Paisley CAnal Disaster

The Paisley Canal Disaster occurred on 10 November 1810 on the Glasgow, Paisley and Johnstone Canal, a canal linking Glasgow to Paisley and Johnstone.

Paisley Canal

At 1pm in the afternoon of 10 November, the Countess of Eglinton had returned to Barclay’s dock, where a large crowd had gathered, hoping to join the cruise. As the previous load of passengers disembarked, the crowd waiting on the dock became anxious and began to push forward. This agitation increased rapidly, until those at the rear of the crowd surged forwards in an attempt to secure a place on the boat. Dozens of people fell into the canal, where a number drowned as they were unable to swim.

Paisley Canal

The real tragedy however, took place on the Countess of Eglinton herself, when the number of people surging onto the craft at one end combined with the panicked previous passengers attempting to scramble off at the other caused the boat to capsize totally, trapping over 60 people in the narrow passage along the inside of the boat with no hope of escape.

Paisley Canal

Desperate attempts were made to rescue those in the water, and three people were pulled from the interior of the boat, but the majority of those inside the craft were unable to be rescued. When the barge was righted a week later, the final death toll was established at 84 people, of whom 66 were under 20 years old and 18 under 10. The Times carried articles on the disaster on 16 and 19 November 1810.

Paisley Canal

The exact location of the disaster was at the northern end of the Canal Basin, inside the storehouse built there.Using an OS map for Paisley circa 1865, the bow of the Countess of Eglinton was at coordinates 55.84105, -4.42819, and the stern at 55.84089, -4.42812 during the disaster this is now part of the Castlegait housing development.