History of The Inverarnan Canal
FEASIBILITY STUDY OF INVERARNAN CANAL
Originally constructed to service the growing need for steamboat
activity and business. The Inverarnan Canal became a much used and
preferred avenue to travel from around the loch to its destination.
Although the canal still exists overgrown and unused, it serves as a
reminder of a once lively through route to the Drovers Inn and the
it will again one day.
Invitation of Water Access
seems that the Inverarnan Canal has a celebrated and specific if
somewhat unsung and short-lived history.
well documented by the 1830’s that steamboats were operating all
over Loch Lomond. These catered for locals but more specifically
tourists and with further communication needs was becoming
increasingly the preferred transport link loading from Clydebank to
Originally to travel by coach to Killin or Fort William, the steamer
berthed at Ardlui pier and then passengers, luggage and goods were
brought to shore by rowboats to the waiting connecting coach.
transfer was difficult if not impossible under certain weather
conditions. The idea was to take out this inconvenience to
passengers and to streamline the service. In 1840 the possibility
of an extension was investigated for this purpose. This was
essentially the birth of the Inverarnan Canal.
idea was initially put forward and supported by the transport and
steamboat entrepreneurs (directly involved and responsible for Loch
Lomond Steamer Transport) Mr Napier and Mr McMurrick.
Construction of the canal and its associated works commenced in
1842. The man responsible for the project and the supervisor of
work was a Mr Ferrier who was the father in law of the company
steamboat manager Mr Thomas Mclean.
Why a Canal
project was undertaken when, after receiving expert opinion, the
recommendation was that if a number of bends in the river could be
bypassed by the construction of a canal loading from the river
directly to Inverarnan. It would be feasible to navigate steamboats
to this point for better and more reliable service and connection.
conclusion also pointed out that in times of drought it was
considered that the river would have to be dredged anyway to ensure
sufficient water depth. Loch Lomond is not usually associated with
deficiencies in water. A cheaper and simple solution was to build a
jetty (mooring pier) at Ardlui. This was not done until 10 years
later. Marine history in the area shows that there was already a
pier on the West Bank of the River Falloch at Ardlui but there is no
evidence the Steamboat industry or regular businesses used it.
canal project was adversely stuck with a combination of wet weather,
severe frosts and heavy snowfall, delaying progress. It was finally
completed in 1844.
final structure was documented in Steamboat archives as being some
530 yards in length and terminating as a turning basin with landing
stage about 290 yards south of the Inverarnan Inn, diverged from the
River Falloch at a distance of approximately 1¼ miles from its
Lomond passenger Steamers 1818-1929. Allan T Codie press, Alan
Public Awareness and Advertising
recorded that Loch Lomond was the first Steamboat to have the honour
of navigating the River and the Inverarnan Canal. Publicity
increased the already fevered business and further broadened
awareness and usage of the canal through advertising it as a
specific destination. The Canal being the highlight of the trip.
to 1842 there has been no mention of Inverarnan or its Canal. It
was usually off handedly referred to as the Head of Loch Lomond, an
inclusive and broadly bland term. 1843 still shows little mention
stating only in reference that the Loch Lomond Steamer sails from
Balloch at 10am for Balmaha, Luss, Rowardenan, Tarbet, Inversnaid
and The Head of Loch Lomond returning to Balloch in the afternoon.
speculated that the steamer Loch Lomond did make one or more trial
runs to Inverarnan by the canal in 1843. An advertisement for the
“Marquis of Breadalbane” coaches in July 1843 states its departure
from the Head of Loch Lomond for Fort William every Tuesday,
Thursday and Saturday on the arrival of the Loch Lomond Steamer.
in 1844, Inverarnan and the Canal receive specific and direct
mention in advertisements thus marking its introduction and the
regular services to the pier. This was done under somewhat strained
business relations (see below).
passengers and goods were carried and coaches to Killin and
Ballahulish now normally started from the Inverarnan Inn. Coaches
serving Oban, Inverness (via the Caledonian Canal), Aberfeldy and
Crieff later augmented these services.
