Get your free website from Spanglefish


ACCESS : Accessible only to those involved with boats here, but the site is readily visible from the towpath across the river.

///announced.shovels.replenish Approximate centre of works.

The setting today is one of boat repair and boat storage, a background to many other boats moored at jetties in the briskly flowing waters of the Leven. In times past it appeared similarly industrious. That waterside setting was key to the works within. The plentiful supply of clean water was essential for the processes involved.

The Loch Lomond Radium works was started in a disused joinery and sawmill at Dalvait, Balloch, in 1915. That name remains in the roads. The man who started it was John Stewart MacArthur who had been involved in the use of cyanide to extract gold and silver so was experienced in industrial application of chemicals. He had previously been a pioneer in producing radium in Cheshire, but chose this site on the Leven because of the water quality and supply.

The radium salts produced here were applied to such products as medical treatments for wounds. With the prospect of war, they were also used for luminous applications by the Admiralty such as luminous paints on the faces of dials and gauges for its ships.

At the mention of radium today, most people will immediately think of radioactivity dangers, but back then this was not fully understood nor indeed appreciated by the owner or his staff or his customers. It is said that suspicions grew when birds that frequented the site began to drop down dead.

An expert has attributed lhigh rates of mouth and throat cancer locally to radium paint produced at the works. This is apparently due to workers painting luminous clock dials and aircraft instruments licking their brushes to keep the fine tip.

These days the dangers are well understood and less dangerous isotopes are used instead in radioluminescent devices.

The factory was closed in the 1920's after MacArthur's death. For a while one of the buildings was used as a piggery. There were no known ill effects on the pigs or the farmer, The buildings were demolished with what are presumably the floor slabs remaining. However it is thought that a slab was specifically cast over tanks and waste. Fairly recent tests showed excessive radioactivity at the site.

There should not be any adverse effects with the current boat related activities on the site, but it cannot be used for longer term occupation such as housing. With no record of complete decontamination and removal of the unused and waste material is the presumption that quantities of it are still there on the site below the slabs including in tanks.

An idyllic scene.

DAILY RECORD quoting David Harvie : https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/radiation-expert-hits-out-balloch-2616851

HARVIE, DAVID : Deadly Sunshine: The History and Fatal Legacy of Radium.  ISBN 10: 0752433954 / ISBN 13: 9780752433950. Published by Tempus, 2005

SECRET SCOTLAND website : (Place names are inaccurate). http://secretscotland.org.uk/index.php/Secrets/LochLomondRadiumWorks

http://www.secretscotland.org.uk/index.php/Secrets/LuminisersLtd Luminisers Ltd.

VALE HISTORY FaceBook site : https://www.facebook.com/ValeHistory/posts/1445056119027466

VALE OF LEVEN PROJECT : http://www.valeofleven.org.uk/scottishplacenames/Rvale_names.html#:~:text=Radium Works, Balloch The Loch Lomond Radium works,attracted the owner to the site in Balloch.

WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE HERITAGE TRAILS : THE LEVEN : https://www.west-dunbarton.gov.uk/media/2619077/vale_of_leven.pdf

WIKIPEDIA : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radium Radium.



Click for Map
sitemap | cookie policy | privacy policy | accessibility statement