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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The railway that went the wrong way

Caledonian train on Portpatrick railway circa 1880 near Gatehouse station- 6 miles from the town it served

The railway that went the wrong way

The British and Irish Grand Junction Railway was proposed in April 1856 and approved by Parliament in August 1857 as the Portpatrick Railway. But as early as August 1856 it was argued that Cairnryan near Stranraer not Portpatrick should be the line’s terminus. It was also argued between 1856 and 1858 that the line should be routed via Gatehouse and Kirkcudbright.

Neither of these proposals were accepted and the railway was built to a port only suitable for sailing ships following the route of a stage coach road surveyed by Thomas Telford in 1809. By 1864, only two years after the line reached Portpatrick, the railway was running at a loss. It was leased to the Caledonian Railway which developed Stranraer as a successful ferry port.

Stranraer’s success was based on long distance traffic but the railway failed to stimulate the local economy. In 1851, the population of Galloway was 86 510. By 1961 it had fallen to 57 984. The lack of local traffic on the railway that went the wrong way made its closure in 1965 almost inevitable. Note: a petition for re-opening can be signed here

Dr Beeching
In June 1965, the railway between Dumfries and Stranraer and a branch line from Castle Douglas to Kirkcudbright were closed. A freight only branch from Newton Stewart to Wigtown and Whithorn had been closed the year before.

The closure of these lines had been proposed in the 1963 report ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’ by Dr Richard Beeching. Beeching’s argument was that competition from the road network since 1952 meant that large parts of Britain’s Victorian railway network were no longer economically viable.

From 'The Reshaping of British Railways, 1963

Pressure from businessmen and politicians in Northern Ireland kept the line from Ayr to Stranraer open for overnight/sleeper services to and from London. This service was seen as vital for Northern Ireland in the days before air travel became the preferred option.

The early use of roll-on/ roll-off vehicle ferries on the Stranraer/Larne route, despite the tragic loss of the Princess Victoria in 1953 (built in 1947),  helped to draw traffic away from the railway and onto the A 75 and A 77 roads. Unfortunately this exacerbated a problem which had been identified even before the railway was built.

The Short-Sea Crossing
The Portpatrick Railway, as the company which built the  line from Castle Douglas to Stranraer and Portpatrick was called was planned as a strategic route to take advantage of the 21 mile short-sea crossing from Portpatrick to Donaghadee in Ireland. From 1662 until 1849, Portpatrick had been the port used by the Royal Mail service to Ireland. By 1838, 8000 to 10 000 letters per day were passing through Portpatrick. Scottish mail was carried by daily by coach from Glasgow and the English mails by coach from Dumfries.

But in 1850 the railway network reached Holyhead in Wales with a 22 hour steamer service to Kingstown ( Dún Laoghaire) for Dublin. This then became the preferred Royal Mail route to Ireland and the Portpatrick- Donaghadee route was dropped.

But in 1856, the UK Treasury hinted that if Portpatrick and Donaghadee were to be connected to the British and Irish rail networks, then they would once more become the main Royal Mail ports for the Irish mail service.

The Short Railway Route
The Portpatrick Railway was planned to achieve this financially lucrative objective. Its main promoters, lord Dalrymple, heir to the earl of Stair and William Dunbar of Mochrum, had little interest in local traffic and so civil engineer Benjamin Blythe came up with the shortest possible route between Castle Douglas and Portpatrick.

The original plan involved a direct line from Glenluce to Portpatrick, with Stranraer served by a freight branch but this was overturned at a meeting of shareholders held in Newtown Stewart in September 1856 (H Thorne, ‘Rails to Portpatrick’, 1976, p.4).

The original route of the railway between Glenluce and Portpatrick
would have followed the 'New Intended Road' shown on this 1821 map.

Unfortunately, the  Portpatrick company refused to budge on another part of Benjamin Blyth’s proposed route. This took the railway north from Castle Douglas to Parton and then west through the Galloway hills to Creetown. An alternative route, which would have taken the railway via Gatehouse of Fleet to Creetown was rejected in 1857. A similar route which would have taken in Kirkcudbright as well was rejected in 1858.

