16th January 1968

Troops are dispatched after worst storm ever recorded

The Braer Storm wasn’t the first to cause Scotland significant damage. In 1968, Hurricane Low Q sent winds gusting to 134mph across the central belt in the United Kingdom’s worst storm since records began.

More than 300 houses were destroyed in Glasgow alone, almost 30 people were killed and more than 50 were injured. A further 70,000 homes sustained damage. On 16 January, troops from Edinburgh were deployed to Glasgow to help with the clear-up and recovery.

“Death, injury and destruction”

Speaking about the damage in Parliament, Edward Heath, who as Conservative Party leader was also leader of the opposition, noted that some “have compared it to the night of the Tay disaster”.

“Between 3 o’clock and 5 o’clock on the Monday morning of 16th January the damage was done and the hurricane left behind it a trail of death, injury and destruction…” he said, continuing, “the task of reconstruction following this damage is daunting. Therefore, I submit that this, alas, is a disaster on a national scale. It is a disaster beyond the resources of the people of Scotland to meet on their own.”

“Astonished and horrified”

In the same debate, the Secretary of State for Scotland, William Ross, said that “anybody who has recently seen Glasgow from the air will have been astonished and horrified at the area of green tarpaulins. These cover roofs in all parts of the city. The storm did not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the new areas and the old areas. It damaged not only old and inferior houses in the centre, but also some well-maintained property.”

“Stunned Scots last night started counting the cost of the worst storm in memory,” the Aberdeen Press and Journal had reported on 16 January. “It battered its way across Central Scotland, ‘blitzing’ Glasgow and the Clyde Valley, and spreading its worst effects from Angus, Perthshire and Southern Inverness-shire to the North of England.”

Crushed by a falling chimney

It wasn’t only Glasgow that suffered. The same paper reported that “In Edinburgh, a married couple died in their bedroom when a chimney stack fell… one of the saddest incidents was at Bonhill, Dunbartonshire, where a man was driving his wife to a maternity hospital. A tree crashed down on the car, killing the husband. His wife later gave birth to a baby in hospital.”

The Birmingham Daily Post of 16 January reported damage to various craft, including two ships that broke free of their moorings on the Clyde and three Viscount aircraft at Glasgow Airport.

Loans for repairs

The Minister of State for Scotland’s estimate of the cost for putting right the damage stood at between £25m and £30m. Initially, a loan of £500,000 was on offer to deal with the most essential immediate work.

Australian newspaper The Age reported the storm in its edition of 17 January and placed it in wider context. “Heavy snows and the threat of avalanches trapped thousands in the Swiss Alps. Blizzards struck Syria, Jordan, Israel and Iran, and high winds wrought havoc in Lebanon. In Jordan… the storm spread misery among Arab refugees from the war with Israel in the Jordan River valley. Their tents were torn to shreds. More than a foot of snow fell in Jerusalem, paralysing the holy city.”



Other events that occured in January

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