Linlithgow Union Canal Society (LUCS) was founded in 1975 by the late Mel Grey MBE, a local Town Councillor, following his original proposal, a few years earlier, to clear the overgrown canal towpath between Preston Rd and the canal basin for use as a footpath. That year the clean-up began, and the society entered their first float in the local Marches Day parade, a tradition continued to the present day.
In 1977, the Museum was set up and the society took over running the annual Drambuie Marathon (1975-1990).
The museum is situated beside the tearoom in the old stables building by the canal basin. It is believed to be the only museum dedicated to canal life in Scotland and, as such, it is an important collection worth visiting and preserving.
On display are old photographs and documents that describe the origin, decline and renaissance of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal. The collection includes boat models and original tools, equipment and objects from the working life of the canal. Photographs of flowers and wildlife found along the canal are also on display and change with the seasons.
LUCS have their own fleet of boats which they use to provide trips to the Avon Aqueduct, Falkirk Wheel and local town trips. Victoria arrived in 1978, St Magdalenes (renamed by local schoolchildren) in 1995 and the newest acquisition St Michael in 2017. The society also has Leamington which is available for self-hire.
In 2007, the Canal Heritage Education Centre, known as the Mel Gray Centre, was opened and since then has hosted many informative talks and school trips to help local children to learn more about the canal and water safety. It is also available for hire by local groups by contacting the LUCS Secretary.
LUCS’ current aim is to promote and preserve the canal. As well as having members who regularly meet to maintain the boats, plants and canal buildings, LUCS also holds an annual fun day in August which includes a cardboard boat race to engage with the local community. Alongside enjoying the stalls and a barbeque, members of the public are encouraged to build boats out of cardboard and try them out on the canal in a fun competition.
On the 8th of April 2022, during the canal’s 200th anniversary year, the National Transport Trust unveiled a ‘red wheel’ heritage plaque in recognition of “the best surviving of the basins, wharves and stables of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal”. This is displayed on Bridge 43 (Manse Road) by the towpath and helps to raise public awareness of the site and LUCS.
The Linlithgow Canal Centre is run entirely by volunteers. New members are very welcome, and you can find more information here: https://www.lucs.org.uk/about-us/join-us/
More information about LUCS and the Union Canal can be found in the booklet “A history of the Edinburgh & Glasgow Union Canal and the Linlithgow Union Canal Society” which is available to buy in the museum shop or on the LUCS website.