The sensible argument that the alternative route would increase local traffic on the route and make it more financially viable were loftily dismissed on the grounds that the Portpatrick was a national rather than a local railway.

Alternative route as proposed 1856

Dumfries and Galloway Standard and Advertiser
21 January 1857. Part of surveyors report on alternative route.

Alternative route as proposed and rejected in 1858

The line from Castle Douglas to Stranraer was opened in 1861 at a cost of £290 000. Although work had begun on the last 7 miles to Portpatrick in 1858, the work was not completed until 1862, at a cost of £70 000. The delay was due to the government, having spent £500 000 on improvements to Portpatrick harbour, being unwilling to commit to further work.

In 1864, despite the railway reaching Portpatrick and Donaghadee also having a rail link, the Postmaster General informed the Treasury that the Holyhead route would keep the Royal Mail contract ‘for the foreseeable future’. (MacHaffie, ‘Portpatrick to Donghadee’, 2001p. 65)

The Portpatrick company had gambled -and lost. In 1864, the Portpatrick Railway leased its track and rolling stock to the Caledonia Railway for 21 years. In 1868 the Portpatrick harbour branch was closed. Under Caledonia management, Stranraer was developed as a successful ferry port. When the lease expired in 1885, the Portpatrick was taken over by a partnership of the Caledonian, Glasgow and South Western, London and North Western and Midland railway companies. In 1923 the London Midland and Scottish railway absorbed the Portpatrick and other railways in south-west Scotland. After nationalisation in 1948, British Railways took over until closure in 1965.

The history of the Dumfries to Stranraer line and its branches has been the subject of three books:
David Smith ‘The Little Railways of South-West Scotland’ (1967)
H D Thorne ‘Rails to Portpatrick’ (1976)
C E J Fryer ‘The Portpatrick and Wigtownshire Railways’ (1991).

Fraser G MacHaffie ‘Portpatrick to Donaghadee -The Original Short Sea Crossing’ (2001) provides vital background information missing from the railway focused books.

The Cairnryan Railway?
Today, both P & O and Stena ferries are based at Cairnryan. Remarkably,
MacHaffie reveals that even as the Portpatrick Railway company was being formed in the summer of 1856, the steamer Semaphore arrived at Cairnryan on 11 August 1856 with members of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and leading Belfast businessmen. This group met members of the railway company committee and suggested to them that Cairnryan should become the departure point for Belfast and the proposed railway’s destination. The railway company replied that the line to Portpatrick had to be built first before other possibilities could be explored. (MacHaffie, p. 62)

MacHaffie also describes successive, failed, attempts to improve the harbour at Portpatrick, from John Smeaton’s plans drawn up in 1768 to Thomas Telford’s proposals in 1809 and John Rennie’s more detailed plan drawn up in 1819.

Beginning in 1821, work on Rennie’s plan continued until 1836, but after storm damage in 1839, it was left unfinished. As MacHaffie notes
It is doubtful if Portpatrick Harbour, even if completed could have done the job. It was designed with sailing ships in mind and we must question John Rennie’s claims, as late as 1842, that the original plans required no modification to accommodate steamships. (p. 31)
Rennie made the claims at Parliamentary Select Committee hearing where Captain George Evans of the Royal Navy said attempts to make the harbour safe were ‘a useless expense, just the same as throwing the money in the sea’.

By 1856, it should have been clear to lord Dalrymple, William Dunbar and others involved in promoting the Portpatrick Railway that Stranraer or Cairnryan were the future and Portpatrick was the past. 

Telford’s Shortest Road
Unfortunately their focus on the past carried over into the route chosen for the railway. In 1809, as well as making recommendations for the improvement of Portpatrick harbour, Thomas Telford also sketched out the route of a road from Gretna Portpatrick which would be 15 miles shorter than the existing Old Miltary Road, constructed in 1764/5. In 1811, John Rennie made a more detailed survey of part of Telford’s proposed road. In 1821, John Ainslie showed the route of the proposed road on his map of Southern Scotland. The map can be seen here.

