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Dumbarton


West Dunbartonshire

The former capital of the ancient kingdom of Strathclyde, Dumbarton lies at the mouth of the River Leven which flows south from Loch Lomond to enter the Firth of Clyde 16 miles (26 km) northwest of Glasgow. A prominent landmark on the north side of the Clyde is Dumbarton Rock, an isolated 73-m high (240 feet) volcanic plug that was first fortified in the 5th century AD. Created a royal burgh in 1222 by King Alexander II, Dumbarton developed in association with its royal castle which became the centre of the Earldom of Lennox in the 16th century. In the 17th century its port flourished with the sugar, indigo and tobacco trade and in 1765 the River Leven was finally bridged as the last link to be built in the network of Scottish military roads. Two other bridges followed this original Dumbarton Bridge; namely the Dalreoch Bridge (for the railway in 1850) and the Artizan Bridge (1974). In the 19th century Dumbarton prospered as a centre for shipbuilding, the first pleasure steamers on Loch Lomond being built here. In 1869 the famous clipper Cutty Sark was constructed by Scott & Linton and completed by William Denny & Bros., builders of the first ocean-going merchant vessel with a steel hull. Dennys also produced Sunderland flying boats between 1939 and 1945 and, in 1963, a hovercraft for service on the Thames. The Denny Ship Model Experiment Tank is the last survival of that yard, now preserved as part of the Scottish Maritime Museum. The shipyards were a target for German bombers during the Second World War and Clyde and the town centre was severely damaged. Other industries associated with the burgh have included iron founding, boilermaking, whisky distilling, bottling and the manufacture of glass.

Opened in 1938, Ballantine's grain distillery in Dumbarton was once the biggest in Scotland but closed in 2002 and was demolished in 2017. Justerini & Brooks (J&B) left Dumbarton, but BBC Scotland opened its drama studios on the site of their former warehouse at Townend in 2008. While whisky is no longer distilled here, the North of Scotland Distilling Company still operates in Dumbarton and Chivas Brothers maintain an immense bonded warehouse complex at Dumbuck on the eastern edge of the town and run a blending and bottling plant at Kilmalid in the north. Operating in the town since 1970, the generator manufacturer Aggreko built a new plant on another J&B site at Kilmalid in 2012. Dumbarton once had the largest Polaroid plant outside the USA, which opened in 1965 and employed 1800 people, but this workforce is now much reduced. Dumbarton is served by three railway stations on the North Clyde Line; Dumbarton Central, Dumbarton East and Dalreoch. There were once two separate railway lines coming from Glasgow (the Lanarkshire & Dumbartonshire and the Glasgow, Dumbarton & Helensburgh), run by competing companies, each with their own goods stations. Rationalisation brought the closure of the latter line in the 1960s. There is a learning centre for West College Scotland located in the town, which also benefits from two secondary schools; namely Dumbarton Academy and Our Lady & St. Patrick's High School. In May, the town hosts the Scottish Pipe Band Championship in Levengrove Park.

The Earldom of Dumbarton was created in 1675 for Major-General George Douglas (1635-92) but became extinct on the death of his son in 1749. It was recreated for Prince Harry of Wales on the occasion of his marriage in 2018.

Notable people born in Dumbarton include ship-builder Robert Napier (1791 - 1876), artist William Strang (1859 - 1921), hydro-electricity pioneer Sir Edward MacColl (1882 - 1951), racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart (b.1939), darts player Alex Duff (b.1951), rocker David Byrne (b.1952), broadcaster Gordon Brewer (b.1955) and stained-glass artist John K. Clark (b.1957).


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