Points of Interest
the new steamboat arrangements including the business of Water Witch
and using Inverarnan and its canal, arrangements were made with Mr
Ainslie (of Fort William) who owned the stage coaches running
between his town and the Inverarnan Inn. The arrangement included
carrying passengers travelling by his coach at a steamer fare
between Balloch and Inverarnan of one shilling each! Similar
arrangements were also made for Inverarnan – Killin Passengers.
The Beginning of the End
mid fifties other operators, businesses and goods and services
mediums caught on to the usefulness and direct link between the Loch
and coaches via the Canal. One of the more active complaints was
written in May 1858 by Mr Andrew Menzies on behalf of the Glenorchy
and Glencoe coach company to the steamboat company requesting the
boats be allowed to go up the River Falloch at all times when
petition had an adverse effect on the canal and the action taken
from the Steamboat Company began the death of the canal. In
response the company instructed their captains to take their vessels
up the River Falloch on all occasions were it was practical to do
November 1858 the steamboat manager was ordered to ascertain whether
their service up the River Falloch had been to the public’s
satisfaction and also significantly if a certain Captain Brown had
taken over the Ardlui Pier Lease and if that personal interest was
influencing business and the Steamers destinations. The manager’s
reply to the first investigations is not recorded or known but it is
documented that he found Captain Brown was indeed the Ardlui Pier
Lessee but had promised to give it up at the end of the year (in one
company’s directive to its captains to take their vessels up the
River Falloch had fallen on deaf ears. A memorial from certain
innkeepers and farmers further exposed this in March 1861. They
claimed that the steamers did not go up the Falloch River when there
was no apparent reason not to have done so. They lobbied and
presented their complaints to the Steamboat Company.
The Decline of Inverarnan
steamers called at Ardlui, but whether they then continued up the
River Falloch to Inverarnan the ‘New’ Garbal Landing or the old
Garabal Landing appeared to depend on the whim of the Captain and to
the detriment of surrounding local business. This time the
company’s response was more positive and active. The captains were
told to take the steamers up the Falloch whenever there was
sufficient water to enable them to do so and to avoid any argument
or loophole, a water gauge was erected at Ardlui.
1860 the steamers were
carrying mails bags to and from Luss, Rowardennan, Tarbet,
Inversnaid and Ardlui but no mention is made of Inverarnan. The
transfer of mailbags was now being made at Ardlui. Inverarnan
continued to feature in the coach advertisements during the 1860’s.
It suggest that the canal was still being used up to 1868 as shown
in the following excerpts from the ‘Glasgow Herald’.
1862 The Marquis of
Breadalbane coach between Kenmore, Killin, Crianlarich and
Inverarnan will start from the season on Monday 14th
July. Leave Kenmore 7.45am. Arrive Inverarnan (Head of Loch
Lomond) in time for the 1.15pm Steamer to Balloch. Returning
1863 June 30th
– The Glencoe and Glenorchy coaches are now running between Glasgow
via Loch Lomond and Inverarnan to Tyndrum, Glencoe, Ballahulish,
Fort William, Oban and Inverness.
1866 August 30th
– The Earl of Breadalbane three horse coach leave Aberfeldy at
6.30am and arrives at Inverarnan Hotel in time for the 1.15pm
steamer to Balloch. Coach leaves Inverarnan 2.15pm.
1868 Saw the same run of
advertisements as the previous description for 1866.
1870 The Glencoe and
Glenorchy Coaches are now running every lawful day to and from the
Head of Loch Lomond, Inverarnan, Tyndrum, Dalmanny and Oban.
on from 1870 coaches advertised as running from Ardlui as The Head
of Loch Lomond. This term, which was once solely synonymous within
the Canal access to Inverarnan, was now used for the general area
The Final Chapter
opening of the Callander and Oban Railway as far as Killin (Glenogle)
on June 1st 1870 sounded the death knell for the through
services to the north via Loch Lomond. The railways now made it
quicker, more comfortable and more convenient to travel by train to
Killin and there join northbound coaches.
canal was left to its fate and navigation up and down the canal and
indeed the River Falloch faded away.