Ainslie’s map shows the proposed road cutting across the head of Luce Bay directly from Glenluce to Portpatrick. It also shows the road running inland from Creetown towards Parton and on to the pick up the route of the present day A 75 at Auchenreoch Loch.

As discussed above, Thorne (1976, p.4) noted, the original route of the Portpatrick Railway would also have run direct from Glenluce to Portpatrick, with Stranraer served by a branch line. But what neither Thorne nor Smith and Fryer realised in their accounts of the Portpatrick Railway was that the Creetown to Parton section of the route also followed the Telford/Rennie road as shown by Ainslie.

'Intended Road' John Ainslie, 1821

Route of railway as built 1861

This is Rennie’s 1811 description of the road route, which precisely matches the Portpatrick Railway route.

The new Road is proposed to depart from the Road leading from Newton Stewart to Cree Town about three quarters of a mile west of the latter place, and from thence it proceeds up the vale of the Money Pool Burn to Drumore. The highest part of the ground in this district is about 462 feet above the Newton, Stewart Road, and is about six miles distant from it the rise is very regular, and in no place will it be greater than one foot in 35 ; but generally the rise is not half of that quantity. 
 A new Road is now making in this direction, and indeed a great part of it has already been made. It has however been badly laid out, and will require to be altered in several places. 
From this summit, the Road descends gently to Drumore east of which it crosses the great Fleet River, and then ascends up a vale to the ridge of high ground between thence and the little Fleet, the highest part of which is 428 feet, and no part is the rise more than one in 39. From the Little Fleet, the line of Road runs to Loch Skerrow and skirting the south side of that Loch, it descends gradually to Stroan Loch: the steepest part is about one in 38.

The line of Road must necessarily cross the Dee, near the place where it comes out of the Loch, and in this place a Bridge will be required, where the Dee is small; and Mr. Morrison informs me that the situation is favourable. From this place, Mr. Morrison has surveyed two lines, the one to pass down the Vale of the Dee and cross Loch Kenn at the Boat or Ferry of Roan; the other, to recross the Dee at Newbridge, and pass down the South side of the Vale to Loup Eye, and there to cross Loch Kenn. 

At the former place the water of Loch Kenn is deep, but the channel is much narrower than at Loup Eye : it cannot be conveniently Crossed, unless by a Bridge of one Arch, which will require to be 180 feet span; this can easily be done economically by a cast-iron arch, and even with such an arch the expense will be great, amounting, as per annexed Estimate, to £ 14,201. This is far beyond what I expected it would cost; but much of the expense arises from the badness of the foundations, all of which will require to be piled…

So when E and B Blyth of Edinburgh were drawing up their plans for the Portpatrick Railway between June and September 1856 they used Ainslie’s 1821 map and simply copied from it, making the new railway follow the route of a road first proposed 49 years earlier by Thomas Telford. 

What might have been
If the opponents of the Portpatrick Railway’s route had known this, it would have strengthen their case for taking the railway via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse to Creetown rather than by Crossmichael, Parton and the Galloway hills.  Furthermore if Stranraer / Cairnryan not Portpatrick had been chosen as the terminus of the route the overall cost of the new railway would have been dramatically reduced.

A Lochryan Railway, routed via Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse as well as Dalbeattie and Castle Douglas, would have placed the most populous and prosperous parts of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright on a main line of communication between England and Ireland. This would have added extra income from local traffic to the railway and promoted the growth Kirkcudbright and Gatehouse.

Potentially then, by the 1960s, the economic and social value of the railway would have been significant enough for it to successfully resist the sharp edge of Dr Beeching’s axe.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Demanding the Impossible

When the Kill Your Et Puppy Collective met The Mob

Midnight. One more night without sleeping. Spent some time today in a surreal exchange on facebook about the pic below when Viv Albertine defaced a  punk exhibition at the British Library for ignoring women.
"After seeing female punk bands erased from an exhibition celebrating the genre, The Slits guitarist decided to take things into her own hands..."

Apparently, more women were involved in country and western music than punk so Viv should have scrawled 'What about Dolly Parton?' instead.

I did something similar myself once. Reading a book which highlighted the importance of Crass in anarcho-punk, I scrawled 'What about The Mob' on the page and wrote to the author....who didn't know anything about them. So it goes...That was 20 years ago. Not much has changed since then. Crass still define anarcho-punk in the same way the Pistols still define punk.

Eleven years ago I started this blog. Here is the first post. 'In the beginning there was punk' about the summer of 1976. Mark Wilson of The Mob saw it and rated it, which was encouraging. And here is the third 'Subway surfing anarcho-goths' Among other things it connects the Parliament Hill Fields Mob gig with the St James Church flyer above and the gay punx page from Kill Your Pet Puppy 4 (September 1981) below.

Pinki, who is mentioned in the gay punx piece is in this 1978 photo in pink and black. So is Lisa (later singer  with Blood and Roses) and Phil and Cory. Cory is also in the gay punx piece. I think it is Evelyn half cut off on the left. It is a bit hard to read the gay punx article, but if you can mange to, it is a shocking powerful description of what life was like back then in 1979/81.

Next up is Kill Your Pet Puppy Communique 2. 29 February 1980. I have been trying to work out the original sources for this. So far I have found one is a surrealist document from 1925 (see below)  and other is the Communist Manifesto from 1848. This is the original quote from the Communist Manifesto "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. " See if you can spot where it pops up in the KYPP Communique. (Hint, second page)

I have underlined in red the surrealist quote used in the KYPP communique. It is on page one. 

What is quite amusing about the use of version of surrealist and communist quotes in the KYPP Communique is that Guy Debord  did something similar in 'The Society of the Spectacle'  Example:

Thesis 1
"All of life in the societies in which modern conditions of production reign presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles."
Marx, Capital: "The richness of the societies in which the mode of capitalist production reigns presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities."
For more see this greengalloway post 'Sources used in The Society of the Spectacle' 

In other words, when Tony Drayton was writing the communique he was using the same situationist techniques as Guy Debord. Impressive, huh? And since Tony had started 'Ripped and Torn' in Glasgow back in November 1976 and carried the zine on through 17 editions ( Ripped and Torn 18 was edited by Vermillion) before starting Kill Your Pet Puppy in 1979, his punk credentials are beyond question...

What is your point, caller?

My point is that for all the millions of words written about punk and more recently about 'anarcho-punk' the particular reality/experience of punk which found an expression in Kill Your Pet Puppy remains unknown. Sure, the zines exist, the music of The Mob, Brigandage, Blood and Roses, Hagar the Womb and Flowers in the Dustbin also exists as do hundreds of photos buried away in the KYPP archives.

But the actuality of our lives and our world remains forgotten.

Society of the Spectacle Thesis 157

Another side of the deficiency of general historical life is that individual life as yet has no history. The pseudo-events which rush by in spectacular dramatizations have not been lived by those informed of them; moreover they are lost in the inflation of their hurried replacement at every throb of the spectacular machinery. Furthermore, what is really lived has no relation to the official irreversible time of society and is in direct opposition to the pseudo-cyclical rhythm of the consumable by-product of this time. This individual experience of separate daily life remains without language, without concept, without critical access to its own past which has been recorded nowhere. It is not communicated. It is not understood and is forgotten to the profit of the false spectacular memory of the unmemorable. 

|Maybe it is a compliment. That what is actually/truly subversive will always be excluded from history, will always be too complicated and confusing and dangerous to be fitted into narratives of recuperation. That we were and still are realists who demand that which  remains impossible 

 the revolution of everyday life.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Space Travel to Nowhere


As directors of the public transportation system in the Bay Area, we feel that it is out duty to enlighten the public on the nature of our operation. People too often take the way they travel for granted, so we are taking this opportunity to inform them about our real purpose. We hope that after reading this brochure, our patrons will be better able to appreciate the services we provide.

