CLYDE

C         PERAGE

by

Pat Smith

The Clyde Cooperage opened towards the end of  the 1950s. 

The cooperage was behind the parish church in the disused Lochhead Cabinet Works, locally known as Klondyke. 

The Clyde Cooperage was part of the Robertson and Baxter Group.

Initially there were only two coopers. 

I started my apprenticeship in January 1960.

Yes, that's me jointing a stave on the hand jointer.... a mean tool. Most coopers developed large hacks on their hands using this jointer. Fortunately by the 60's planing machines were in cooperages, but as an apprentice you were taught how to use the hand jointer. 

The thing that looks like an anvil is a study. This was used to rivet and beat hoops. Casks have hoops, not rings.

'Cask' is the generic name. There are four main types of casks used in the whisky trade: barrels holding around 40 gallons, hogsheads around 54 gallons, butts around 110 gallons and puncheons also around 110 gallons. Puncheons are dumpier than butts.

Using the hammer and driver to tighten the hoops. The hammer and driver are the tools most used by a cooper. 

This cask is a puncheon. The casks behind me, standing on their ends, are port pipes. These were cut down to turn them into butts. With cutting off the chimes, the cooper now had to re-chime the cask by hand using an each [spelling unknown].

The 'proper' name is an adze. Coopers always called it an each!

In 1960 there was only a small workforce.

But as you see, hard working.

A hammer and driver .... the bread and butter tools.

The very each my journeyman, Donald McKinnon, used to great effect. Donald was the best I ever saw re-chiming a port pipe.

American ex-bourbon barrel.

CHIME

A selection of tools that a cooper would use daily.

Thanks to William Eadie for passing them on.

For a description, please click on the photo.

In the early days, storage space was restricted. Use was made of the upper floors of the furniture works. This involved hauling the casks up by pulley. Fortunately, Robert McQuade was a bodybuilder and weightlifter. Seen here with his brother Tom [holding the rope]. In a post on Lochwinnoch Past and Present of a picture of Robert, Rick Fairman who worked with him said he could throw a 56lb weight around like we would a tennis ball.

Willie Johnstone was at hand to pull them in.

At that time I never heard mention of health and safety!

Robert McQuade, Al Williamson, Andy Waterston, Tom McQuade,

Willie Johnstone [sitting]

Myself, Willie Johnstone, Andy Waterston, Donald McKinnon

Andy [above] was the 'blow off' man.

After the cask was repaired it went to the blow off to be tested. This involved putting water and compressed air into the cask. If found to be leaking, it was duly fixed and went on to be inspected by the manager, John Johnstone

[opposite].

John was meticulous!

The next item is 'hush hush' - keep it to yourself.

On occasions, some spirit remains in the cask after it is empty. This is a temptation for some.

The dregs are drawn using a tube that has been hammered at one end to help get every drop. I'm told that you suck very hard, quickly put your thumb over the end of the tube and decant the liquid into a bottle. This liquid contains many foreign bodies. No problem. Strain it through an old hankie and it's ready to drink.

Al and Willie demonstrate the technique so well that you'd think they'd done it before!

The Move

After a few years the cooperage moved to the old Viewfield Cabinet Works. The Klondyke became the machine shop, with Jimmy Quinn as manager.

In 1965, after a five-year apprenticeship, I became a journeyman. Being the first apprentice in Lochwinnoch, the company made a big fuss of it.

Unable to get the Queen, Jimmy Speirs presented my Indenture Paper. 

John Johnstone, me, Jimmy Speirs, Bob Johnstone, Jimmy Quinn, Tom Williamson

Left: Jackie Gibson, myself, George Furphy, Willie Conn, Jimmy Speirs. 

My journeyman, Donald McKinnon and myself  

From a handful of people in 1960, the workforce had grown to over fifty in 1965.

I can count fifteen coopers and apprentices.

As is the tradition in the coopering trade, a new journeyman is put into a barrel along with feathers, wood shavings, paxarette and all manner of rubbish

and rolled around the cooperage.

To this day, I still can remember it well :-)

Archie Nobel, Tom Sibbald, Cecil Dunn, myself, John Dunlop, Andy Jamieson 

For further information on the history of the Clyde Cooperage and coopering in general ....

Clyde Cooperage

Clyde Cooperage 2

Speyside Cooperage [recommended]

The Herald newspaper

Cooper's Tools