FURTHER to my recent article on the subject, it is difficult to overstate the importance to Greenock of the Cut when it opened in 1827.

The Rev James L Dow recorded in his book ‘Greenock’, which was published in 1975, that by the 1820s population growth and industrial expansion had put a great strain on the town’s water resources.

Sir Michael Shaw Stewart commissioned civil engineer Robert Thom of Rothesay to find a solution. The outcome was the creation of the Loch Thom reservoir from where water flowed along the Cut to power factories and supply homes.

Mr Dow underlined how industry benefited financially from the scheme.

He wrote: “Along with the improvement in the domestic water supply provided by Loch Thom, a very great contribution was made to the needs of industry by the Shaws Water, as it was known.

“Water power was much cheaper than steam power, which in Glasgow was reckoned to cost £35 per annum per horse power.

“While from the Cut, water was led in a series of falls to the mills and factories along its line giving the same results as steam but at a cost of between £2 and £4 per annum per horse power.” Despite Greenock having the reputation of being one of the wettest areas in Scotland, a lack of rain brought about much hardship for residents and industry alike in 1852.

That year a great drought caused Loch Thom to run dry. Residents had to draw water from pump wells and mills closed for six weeks, with 2,000 workers left idle. Another example how extreme weather affected the Cut is found in Mr Dow’s book.

During winter men were employed keeping the Cut free from snow and ice to maintain the flow to industries dependent on water power.

At the start of 1947 the area experienced the worst weather for many years.

Heavy snowfalls continued until April. Despite ‘heroic efforts’ by men of the water department, they were defeated by the snow and ice.

The Cut was made redundant in 1971 with the construction of a tunnel from Loch Thom to the Overton water treatment works. In 1972 it was designated an Ancient Monument. Today’s photograph of the Cut, seen on the right, comes from Mr Dow’s book.