For much of my teenage years I lived under the shadow of two enormous structures which have been likened to spaceships on stilts. The water towers at Craigend sit at the end of Jerviston Road, pre-dating the construction of that 1970’s housing scheme by at least two decades. We moved there at the end of 1973 and thought nothing of having these local landmarks on our doorstep. In later years, when I returned to visit my dad there, I noticed that the bare grey concrete had been given a lick of white paint and that coloured floodlights now cast a purple hue over them which could be seen for miles around. Someone, somewhere, had realised that these functional edifices – built to store a million gallons of water and maintain pressure on higher ground – had intrinsic artistic and architectural merit.
Last month, I was back in Craigend as part of the final research for my forthcoming childhood memoir – and noticed that the paint was flaking and the concrete columns now sat in a fenced off landscape of overgrown grass and litter. Yet, all around, there were signs of renewal as the old three-storey blocks of flats in Garthamlock have given way to new housing developments and rows of pretty terraced homes with gardens.
As my book hurtles towards its publication date, I keep thinking of these towers and so, yesterday, I posted a photograph of them on the ‘Glesga Schemes’ Facebook page. I added the provocative suggestion that “a new lick of paint, a rooftop café and a visitor centre’ could turn these 1950’s giants into a tourist attraction offering panoramic views over the city and the Campsie hills. Within minutes, dozens were sharing my idea and posting their own memories of the towers. One man described how his nephew once scaled some scaffolding to plant a flag in one of the tower’s windows. He said there was a staircase inside the central column which led to the roof. Someone else suggested the addition of a helter-skelter ride as a means of exiting the proposed café. A less enthusiastic Facebook poster worried that my plan would cut off water supplies for thousands of residents who wouldn’t thank me if I replaced that with another café.
But that needn’t be the case. I was reminded of the hydro dam at Pitlochry which also has its own visitor centre and eatery. Further afield, I once visited the Zizkov TV tower in Prague which has a a viewing platform, a function suite and a swish restaurant. It also has famous sculptures of babies climbing the outside of the tower. Don’t ask me why.
So, rather than just content myself with these fanciful thoughts, I contacted the Media Office at Scottish Water and asked them for their thoughts. Naturally, their spokesman was fairly guarded, not wanting to start hares running. He told me that the towers were currently “operational assets” but if they were ever sold, it would be up to the new owners to decide what to do with them. Given that other city water towers have been demolished and replaced with underground reservoirs, maybe we should start planning for something now.
I’m not sure about the helter-skelter though.