Vice-President, Southern Pacific Transportation Co.
General Manager, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
General Manager, Bay Area Rapid Transit District
General Manager, Public Relations, Greyhound Bus Lines
General Manager, San Francisco Municipal Railway

We are all going nowhere. No matter where we travel, our destination seems strangely like our place of depature. Wherever we look, we find various conditions of misery; at home, at work, and in all the places in between, we see the same void, we encounter the same emptiness. Our uneasiness with our daily lives is something we can't avoid - while we may think we're "different" from everybody else, we can't help noticing that everybody looks the same in the crowds on our way to work. The poverty of urban life is not confined to the slums and ghettoes - it exists everywhere. All of us share a vague feeling that everything that happens is beyond our control. The various occupations that distinguish us - workers, shoppers, students - are only so many roles. We don't choose to live the way we do; it is forced upon us in many subtle (and not so subtle) ways. We don't ride the buses because we want to, but because we have to.

The way we are forced to travel says a lot about the way society functions. Transportation is only a means to an end. This is demonstrated all the time by the vandalism of young school kids. In breaking windows and slashing seats, they have at least exposed the purpose of transport: to herd people from place to place, from home to school or a job and back again. On the buses, we see the same faces every clay, but no one ever speaks to each other, except about the most unimportant things - yestersay's sports results, the latest TV programs, elections, and so on. We encounter a real absence of communication here, and our trivial conversations only hide the fact that nothing is ever really said. Every day, we repeat the same gestures endlessly; we climb aboard, deposit our money in the coin-box, and sit down with a newspaper or a book. We try to avoid looking at the other passengers, because we would only recognize our own unhappiness in their blank, featureless stares. We are so aware of our discontent that we have to provide others with an image of happiness. Unable to smile, we wear yellow "smile" buttons on our lapels and say good-bye to each other with the trite "Have a nice day," because we know we never will.

Our own isolation - our own inability to talk to other people - is not the result of a decision we make; it is expected of us. We travel in a hostile world, a world which is designed to keep us apart. Life in the city is not "difficult" simply because ther is high "crime rate", as the newspapers would have us believe: the real crime which is committed against us is the way we are robbed of life daily, in our work and in our free time. Our senses are assaulted by a chant of the dead that comes at us from all sides. The advertisements are the first things that strike us when we get on the buses. If we look out the windows, we find an even larger graveyard in the shops and billboards. Everything there is to see bears a price tag.

All of this comes as no surprise. We all feel that we've been had somewhere along the line, but if we try and locate the reasons for our dissatisfaction, we come to the disturbing conclusion that they are to be found everywhere. A trip on the bus is just a part of daily routine that makes up our "lives". The boredom we experience on the buses does not leave us when we arrive at our "destinations" - the next eight hours only offer more of the same. The true meaning of work can be found in the face of the bus driver, whom we ignore every day. We have nothing to say to him because we know only too well what he goes through.

In various ways, we all express a desire to escape from our situation. After work, we try to get home as quickly as possible and to forget about what we've been through all day by having a few drinks or smoking dope with our friends. We look for someone to talk to in the bars, but after a while we don't even do that much. Our encounters become casual and meaningless; the pleasure we desperately seek is always absent. Our "pursuit of happiness" only deadens the pain without getting rid of it. In our so-called "leisure", we are not free either. We spend our time like we spend our money, in the pursuit of things, as we buy the latest useless items. We take in the latest film or TV special in order to "relax". But here again, life eludes us - all we see is its shadow. We are always condemned to be passive spectators.

