Why does Glasgow smell like eggs? Sighthill’s ‘Stinky Ocean’ explained

The faint sulfury smell of eggs you’re able to get a whiff of around Glasgow is the legacy of the cities own ‘Stinky Ocean’
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Sighthill, now an up and coming £250 million development in the north of Glasgow, was once the most stinking area of Glasgow (in a literal sense) - the place reeked - but why did it smell so bad? And where did the smell go?.

A short jaunt from the city cintre is Sighthill, which was once upon a time the smelliest place in the city, due to the massive chemical dump - affectionately nicknamed the ‘Stinky Ocean’ by locals - the muddy slurry would eat up chemicals and young Glaswegians shoes indiscriminately, and in return release a noxious boke-inducing smell that quickly became associated with the surrounding area.

The wasteland ran between Sighthill Cemetery and the Monkland Canal - with Springburn Road on the East, and Port Dundas to the West. The no mans land was spotted with factories, a slaughterhouse and railway sidings all around the noxious green lake that was Stinky Ocean. A ‘bing’ had also formed near the smelly sea which was made up of industrial slag which also received an affectionate nickname - Jack’s Mountain.

It became a fast favourite playground for many children around Glasgow - at least the ones that were brave enough to come home to their mammys smothered in mud and smelling of eggs. Nowadays you just can’t get the same experience in town, the closest you can get now is kicking about Partick Pumping Station on a hot day, it produces a similar, albeit much weaker smell, but why would you ever want to do that?

The caustic smell was due to the presence of one of the largest chemical factories in Europe in it’s day - the St Rollox Chemical Works. Operating from 1797 to 1964, the chemical works produced bleaching powder for the textile industry, which created the stinky ocean as by-product from spending over 150 years dumping chemical run-off into the same piece of land.

Seemingly at no point did anyone think to consider the ramifications of dumping the same chemical waste into the one spot - and thus the Stinky Ocean was born. The boggy burn was also referred to as the much more literal (and slightly more boring name in comparison) name ‘the Soda Waste’.

Over the factories history it employed thousands of Glaswegians and was a major part of the Glasgow industry - and skyline with the tall skinny ‘St. Rollox Stalk’ chimney. In the 60’s the site was levelled, with the only evidence left behind of the factory being the Stinky Ocean that remained, letting off that sulfury smell that would turn the stomach of older Sighthill residents but somehow let off an inviting aroma for local scheme kids.

The tower blocks shot up between 1964 and 1969 - and no matter how high up you were - you could still get a faint smell of the Stinky Ocean below. The chemical that let off the smell of eggs was said to be primarily Hydrogen Sulfide - with sulfur famously smelling of eggs (if you’re ever near a volcano you’ll notice a very similar smell pretty quickly).

Thankfully for future generations of much more safety-conscious children and would-be residents of Sighthill, the squalid swamp was drained. Despite this the smell remained, however faint (it’s rather difficult to get rid of over 150 years of non-stop pollution), noticeable mostly underground in the North end of the city - if you come into Queen Street Station on a wet day - try sniffing around a bit and see if you can’t smell some of Glasgow’s most stinking history.

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