This week’s West Highland Way club design is Stronachlachar – a loose-fitting tee, with, sinuous twisted stitches.

The simple cables which twist over the surface of this design have a very direct inspiration in my local built environment, specifically the pipelines and waterworks of the Loch Katrine scheme, which runs from Stronachlachar all the way to Glasgow, providing fresh highland water for Scotland’s largest city.

In this week’s West Highland Way essay, I’ve written about the Loch Katrine scheme – a visionary act of Victorian engineering, which had important implications for public health, and public ownership.

It’s a subject I’ve been interested in for a few years: Tom and I have been a bit obsessed with tracing the scheme’s watery infrastructure through our landscape, from the reservoirs in Milngavie, to the peripheries of the network at Glen Finglas and Loch Arklet. I now find I know a surprising amount about aqueducts, dams and sluices; their histories; their locations; and am happy to bore anyone on this subject who cares to listen.

The Loch Katrine scheme is not just an important example of nineteenth-century industrial architecture, but, is, itself, really beautiful. The Highlands is a social landscape – not a wilderness, or a playground – and to me, the work of water is an essential part of understanding that.

Tom has taken many photographs of our local waterworks . . .

. . . but he’s by no means the first to do so. In 1877, the Loch Katrine scheme was celebrated in an album produced by Glasgow’s pioneering documentary photographer, Thomas Annan.

Annan is probably best known for his Photographs of Old Closes, Streets &c , whose unflinching documentation of Glasgow tenement conditions helped spearhead campaigns for the improvement of the living conditions of Scotland’s urban poor. But his commission from the Glasgow Corporation Water Works is equally important, evincing a great deal of municipal pride, as well as an obvious curiosity about the relationship between the landscape and its new industrial engineering.

The first image in the album is a view with which many visitors to the Trossachs would already have been very familiar:

This is Loch Katrine with Ben Venue in the background and “Ellen’s Isle” in the foreground – immortalised in Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake and, by 1877, a major tourist attraction. Subsequent images in the album highlighted the landscape’s other celebrity connections – such as Glen Gyle, whose name was widely known because of its associations with Rob Roy MacGregor.

But Annan then moves on from the picturesque Trossachs the tourists revered to reveal an ancient landscape proudly restructured by modern human endeavour.

“Aqueduct near Duntreath Castle”

“Endrick Valley Looking South”

“Syphon piping in Endrick Valley”

Annan depicts those whose labour built the scheme . . .

. . . as well as those who commissioned and managed it.

Scrutinising the faces of the Glasgow Waterworks Corporation commissioners is certainly one of this album’s many pleasures.

But I’m perhaps more interested in the way Annan chose to document a landscape, defined by water, from Loch Katrine. . .

. . . to Milngavie

. . . to the heart of the city of Glasgow.

All of the images in this post are albumen silver prints reproduced from the copy of the album held in the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. They are reproduced here under the terms of their Open Content Programme , with grateful thanks.

You might also be interested to read Lionel Gossman’s book on Annan, which you can download as a free Open Book PDF here.

35 thoughts on “The work of water

  1. Hi Katie,

    tried to get this pattern on ravelry today but it’s not in my pattern list. I am a club member. Can you add it to my patterns. So far none of the patterns show up on my ravelry page automatically. Are they supposed to?

    Thank you



    Liked by 2 people

  2. thank you
    I have passed this onto my Dad who after spending most of his life underground as a miner and the closure of his pit worked for the waterboard above Muirkirk to Glasgow. He loved your description of the moors and the magnificent engineering as a social landscape. He says that both under and over ground that was what made the hard and physical labour.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Have you discovered the joys of ? The site has loads of historical info about different sites and Historic Environment Scotland has undertaken a lot of survey work of the different sites. Plus they have some of the architect’s drawings for the hydro electric buildings.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been reading a number of books and watching a number of YouTube about events of the twentieth century. British Pathe has posted some wonderful videos, by the way. (I think I’m doing this as a form of escapism from various terrible recent events.) Anyway, I truly appreciated your 19th century “travelogue” of Scotland’s impressive water features and engineering.

    In a hundred years, people will be looking at Tom’s magnificent photos and saying “how amazing are these of a Time long gone.”

