Scotland Under the Surface

Largs PROBUS Club welcomed author and historian L Bruce Keith to a recent meeting. Bruce has written three books, one on his study of milestones called Are We Nearly There Yet? which he had previously spoken on, another on Scottish Bridges and now the fascinating story of Scotland Beneath the Surface, which was the subject of his talk. 

Bruce has a fascination with the man-made and natural world beneath Scotland’s surface, from the 1.25 million miles of telecommunication cables and quarter of a million miles of sewers, to the Cave of True Wonders at Applecross and the sea caves in Shetland. He highlighted the human side, such as the Tinkers’ Cave in Wick where twenty-four families lived in the 1900s and the fact that in 1917 some fifty-five people claimed to live in a cave. He drew attention to the situation in Edinburgh where there were 120 vaults under the South Bridge each providing accommodation for twenty to 30 people, and the use of tunnels under castles to aid smuggling. Granite quarrying at Rubislaw in Aberdeen created the largest man-made hole in western Europe and, as well as providing granite for Marischal College, Union Street and Parliament, some 50,000 tons were exported worldwide. It was interesting to note that the slate quarry at Ling had restarted to serve conservation projects in Scotland with the waste used to protect beaches.

Bruce provided lots of facts on the miles of sewers serving us, the hydroelectric pump storage system at Pitlochry, offshore and on land wind farms, coal mining, and the excavation of the Glasgow Metro. He concluded his thoroughly entertaining talk with a look at the future of geothermal power, undersea turbines, and shale oil extraction should fracking ever be acceptable.

Bernie Rafferty gave a vote of thanks referring to the many historic photographs Bruce used to illustrate his talk and the informative and lighthearted way it was delivered.

Men over the age of 50 who are retired, or nearing retirement, are welcome to join the Club by completing our Contact Form.