River Kelvin – Teenager drowns trying to save friend

I suppose I should comment on this – for those that do not know a thirteen year old boy drowned on Saturday evening while playing with friends.

ITN News

BBC News

STV News

Declan Shanley, from Summerston in Glasgow, was swept away by a strong current in the River Kelvin, near the West of Scotland Science Park – this is one of the busiest sections of the river with anglers as it has mown lawns and few trees – it is very pretty looking and is also packed full of dog walkers.

For those that fish the “Vet School” he was playing in the deep pool with the sandy “beach” – it is also the pool an angler drowned in several years ago causing the Vet School security to insist anglers sign in and out at the security gate. New members of the association always question this rule – essentially if you do not sign out the security are supposed to look for you – if they do not find you fishing then you could have fallen in and drowned – as you have signed in they can then contact the association secretary to find out your address to give to the police. To be honest this never happens – the association did not insist on the rule it is the vet school. However it is better to be safe that sorry….

During the Summer the whole of the Vet School is busy with young folk having a laugh and a carry on – I see young people swimming in that pool regularly and for the life of me I cannot figure out how this tragedy  occurred – the reports mentions the boy being swept away by the current however there is very little flow in the river just now and just below that pool there is some very shallow water.

I only wish one of you guys had been around on Saturday evening and seen this happening – there is usually a couple of anglers at the Vet School and am pretty sure if one of you witnessed this the boy would still be alive – if not by getting him out the water then by warning them of the dangers of messing around in the river.

Every year The Kelvin takes a couple of lives – this latest tragedy makes two – the last one was around a few weeks ago when a young chap managed to fall down an embankment into the river – he had been on a night out – suicide was ruled out and I do not think they ever found out how it happened.

Anyway – what do you do if you see some young kids playing by water – I remember during the cold winter when the canal had totally frozen over watching some young kids standing on it and throwing bricks at their feet trying to smash the ice – when I pointed out to them what could happen (in a nice way) they told me to “fuck off” and mind my own business – however if the ice was to break and I was there it would be my business as it would be my ass trying to haul them out.

Risks, risks, risks – life is full of them – the difference between an adult taking a stupid risk and getting away with it and a kid taking a risk  is the adult should at least have some knowledge to draw upon – the kid however is still learning and requires guidance from adults around them.

Last year someone contacted the association because an angler fell in the river and was swept along by  a strong current – the river was high and dirty – the person wanted to know what the association was going to do about it – well – when it comes to adults fishing the river the association can do absolutely nothing about it – aside from a lifelong ban if you nearly get yourself killed just in case you do something stupid again – however accidents happen and that is why as an adult you are able to way up the pros and cons of  your actions such as maybe I should not lean out so far, maybe that mud looks a bit like deep, maybe the tide is coming in a bit fast….

Kids do not have that kind of sense built in yet – they have got to learn it from us!

So what do you do?

As an angler in this urban environment we keep out ears and eyes open – especially in times when others are using the river – weekends and hot days draws people to the Kelvin – some sensible but others are just learning to use water safely. If you see a kid carrying on beside the river you say something to them – who cares if they tell you to fuck off at least some part of what you have said will have reached them – what you do not do is ignore them – if they are obviously doing something dangerous and will not stop you give the police a buzz – they are happy to pop by if it means installing some sense into someone.

I am reminded of watching two boys from my office window who were trying to drag an old boat into the River Leven – the river is big and if they had managed to get it into the water they would have probably been swept into the Clyde – nobody was challenging them – so it was up to me to say something – they did not see where I was coming from – all they wanted to do was get that boat in the water and “have a laff”

River Leven

In the end the police turned up and made them try and haul the boat back up the jetty – they could not do it – eventually the council were called – my estimation – a few grands worth of time and effort just because a couple of guys wanted to have a laugh – it could quite easily have turned into  tragedy as well – like I say – the police are only to happy to stop something happening as opposed to dealing with the aftermath.

I was thinking of heading to the river tonight however after reading all the reports my heart was just not in it – my thoughts are with young Declan’s family on a day that is supposed to be spent celebrating family life.



  1. Jim Burns · June 20, 2010

    Alistair only found out about young Declan when I went to pick up the grand kids and their mum this afternoon.They were coming round to give me a grandad card and present. Had a bit of a scare myself yesterday morning when fishing down stream of the vet school and Dawsholm bridge.Fell down the bank side and banging into a tree scraping my arm and bruising my ribs, if the tree was not there I would have ended up in the river. With the river being so low it can be a magnet for kids thinking it’s safe not realising what the dangers they can get into.Like yourself when I have came across kids at the river and have stopped and explained what the dangers they could get their selfs into. Have found that when you are fishing they tend to listen to what you are telling them also pointing out that people in the past have been drowned in the river.

    A young life taken to soon my sympathy goes out to the Shanley family.

  2. jamesm · June 20, 2010

    Alistair, I am struggling (like you) to figure out how this could have happened. I also don’t understand how it took 2 hours to find the boy. The Herald, based on comments from Strathclyde Police, are saying the pool has a shelf with a 25 ft drop. I know it’s much deeper than the water immediately above and below, but 25 ft is news to me.

  3. Alistair · June 20, 2010

    Jim – you are correct – we as anglers take a lot of risks – I can count several times I have been in dodgy situations – I mind once bouncing for a hundred yards along the Tummel thinking that any minute I was going to have to ditch the rod and make a swim for it.

    James – 25ft is news to me as well – I suppose it must be correct though as they would have had divers going in. There is another deep hole upstream of the bridge which is probably around the same depth. It must be a very steep shelf!

    Considering that two folk have now died in the pool is there anything that can be done to stop it happening again?

    Do warning signs actually work?

  4. jamesm · June 20, 2010

    I know about the big hole above the bridge. I think there was a fatality there years back. I think the Herald writer has misinterpreted what the Police said about the pool being 25 ft deep. Anyway, however deep it is, it’s deep enough for the poor wean to drown.

    I don’t know if signs and rules would make any difference here. People poach the river cheerfully enough, so I don’t know that warning signs will be discourage weans from jumping in. Young people generally don’t have much idea of their own mortality.

    Would Glasgow University (NOT the Science Park)security staff be prepared to intervene to prevent members of the public placing themselves at risk on the river? Possibly not. Still, they were not slow to turf people off the river during the foot and mouth outbreak. Perhaps they need to take a wider view of what constitutes security.

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