Happily, the weather was kind to the crowds who lined the edge of Edinburgh’s Union Canal by Ashley Terrace to watch the 2023 Ronnie Rusack Flotilla of Light on the evening of Saturday, 4th November.
Our stall opened at 4pm selling a variety of hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks, a selection of homemade cakes, and an autumn favourite, toffee apples, carefully prepared by committee member, Guy, using local fruit.
As the skies darkened, we soon found ourselves super-busy, selling out of mulled wine, toffee apples and home baking shortly before the flotilla passed by our stall around 6.30pm.
The boats were beacons of colourful light, brightening up the November evening as they made their way down to Lochrin Basin, with many of those onboard gamely providing live music and hurling sweets from their vessels onto the shore for onlookers to catch.
Our much-loved boathouse was lit up in white lights, providing a cheerful backdrop to the flotilla’s procession.
We thoroughly enjoyed being part of the event and are delighted to report we raised £547 which will be added to EUCS funds, contributing to our plans to develop the boathouse. Huge thanks to everyone who supported us. We look forward to seeing you again soon!
When the Union Canal was first built, bridges were necessary to allow people and goods to cross readily from one side of it to the other. Most of these bridges, many of which are still in use today, were built of stone. But, as time passed, some of the early bridges had to be replaced or widened to cope with increasing traffic. At the Edinburgh end of the Canal, there were originally 5 wooden draw-bridges—including one where the Leamington Lift Bridge now stands—none of which survives today.
In 1865, The North British Railway company became the owners of the canal and, in 1869, replaced the Fountainbridge draw-bridge with a lifting bridge. In 1906, that lifting bridge was in turn replaced with a new steel vertical lift bridge designed and built by Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth of Newcastle. The new bridge’s road deck was raised using the latest technology: an electric motor. The power supply for this came from the Electrical Lighting Central Generating Station which had been built in 1895 in nearby Dewar Place. The electric motor drove a winch with two ropes which hauled down the counterweights to lift the bridge deck. The adjacent footbridge allowed pedestrians to continue on their way across the canal when the lift bridge was raised to allow boats to pass beneath it.
By the end of the First World War, traffic on the canal had declined, and in 1922, the decision was taken to close the canal to the east of Fountainbridge and infill the terminal basins of Port Hopetoun and Port Hamilton. A new terminus called the Lochrin Basin was constructed to the south of Fountainbridge. As the lift bridge was no longer needed in Fountainbridge, it was dismantled and rebuilt on its present site, replacing the only remaining original wooden draw-bridge over the Union Canal and being renamed the Leamington Lift Bridge.
The fortunes of the canal continued to decline for almost 60 years until, in the 1980s, canal enthusiasts and local people started campaigning to make the canal navigable once more. In 1986, the Edinburgh Canal Society was formed and in the 1990s, British Waterways submitted a funding bid to the National Lottery to restore the Union and Forth and Clyde canals. This bid resulted in The Millennium Link Project which restored the lowland canals to through-navigation.
As part of The Millennium Link Project, Leamington Lift Bridge was returned to working order, a hydraulic lift system replacing the original electric and winch mechanism. Further work to stabilise the bridge was carried out in 2018/19 and, in July 2021, it was awarded a Red Wheel by the National Transport Trust.
A warm, partially cloudy, day offered the perfect weather for 2023’s Canal Festival on Edinburgh’s Union Canal. Our own stalls, opposite the Ashley Terrace Boathouse, were busy from the start. Almost all our home-baked cakes sold in the first couple of hours, and by 4pm they had all gone. The tombola stall, our second, proved hugely popular too with several people somehow managing to draw winning tickets for the items they particularly wanted. And we were delighted that every rowing boat hire slot was taken.
All around us, from our location along the canal-side to Lochrin Basin, were the sights and sounds of people enjoying the water and its surroundings, so uplifting to see—and hear!
We’re thrilled to say we raised a very welcome £750 to put towards our plans for EUCS and the Boathouse. Heartfelt thanks to all who supported us in any way on the day and in the run up to the event.
You can find out more about hiring our rowing boats here, and about EUCS membership here. We’d love to have you on board with either or both!