UPDATED FEB. 13, 2018
On Oct. 21, 1971, a natural gas explosion at Clarkston Toll shopping center near Glasgow killed 22 people and injured more than 100 others. The smell of gas lingered in the days leading up to the explosion. Workers were unable to locate the source. Investigators determined a fractured and corroded pipeline fueled the explosion. Twenty fire engines responded as did all available Glasgow ambulances.
We received the following from a reader in February 2018:
My name is John Brown and whilst searching for images of old fire appliances from the City of Glasgow Fire Service in Scotland I stumbled across your fire journals.
With reference to the Clarkston Explosion of 1971 I can vaguely recall it. We lived at the other side of Glasgow and at the age of five my head was full of more important things like toys as well as what was for my dinner and the like. Anyway, I knew something serious had occurred what with the TV news as well as the following days newspapers lying around.
Just recently STV broadcasted a short half hour documentary on it titled The Clarkston Explosion presented by the historian Fergus Sutherland as part of the series “The Peoples History Show.” The key mains points were as follows:
The Clarkston shopping centre was constructed in 1965 with a rooftop car park and the old railway station to the rear.
An underground four-inch gas main ran the length of the shops separated from the legacy cellars by a four-foot bank of earth.
British (Scottish) gas were in the process of converting as well as replacing old systems to run on Natural Gas as opposed to what was referred to as “Town Gas.” This program of conversion and/or replace took ten years to complete commencing in 1967 with its completion in 1977. During this period British Gas shipped natural gas from the drilling rigs off the Northumbrian coast north prior to the Oil and Gas drilling platforms in the North Sea between the North East coast of Scotland and the coast of Norway coming on line. Unfortunately, this program hadn’t reached Clarkston by this point.
An Emeritus Expert Professor Douglas Greenhaulgh from the Glasgow Caledonian University explained that Town Gas as opposed to Natural Gas was extremely flammable as well as Toxic which would explain why the persons in the shops adjacent to the ruptured gas main fell ill the day before the explosion.
He continued to explain that Town Gas was a combination of Hydrogen, Carbon Monoxide and Methane. A smell of gas had been reported a few days prior to the explosion unfortunately during this period the gas percolated through the earth banking into the legacy cellars beneath the shops where it had built up. He went on to say that at the time of the explosion it would’ve probably have been estimated that the force of the blast would have been equivalent 300lbs of TNT going off.