when the steamers ceased to proceed beyond Ardlui is uncertain since
the Loch Lomond Steamer timetables (those published in the Lennox
Herald, I could find) continued to use the “Head of Loch Lomond”
termination right up to the end of North British Railways ownership
(1896). From the coach advertisements a reasonable assumption that
canal locals remember would be that Inverarnan was abandoned in the
history state the above it is very interesting to note that in 1880
– 81 the trustees of the late Sir James Colquhoun of Luss commenced
to construct a bridge across the River Falloch near Ardlui. The
Earl of Breadalbane and others immediately sought to interdict the
trustees from building the bridge on the grounds that it would
interfere with the navigation of the Loch Lomond Steamboat Co’s
vessels up the Falloch to Inverarnan, even though they had ceased
calling at Inverarnan some 15 years previously.
case was duly heard at the Dumbarton Sheriff Court and an interdict
was granted. However large pillar stones (counting two today) one
on either side of the river and described as “two monuments to the
perversity of human beings” can still be seen marking the site of
the bridge which was never completed.
Before the Steamboats
steamboats and before modern ingenuity – clan days – Inverarnan was
a hive of activity and cultural living, being between Fort William,
Stirling, Glasgow and Dumbarton. Farms and business (Charcoal, red
dye, produce etc) made it a very prosperous and well-established
village to live in. The Loch was also a factor.
modern advances and more interest and purpose to move around, the
tourist industry flourished with increasing momentum. There was
much boating on the Loch.
and local business have always used the Loch and Inverarnan has been
an integral part of the business development to the area. Whether
sheep farming, business, tourism, local trade or for pleasure it was
only (in essence) time before the canal was constructed to cater for
increasing demands both for business and pleasure.
The New Loch Lomond Steamboat Co 1844
the expanding Steamer Business – Inverarnan Inn and its canal were a
deciding and legal proviso in the proceeding business and service.
Following the withdrawal of QUEEN OF SCOTS on the conclusion of the
1841 season Napier and McMurrich once again had the loch to
themselves until 1844, when a further challenge was made to their
monopoly. Napier and McMurrich operated what was basically a
seasonal tourist service although it now also formed an important
link in a transport chain to the north. Whilst bulk transport of
heavy goods continued to be catered for by sail boats there was a
growing feeling, particularly by some of the major landowners, that
a more comprehensive steamboat service on the loch would be of
general advantage. With this object in mind John Bell, of
Dumbarton, acting on behalf of a number of subscribers, purchased
for the sum of £634 the steamer WATERWITCH at a public group in
Glasgow, formerly owned by the now bankrupt business of McBrayne and
McIntyre. She had been launched at Caird’s yard, Greenock, on
Wednesday 2 August 1843 for the Glasgow and Kilmun Steam Packet Co
and according to the “Greenock Telegraph”, christen WATER WITCH.
The report also stated she was expected to be a very fast sailer and
would reflect credit on her eminent builders, who were also to
supply the engines. She was duly brought up from Glasgow to Balloch
in a single day and on 30 April 1844, at a meeting of four partners
held at the Kings Arms Inn, Dumbarton, the general arrangements
necessary for constituting the subscribers involved in the purchase
of the vessel into a joint stock company were made. The title, The
New Lochlomond Steamboat Company was provisionally adopted, with its
stated object being to operate a steamboat service on Loch Lomond
with WATERWITCH. As the Marquis of Breadalbane had expressed an
interest in being associated with the new company it had been agreed
that the draft contract of co-partnery being presently drawn up
would be submitted to the agents acting on his behalf for comment
and approbation. This met with the general approval of the Marquis
who was, however, anxious that the steamer should also ply in winter
at least twice weekly to carry not only passengers but livestock,
country produce and goods. As the goodwill of the Marquis was
obviously of importance the final draft, approved by all parties,
included the following provisions:-
That the steamer shall ply on Loch
Lomond every lawful day during the summer months, the duration of
this period to be decided by the directors in the best interests of
That the vessel shall also ply on the
loch at least once weekly (weather permitting) during the winter
months, commencing on the termination of the summer sailings and
ending on their resumption in the following year. In the event of
loss to the company, without benefit to the community at large, the
directors have the power to suspend or rescind this provision.
that the vessel shall at all times carry
cattle, sheep, country produce and goods.
that the steamer shall sail as near to
the Inverarnan Inn as the state of weather and other circumstances
Steamboat Archives Business and history Loch Lomond Services 1800 –
1860, Glasgow Library.