    I love your latest creation. When it is issued to the non-club public, I will try to knit it in some of my handspun.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. When people emigrate they bring the love of the places they left behind with them and often gave those names to locations in their new country. So it is with Annan which is both a town and a mountain here in Australia. As a child I asked my grandmother about the name and she told me it was from Scotland but wasn’t sure where. She did know that some of the family had come from the highlands of Scotland and her grandmother had told her how beautiful it was.

    Thank you for your article and images. Words can only describe so much. And my grandmothers, grandmother was right, it is beautiful.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Very enlightening and enjoyable. Imagine doing that work with all the equipment we think is so necessary to do anything!
    I will download that PDF, thank you for that. The T is super.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As I sit here on my 9th day of drinking copious amounts of water to rid myself of a kidney stone, your post today was particularly relevant! I, too, am a history and landscape buff, and am intrigued by stories – and Tom’s usual gorgeous photos – such as you’ve shared today. While I sit here feeling sorry for myself, you’ve given me something to occupy my time – researching whether copies of either of Annan’s books you mention would be available for purchase. And that sweater pattern is terriific – it’s been added to the queue! Thanks for all you do, Kate, to share your knowledge and Tom’s artistic abilities. Highlights of the day, for sure!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did spend some time online, and decided not to buy the publication available through Open Book Publishing since the postage to the States would have been somewhat prohibitive. HOWEVER…I discovered that the Getty Museum in Los Angeles had an Annan show last summer, which was accompanied by a book documenting the exhibit. It appears to contain works from both of the publications you mention as well as others in his portfolio. I was able to locate a copy at the San Francisco Public Library, which will be transferred to my local branch by the end of the week! Can’t wait to get my hands on it! If I love it (which I am sure I will), there are copies available for purchase online through the Getty’s Museum Store, if any of you in the US are interested in seeing his work and stories in print.


  8. Always interesting and informative – your blogs are a weekend treat. Tom’s photos are amazing. The pattern is gorgeous too and is on my (ever growing) list. Thank you both.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like this and can imagine learning enough to actually knit it….probably in a darker color to hide the missed slurps of soup and coffee; light enough to show the twining. Thank you so much for the history and photos the story of the landscape and how it changed to meet human needs…. it’s wonderful to read. THANKS.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So interesting, thank you for sharing your interest and your studies, I love Tom’s photography, you truly are a dynamic duo. I loved your new T, here in Arizona I get to wear such warmies a very short time of the year. My grandfather was a Scotsman which I only recently discovered so now all things Scots are fascinating to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for this highly interesting post and introducing Lionel Gossman’s book on Annan, as well as Open Book Publishers. I downloaded the PDF and started reading. I love books on history, social and arts. OPB seems to make a great work and service to readers, i applaud them.
    Finally, your latest pattern is stunning! Lovely sculptural elements and shade that lends themselves well for both a dress up or everyday use. For some reason, it makes me think of a librarian – and libraries are one my favourite place ever (spent my last birthday in a lovely old library). It also reminds of gothic stone decorations.
    Thank you for your curiosity and sharing your studies.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a fascinating bit of history – I too love the architecture of practical things from bygone eras. The beautiful photographs depict the elegance of providing a life-sustaining necessity. I can nearly hear the splashing in Tom’s photos of the moving water. You could “bore me” with your local history anytime, except that it would definitely NOT bore me !! Your sweater is lovely, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I have always been interested in landscapes, places and their history and connections so I very much enjoy reading your posts like this one, especially when the subject is a place I´ve been to and liked very much. But what I like maybe even more is to think that one of the things your blog inspires a lot of us to do is to appreciate and learn more about our own landscapes and places — even if we don´t live somewhere as stunning as the Highlands we are also connected to and shaped by our own surroundings, and becoming more conscious of them can be a source of inspiration for us like your landscape is for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I so agree with you. Reading Kate’s blog over the years has made me look at my own surroundings with even more attention and appreciation. My photography will never approach Tom’s level of excellence, but the images in my memory are sharper and more considered than ever.


  14. I enjoy reading about the inspirations for your designs as much as I enjoy that which you design. I feel like I’ve received a mini history lesson about a place far from where I live that leaves me wanting to learn more and see it for myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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