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Past Times

Picture gallery dives into the history between Arbroath and water

These photographs from Arbroath over the decades show water in all its moods - so find your sea legs and let's cast off for another trip back in time. reports.
Graeme Strachan
Boating on Keptie Pond in 1961. Image: Supplied.
Keptie Pond in 1961. Image: Supplied.

Arbroath’s relationship with water over the centuries has been intimate and trusting.

For fishing in the sea and for its holiday trade, and sometimes for sitting in your car to gaze at, lovingly.

Maybe you remember rowing across the water at Keptie Pond?

There are also occasions when there is just too much of the stuff and road and rail travel is impossible.

These photographs from Arbroath over decades show water in all its moods, in one case even frozen solid.

But some would say the most useful function of water ever found requires a relatively tiny amount, and that’s when it is poured reverently into a glass of malt.

Perhaps that is why Arbroath’s most famous adopted son, Andy Stewart, was drawn to the song: “Campbeltown Loch, I wish ye were whisky!”

Who could argue with the man who gave us “Donald Where’s Your Troosers?”

So find your sea legs and let’s cast off for another trip back in time.

Some of these photographs have been unseen for decades.

Maybe you will spot a familiar face?


Water always goes where it wants to go

Flooding at Panmure Street. Image: Supplied.
Flooding at Panmure Street. Image: Supplied.

There is no date on this picture of too much water at Panmure Street, Arbroath, but would it be reasonable to guess it was in Victorian times.

The stars of the show are the three youngsters demonstrating the depth of the water.

Is this what gave The Beatles the idea for the Abbey Road album cover?

We hope that the plasterer in the shop at the left of the picture kept his stock upstairs.

Pictures of matchstick men

Skaters on the frozen ice at Keptie Pond. Image: Supplied.
Skaters on the frozen ice at Keptie Pond. Image: Supplied.

Dating from about 1901 this picture of skaters at Keptie Pond has a very different background from today, with not a tree on the island.

It may look potentially hazardous but, even if the ice broke, the water was quite shallow.

One of the local bobbies once denied any charge of bravery in rescuing a laddie from Keptie Pond, pointing out that all he had to do was wade in.

The photograph seems to blend the Water Tower with LS Lowry’s matchstick men.

Going on a summer holiday

Swimmers in the paddling pool. Image: Supplied.
Swimmers in the paddling pool. Image: Supplied.

Arbroath Paddling Pool, possibly in the 1950s, and likely during the Glasgow Fair Fortnight.

The town was famous for its holiday facilities, and trainloads of happy holidaymakers disembarked from train to stay at the numerous caravans and boarding houses.

Thousands of people would spend their annual vacation in Arbroath when the town was one of Scotland’s top holiday resorts in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

What a busy, bustling place it was.

A pool party like no other

Arbroath Outdoor Swimming Pool. Image: Supplied.
Arbroath Outdoor Swimming Pool. Image: Supplied.

Only a little bit away from the paddling pool was more captive water in Arbroath, the famous outdoor swimming pool with its diving boards.

In addition to swimming and general messing about in the water, there were organised games and competitions for all ages.

Arbroath’s outdoor swimming pool was the largest of its kind in Scotland and the backdrop to fun, laughter, and even romance.

It was capable of accommodating 1,200 bathers and more than 4,000 spectators.

Looking out to sea

Victoria Park in Arbroath. Image: Supplied.

The far end of Victoria Park is still a popular place to park and gaze out to sea, or for the more energetic to climb up the path and head along the cliffs towards Auchmithie.

Judging by the types of car we would estimate the photo to have been taken in the early 1950s, as the most modern car is the Vauxhall (Cresta, Velox or Wyvern) in the middle of the picture.

It was introduced in 1951.

The little fishing boats off shore could have been photographed yesterday.

Sun, sea and smokies

A busy shot of Arbroath beach in 1955. Image: Supplied.
Arbroath beach in 1955. Image: Supplied.

This picture of the sands at Arbroath dates from the summer of 1955.

Leisure attire was a good deal more formal in those days.

People flocked to Angus coastal towns which enjoyed their last great, mass-appeal decade before most “bucket and spade” breaks were taken in European destinations.

