A Little Known Story

Thought I’d leave the independence debate for a sec in order to share a little anecdote of a more personal nature, that some may find amusing.  It’s a story told to me by my father, a few years before he passed away.  As far as I know, this story is only known to a handful of people.  I was reminded of it after watching a short video about how Scotland’s oil wealth has been pillaged by the UK Government in order to bail out the economy of London and the South East.  The video contained a clip of the giant crane at Scott Lithgow shipyard being demolished when the yard was decommissioned.

My father worked for the yard’s parent company, Trafalgar House, and was the last Project Manager at the yard when it closed.  His final job there was overseeing some of the closure details, which included putting contracts for various demolition jobs out to tender.  One of these contracts was for the giant “Goliath” crane’s demolition.  The crane stood 287 feet high, ran on rails, and weighed 1500 tons, with a lifting capacity of 225 tons.  It was going to be expensive to remove.

Many people have seen the video of the crane’s demolition.  The first attempt failed, with only two of the legs being severed, resulting in one side, and the cross span, remaining standing. What not many people know, is why?

Goliath crane demolition – YouTube.

Well, that’s because the crane wasn’t blown up by a demolition company, as is usual.  It was blown up by the SAS.

While the contract was out to tender, my dad received a phone call from an SAS officer, who said that they were trialing some newly invented demolition shape charges, designed to cut through steel beams like a knife, and needed a large structure to test them on.  They asked if they could use the crane, in return for demolishing it for free.  My dad agreed, seeing an opportunity to save the company money.

When the day came, dad was surprised to see a convoy of ordinary looking, black cars turn up at the yard.  Out stepped the SAS troopers, and one Dr. Sidney Alford, Chairman of Alford Technologies Limited, a world-leading provider of explosive engineering and explosive charge technology, and the inventor of the charges being used.  Dad was further surprised to find that the explosives in question were in the boot of the cars.  This was, to say the least, a legally dubious way to transport high explosives by road.  He guessed that the normal rules didn’t quite apply to these guys.

The SAS rigged up the explosives, and the rest is history.  The first attempt was not entirely successful, as can be seen in the video, and they had to try again to finish the job, which they did.  One other minor detail that won’t be known is that one of the SAS soldiers wanted to parachute from the top of the crane as it was blown up.  How serious he was about that we’ll never know, since my dad refused him permission, as the company might have been found liable in the event of his injury or death.

How much of this story is true, or verifiable, is of course open to question.  I wasn’t there.  This however, is the story as it was told to me by my father, and as I remember it.  I have no reason to think he was spinning a yarn, and to be honest, it’s far from the most mental story he told me about his career.  I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has knowledge of the events.

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