Prestigious job to restore bridge can boost employment in Bo’ness

Ballantine Castingsin Bo'ness
Ballantine Castingsin Bo'ness

A man with seven generations of history in foundries is leading a highly skilled task force to painstakingly restore Albert Bridge in Glasgow.

Gavin Ballantine (31) runs an iron works in Bo’ness and it’s little wonder he got into the business with over 150 years of family background at the foundry.

His team won the £2.6 million conservation contract and has been working on the project since April with the first castings going on site in Glasgow this Monday, September 14.

Ballantine Castings Ltd is a relatively new company but is steeped in rich history and for the last two centuries has been one of Britain’s most esteemed producer of architectural, ornamental and structural ironwork.

It operated as Ballantine Bo’ness Iron Co Ltd but went into administration before Gavin took matters into his own hands and started up the new company a year ago.

Gavin is proud of the fact that winning this contract for the Albert Bridge has meant he can employ four new members of staff, mainly from within the Bo’ness area.

He said: “It’s quite a prestigious contract. It went out to a tendering process and we won it. It means we can keep going strong.

“The work is ongoing at the moment and everything is going to plan. The first castings are going on site this Monday.

“We hope to specialise ourselves as the main conservation iron works in the UK.”

The foundry has supplied the construction and engineering industries with tens of thousands of different castings over the years and they prides itself on having responded to cultural and economic shifts through time.

But the core ideologies and mission statement are the same as the day it was founded.

The foundry operates two three tonne induction furnaces capable of melting 24 tonnes of iron per day in order to meet demand.

It has three individual moulding spheres and that means they are able to simultaneously service a number of industry sectors.

The team at the foundry do traditional greensand moulding, have a medium-high volume airset plant and a specialist section for heavy casting services.

The former company had a history stretching back over two centuries and was well known as a producer of bespoke specialist ironworks for many projects in the UK.

Some of these works included the cannons at Edinburgh Castle and refurbishment of Westminster Bridge, for which it was awarded a Heritage Award for Infrastructure, as well as restoration and refurbishment of North Bridge in Edinburgh and the Royal Mews canopies at Buckingham Palace.

Campaigners have been fighting for the repairs on Albert Bridge to take place tirelessly and are delighted to see work starting to take place.

It has been in a run down state for many years now, with cracks and rust appearing on the bridge, which was covered up with a pink ‘People Make Glasgow’ banner during the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Eddie Graham, who campaigned for the restoration of the bridge, said: “It’s going to be beautiful. Really, really pretty. Tourists will go there just to take pictures.

“There’s no doubt in my mind, it will be stunning.”