We are prisoners of a time which does not belong to us, but to someone else; the manner in which we spend our days is determined by circumstances we cannot control. The way things are hasn't come about through some sort of "accident", however. Our travel, work, and leisure are all maintained by a system which is based on a division between those who run the machinery and those who are caught up in its workings. This isn't simply a "rat-race" which is a "necessary" part of daily life: the race we are running in is organized for certain people's benefit.

The bosses whom we run into everywhere we go - in the schools, factories, offices, unions, and throughout society - don't just happen to be there; they keep the whole show going. But even though we all know we're being treated like shit, we tend to accept it as inevitable. We postpone our happiness until a distant future, to be reached when we pay off the last mortgage or after we retire. But our "happy tomorrows" either come too late or not at all.

We experience a hundred humiliations every day. Whenever we are told what to do, whenever we pick tip a paycheck or a welfare payment, or are insulted by a "superior", we are reminded of our own impotence. We find it hard to suppress our anger, but when we do strike back, it is usually against only one part of our humiliation - we demand higher wages, better working conditions, an end to racial and sexual discrimination, and so on. Even when we manage to win on a particular issue, we find afterwards that things go on much the same as before. After the thousands of partial victories (civil rights, equal pay for equal work, paid health-care plans) we have gained over the years, we become painfully aware that the system can easily absorb any opposition which does not oppose it totally.

Changing all of this - putting an end to our alienation - does not simply consist of taking over a bus, but everything that affects us. To seize control of society is to seize control of our lives. All of us share a common condition of powerlessness, no matter how different our jobs are. However often one may hear of the "silent majority," the majority of people in America belong to a class whose real interests go against the interests of those who rule us. In the offices and factories, in the department stores and shopping centers, workers have had enough of "business as usual". Many of us have begun to ex-press our discontent in actions: from breaking the smallest rule to open disobedience in the form of wildcat strikes and sabotage.

When we realize the depth of our dissatisfaction with the world, we start to see how much really needs to be changed. All the reformist, from the liberals to the New Left, who want to patch up the existing system, are only trying to give us the same crap in a slightly different form. They talk of reforming everything - transport, work, government - to prevent us from seeing what's really wrong with society. However, the "urban crisis" that every politician and news analyst talks about will only be overcome when it is seen as a crisis of power - the cities will become "livable" when they become ours. This doesn't mean some kind of "community control" which would make the Board of Supervisors, the police, the schools, more "responsive" to the "citizens". Instead, it requires the destruction of existing authority and the creation of our own democratic forms of organization: workers' councils in which we control and make decisions on everything that goes on.

It is not just one particular boss that must be gotten rid of; rather, it is the whole idea of bosses that has to be destroyed. Those who speak of revlution and at the same time preach about the Party and "correct leadership" are our enemies. It's no secret that it's as dull in Peking as it is in San Francisco. A genuine revolution does not mean a change in bosses but a real change in the way we live; it must be made for ourselves and not in the name of an external "cause". Such a change cannot be accomplished by simply "dropping out" - society will only be transformed when we actively confront it.

Revolution isn't impossible, and those who say so are the most afraid of its ever taking place. It hasn't always been like this - in San Francisco, workers are no strangers to radical activity. The 1934 longshoremen's strike, despite opposition from the union leadership as well as from the bosses, grew into a general strike that shut down the city. Workers controlled the flow of traffic in the city, coordinated the distribution of food, and organized armed resistance to the police and National Guard. The municipal strike in 1970, which began among the transportation and postal workers, was another instance of what could develop if we begin to assert our power. These examples, however, are only the first steps towards a revolutionary transformation of the city.

The tasks that presently face us are complex, but at the same time, the future can be ours if we want it to be. In revealing the true secret of modern society - the misery of daily life - we have already toppled capitalism's house of cards, the illusions that keep us where we are. The next moves await everyone who wants to start a different game.

original date of publication: 1973
published by POINT - BLANK!
p.o.box 42548, san francisco CA, 94142 USA
reprinted 2000 by NOT BORED!
POB 115 NYC 10009-9998 USA
web version by self defense! (sd@giga.or.at)