. These machines have a lift arm working up and down and the edges are planed in very much the same manner as I would plane a piece of wood which was in a vertical position.
The equipment to perform all this work would run into millions of pounds.
One of the most interesting places was the plumbers’ shop. Here they prepared all the pipes which are required for a ship and of course there are very many of them. In most cases the pipes have to be bent, as they must be worked into the steel structure so that they take up as little space as possible. I saw them bending an 8” pipe which was made of very thick steel. It was first filled with sand and then made red hot in a furnace. The part which is not to be bent is cooled with water and then by means of levers the pipe is bent as easily as I would bend a piece of wire.
There were several other departments which I inspected, including the wood shop where all the cabinet making is done and the drafting room where everything is laid out full size on the floor, which is marked off as a drafting board. It was all very wonderful and interesting.
Then I was taken outside and shown two boats which were being built. The P. & O. boat was nearing completion and this was explained to me. I was glad to receive a full explanation of the manner in which the boats are prepared for launching. This work was being done and what has previously been a puzzle to me was now a simple matter.
At 12.30 I was due at a Rotary luncheon as I had promised to attend when I was at the Exhibition yesterday. It was 12.30 when I left the yards feeling exceedingly glad that I had been given the opportunity of seeing it. Of course, I did not reach the Grosvenor Hotel at the appointed time, but the luncheon did not start until 1 p.m. so that I was in time for that, although late for the appointment. I was placed at the President’s table and was given a special card signed by the president, which I am to take back to my club at Wellington. It was a very enjoyable luncheon and I met several who were very interested in New Zealand. One man had lived in Wellington for five years and knew some of the people known to me.
I had arranged to meet the rest of the party to go back to the Exhibition to see the rest of it. We drove out and just as we got there the rain started once more. It rained all the afternoon and once more spoilt the show for us. At about 7 o’clock we went home disgusted and disappointed. No doubt the exhibition would have been given a better name if the weather had been brighter, but when we got back we all decided it was a wash out.
Next morning we packed all ready for the road and then I drove into the city to meet Mr. Bain the city librarian. As our own city librarian had given me a letter of introduction I wanted to see this man, although I could not spend much time with him. However, when I got there he insisted upon my seeing something of the library and in the end I was very glad. Most of it was just what I expected and the hundreds of thousands of books on the shelves were just like other libraries. Two places interested me particularly. They were the bookbinding department, where they rebind all their books, and the strong room. The strongroom was in the basement, where the most valuable books are kept. I was shown a book containing copies of the first Glasgow paper printed in 1715. I read several paragraphs which were amusing at this time. I was shown a book in small printing which had been done entirely by hand before the printing press was invented. This book was on skin like parchment and was made in the year 1305 A.D. Several other very interesting books were shown to me but as I had promised to meet the ladies before twelve o’clock I had to leave Mr. Bain with my regrets and thanks.