Hurricane Low Q whipped up trail of death, damage and despair

Three cars crushed by fallen masonry in Bruntsfield Gardens after the January gales in Edinburgh in 1968. Picture: TSPL
Three cars crushed by fallen masonry in Bruntsfield Gardens after the January gales in Edinburgh in 1968. Picture: TSPL
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Fifty years ago this weekend Hurricane Low Q whipped through Scotland’s Central Belt at 104mph, leaving behind a tragic trail of death, damage and despair.

In Edinburgh, as elsewhere, the storm damage was devastating.

A policeman inspects the damage to Princes Street Gardens after a floodlight and stonework are dislodged from the Scott Monument by the January gales in 1968 Picture: TSPL

A policeman inspects the damage to Princes Street Gardens after a floodlight and stonework are dislodged from the Scott Monument by the January gales in 1968 Picture: TSPL

Windows were blown in, roofs and trees were ripped up, cars were crushed and chimney stacks collapsed. Hundreds of people were left destitute and thousands more were left without power in the aftermath.

Most horrifyingly, there were a number of serious injuries and fatalities. Those living in the top floors of Victorian tenements were most at risk and scores of families deserted their homes in the night.

Sadly, for one Edinburgh couple, there was no escape. William Anderson and his wife Elsie were crushed to death by falling masonry when their chimney crashed through the roof of their home in Dalry. Their grief-stricken daughter Elsie, 21, rushed to her parents’ bedroom at the sound of the crash but was unable to open the door.

In Granton, 12-year-old David Morrison shielded his younger brother Stephen, 6, when tons of masonry hurtled through their ceiling. Thankfully, both boys survived.

Car outside Garland & Roger sawmill was crushed by masonry after the January gales in Edinburgh in 1968. Picture: TSPL

Car outside Garland & Roger sawmill was crushed by masonry after the January gales in Edinburgh in 1968. Picture: TSPL

Over at Carricknowe Primary School, the storm lifted two auxiliary classroom huts from their meagre foundations, and deposited their broken remains across the playground.

Even the Scott Monument suffered some external damage, one of its Gothic pinnacles fell 80 feet. It was found pointed-end down, buried 12 inches into the ground

Tenements across the city were ravaged, with tiles, masonry and glass littering the streets of Leith, Gorgie and the Southside.

Four cars were flattened on Bruntsfield Place when two chimney stacks plummeted to the ground simultaneously at around 4am. Hundreds of other cars met a similar fate.

Former city fireman Fred Kinghorn, 81, recalls the night: “Many streets were impassable because of fallen debris. We were sent here and there by radio to make fast skylights on tenements etc. It quietened down by early morning and we got back to have our ‘pieces’ about 4am.”

Even Princes Street landmark the Scott Monument suffered some external damage. One of its Gothic pinnacles fell 80 feet and was found buried a full 12 inches into the ground.

All in all, the police received more than 300 calls, with emergency services stretched to the limit.

Alma Adams was in labour when the storm hit: “I remember hearing the wind whistling around the hospital as I was giving birth. I found the noise of the wind comforting as it reminded me of Shetland where I was born. My father, who picked us up in his car, said as only a Shetlander would: ‘dere’s been a peerie bit o’ wind’”.