IT IS a famous saying - the Clyde made Glasgow and Glasgow made the Clyde ...

The success of the River Clyde in the 17th and 18th centuries was down to the city's location facing the Americas.

Merchants began to make commercial links and Glasgow became the international centre for the tobacco trade. However, the shallow Clyde was not navigable for the largest ocean-going ships and in 1662, Glasgow Council purchased land and built harbours where there was deeper water, at what would become Port Glasgow.

There was mounting pressure to deepen the river so that large boats could reach the city. In 1759 the first of many Acts of Parliament was passed, giving town councillors the powers ‘to cleanse, scour, straighten and improve’ the Clyde between Glasgow Bridge and Dumbuck Ford near Dumbarton.

John Goldborne engineered the first large-scale measure, which consisted of building stone jetties out from the banks at regular intervals. Dumbuck remained a problem and in response Goldborne built a stone wall joining up the jetties and forcing all the river’s water into the northern channel.

Within a few months, despite the difficulties, about 730 metres were built and the wall – the Lang Dyke – was completed. Although there would soon be renewed demands to deepen the Clyde further as ships got larger, the Lang Dyke was the first major engineering project to begin to address the problem. In addition to his fee Goldborne was rewarded with a silver cup and £1500. His ground-breaking achievements were the first steps towards transforming the Clyde into the river which would come synonymous with shipbuilding on a global scale.

In 1858 the Clyde Navigation Trust succeeded the River Improvement Trust to manage the river, ensuring the shipping channel was properly dredged and maintained, and that harbour, dock and other facilities were developed to keep pace with the demands of trade.

Membership, previously the exclusive preserve of Glasgow town councillors, now included river users, manufacturers and shipowners, plus representatives of the Merchant’s House.

Kingston Dock opened in 1867 on the south bank, the first outside the river channel. Later major developments included Queen’s Dock, built between 1872 and 1880 on the north bank and the immense four-basin Cessnock Dock to the south.

Deepening and widening of the river reached its peak in 1936, by which time the maximum draught size of general cargo vessels and liners visiting Glasgow had stabilised at about 9.8m. However, further dredging was required to accommodate the Cunard liner RMS Queen Mary on her inaugural passage downriver from Clydebank on March 24, 1936.