SUPERSTITIOUS tunnel builders are keeping an ancient tradition alive by placing a statue of St Barbara at the entrance of their excavations.

Tunnellers at a waste-water project in Glasgow have been spotted nodding to the patron saint of artillerymen, gunsmiths and miners for good luck on their way underground.

The small statue, set in a niche at the site entrance, is thought to protect tunnellers from accidents involving gunpowder or explosives.

One engineer, who also worked on the Channel Tunnel, said: “I’m not religious, but I wouldn’t dream of going underground without paying my respects.”

A Scottish Water spokesman added: “No tunnelling project of this scale would be complete without its statue of the patron, and tunnellers demand that St Barbara is present with them underground.”

The £100 million three-mile tunnel, running from Craigton to Queen’s Park, is being dug under Glasgow’s Southside by a purpose-built tunnelling machine. 

The work is part of a major upgrade of the sewage system.

Crossrail workers across London have also taken comfort in St Barbara’s presence, with “quite  a few” statues placed in the tunnels during construction.

One of the statues is now the first object in Tunnel: The Archaeology Of Crossrail, a new exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands.