2024-02-24 (Day 055) Charlotte Dundas Precinct

The Charlotte Dundas was the world’s first practical steamboat. Made possible by William Symington’s 1801 patent for a crank rod, to convert linear motion (from an engine) to rotary motion (as required by a paddle wheel). In 1803 the Charlotte Dundas towed two heavy barges, weighing a total of 130 tons, along the Forth and Clyde Canal from Wyndford, just south-west of Falkirk, to Port Dundas, in the centre of Glasgow, in 9hrs 15mins.

While the steamboat was a success, owners of the canal were concerned that the vessel might damage the canal, and banned it from the route. Poor old Charlotte Dundas lived out her days as a dredger – but retaining the crown as the first useful steamboat.

She was built in Grangemouth, and in the 1960s Falkirk Council named a new pedestrian-only shopping precinct after her. That precinct is sadly suffering as all retail seems to be just now, but has an interesting trail in the paving that tells some of the story of the ship.

There is a full “Charlotte Dundas Trail” in Falkirk. Don’t be surprised if I return to the topic!