An international symbol of Glasgow, the Finnieston Crane or 'Cran' represents the city’s maritime and industrial heritage. The iconic Cran is a 175 ton cantilever quayside crane which looms over the Clyde.
Built in 1931 and commencing operation in 1932, Clyde Navigations Trustee’s Crane Number 7 cost £69,000, equivalent to over £4.5 million in 2020. The tower was built by Cowans, Sheldon & Co Ltd. of
Carlisle and the cantilever by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company, under the supervision of Daniel Fife, Mechanical Engineer to the Clyde Navigation Trust.
The Finnieston Crane is a 'hammerkran' design which evolved first in Germany around the turn of the 19th century and was adopted and developed for use in British Shipyards to support the battleship construction program from 1904 to 1914. The British government also installed a giant cantilever crane at the Singapore Naval Base (1938) and later a copy of the crane was installed at the Garden
Island Naval Dockyard in Sydney (1951). These cranes provided repair support for the Royal Navy Battle Fleet operating around the globe.
Giant cantilever cranes were also installed in naval shipyards in Japan and in the U.S.A. The Giant Cantilever Crane, for instance, that sits near Dry Dock No. 3 in Nagasaki’s shipbuilding area is as iconic of Nagasaki and Japanese shipbuilding as the Finnieston Crane is of the Clyde and heavy engineering in Scotland. Built by Appleby of Glasgow and erected by the Motherwell Bridge Company in 1909, the Nagasaki crane survived the atomic bomb that devastated the city in 1945, and remains in service to this day and recently featured on a new set of commemorative stamps and coins.
In the British Empire, the engineering firm Sir William Arrol & Co Ltd was the principal manufacturer of giant cantilever cranes and sixty were built originally around the world, of which forty two were designed by William Arrol with few remaining today. The acquisition of the Parkhead Crane Works in 1910 allowed Arrol to not only design and build such cranes but also to provide the machinery. Although the contract to build the crane did not go to Sir William Arrol he was involved in the design of the foundations.
The Finnieston Crane was commissioned following proposals tabled in 1928 to build a new high level bridge over the Clyde where Clyde Arc (Squinty Bridge) which would have seriously interfered with the working of another crane 500 feet upstream. The lattice, steel girder tower remains the only ever British crane fitted with a personnel lift, and the only one fitted with a horizontal rail for the jigger hoist handling light loads. Featuring a 152 ft long 'jib', it could make a full revolution in only 3 and a half minutes.
Its purpose was to load heavy locomotives for export but it was also used to fit ships' engines and to load cargo and heavy armaments into warships. It’s estimated that 25% of all the world’s locomotives were built at the St. Rollox works in the north of Glasgow, and of the 28,000 locomotives that came out of the yard, 18,000 were exported to every corner of the world, with the other 10,000 being built for various UK railways. Whole streets would come to a halt as the trains made their way slowly from St. Rollox Locomotive Works in Springburn down to the Clyde, where they would then be lifted by the Finnieston Crane into cargo vessels. Such a figure helps puts into context the vital role played by the Crane to the city’s heavy industry.
Among the last two occasions that the crane moved was for art inillations for Glasgow artist George Wyllie. The first being in in 1987 for Mayfest, when it was used to hang Wyllie’s straw locomotive, a symbolic tribute to Springburn’s railway heritage. Subsequently, in May 1989, the crane was used to lift his next art installation, the Paper Boat into the Clyde.
Now, the crane is static and faces south east pointing up the river towards the city centre. Yet, even while dormant, Glaswegians and visitors alike have continued to view the iconic symbol of the city with a mixture of nostalgia and wonder. People have continued to engage with it in different ways, with the structure playing host to everyone from abseilers, urban explorers, political activists, police snipers and even BMX stunt cyclist Danny MacAskill.
It was also turned into a musical instrument and ‘giant ear to Glasgow’ by American sound artist Bill Fontana as part of Glasgow UNESCO City of Music’s Glasgow Commissions in 2013, and was illuminated in 2014 to coincide with the MTV European Music Awards ceremony.
A totemic representation of the city and its industrial maritime heritage, its presence is a link to Glasgow's proud history and is a symbol of its future opportunity adjacent to the iconic 'Armadillo' and Hydro it provides Glaswegians and visitors a representation of what makes Glasgow great.
The Big Cran Company vision for the future of the crane is for the community to have an asset you can contribute your ideas and see the vision by following the link below.
The Big Cran Company CIC is a registered Community Interest Company number SC560917
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