It feels like yesterday.

North Sea Hijack

Auchmithie harbour in 1960. Image: Supplied.
Auchmithie harbour in 1960. Image: Supplied.

Quite why the military was landing (or embarking?) at Auchmithie in May 1960 is unknown, but it is clearly not a top secret operation.

There were soldiers and sailors and even what looks like a high-ranking officer in the stern.

The harbour has deteriorated even further since then and one must regret the storm more than 100 years ago that destroyed a large amount of the repair work that had been commissioned by Mrs Annie Gilruth – the farmer’s wife who funded the village hall.

Auchmithie is famous as the place where the Arbroath Smokie originated.

Ship-shape and Arbroath fashion

A yacht ready to sail on Keptie Pond. Image: Supplied.
A yacht ready to sail on Keptie Pond. Image: Supplied.

The yacht would have had to be flat-bottomed, given the shallow water in Keptie Pond, but this picture from May 1964 shows a relaxed scene.

And look at the barren island.

We wonder what would be the reaction if someone turned up with a similar boat at Keptie Pond in modern times.

The beauty spot was once a tourist attraction that drew families from across Scotland to Arbroath to skate and row on its clear waters.

The ghosts of sailing past

The boats tied up at Keptie Pond. Image: Supplied.
The boats tied up at Keptie Pond. Image: Supplied.

Sometimes, with the passing of time, a photograph taken for one purpose may end up with historical value.

This view of the boats and boat shed at Keptie Pond was taken to illustrate a bout of vandalism to the property.

It is now a nostalgic reminder of the boats which used to be hired out there.

During the summer months, tourists flocked to the pond to hire rowing boats, but the plug was pulled by Angus Council in 2001, in the face of rising costs costs and growing legal requirements.

Submerged at Wardmill

Vehicles partially submerged in Wardmill flooding. Image: Supplied.
Wardmill flooding. Image: Supplied.

Arbroath seems less prone to flooding these days.

This picture from 1985 was taken before preventative measures such as clearing culverts happened, and shows flooding in Wardmill.

It possibly led to the scrapping of the Angus District Council Bedford van, if the water got to the electrics, although the Kelbie Leyland lorry is likely to have survived.

You can see the depth of water against the skip sitting just right of centre.

Grab your bags – and goggles!

Morrisons site in 1998. Image: Supplied.
Morrisons site in 1998. Image: Supplied.

These are th early stages in the development of the Safeway (now Morrisons) site in Arbroath.

Things look a great deal worse than they were – a huge amount of work was done to prevent flooding, and to make sure that the culverted Brothock Burn would no longer be clogged up with tree trunks and the like.

And it does seem to have worked.

Dredging up the past

Dredging work in Arbroath harbour. Image: Supplied.
Dredging work. Image: Supplied.

This picture from July 1999 shows a dredger at work ‘digging the harbour bar’.

The notorious harbour bar caused major problems at low tide, even for the lifeboat.

Despite this there was opposition to its removal, although since it was removed we have not heard of anyone asking for it back.

For many years Arbroath Harbour was dredged by the Moray Council dredger, Shearwater, but in latter years a more modern vessel has been used.

Tracks to nowhere

Flooding at the rail line. Image: Supplied.
Flooding at the rail line. Image: Supplied.

The main London to Aberdeen rail line flooded near Inverkeilor in August 2008.

The A92 can be seen at the top left of the picture.

This is just a few hundred metres from the notorious Inverkeilor rail bridge, which has provided its own hazards for countless lorry drivers over the decades.

Thankfully the bad weather receded and things got back on track.

Arbroath harbour

Arbroath harbour flooding. Image: Supplied.
Arbroath harbour flooding. Image: Supplied.

Particularly high water at Arbroath Harbour in January 2009.

What good luck that there was no wind to whip the water over the top of the piers.

Notice the old blue and red public loo still performed its old function.

Some people thought it was painted that colour to try to scare away the gulls.

It’s the final photograph in our look back to Arbroath’s relationship with water.

So did our pictorial trip back in time jog any memories for you?

Let us know.

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