FINE details on the past life of workers at Alloa’s glassworks have been found in a loft by chance, helping to tell the industry’s Scottish story.

Wee County native Dr Craig Kennedy, of Heriot-Watt University’s Institute for Sustainable Building Design and a former conservation scientist with Historic Environment Scotland, had been researching glassmaking in Scotland, but was unaware of family papers with ties to the 265 years of production in town.

The scientist, who hails from Alloa, knew his grandfather had worked at the local factory, but he had died when Dr Kennedy was very young.

However, a recent discovery shed more light on what life was back then.

Dr Kennedy said: “I happened to mention to my mum that I was bringing the history of Scotland’s glassmaking up to date and hopefully to life in a new paper I was writing.

“She found his old papers in the loft and gave them to me.”

The documents from grandfather Jimmy Whalen revealed fine information about workers’ pension payments, trade union papers and his terms of employment.

The social detail on an industry that developed from 1610 and grew rapidly mid-18th century, ultimately turning an elite product into an everyday item, has helped put other knowledge on Scottish and British glass into context.

Dr Kennedy continued: “We had a lot of scientific knowledge about Scottish and British glass.

“We could date it and check the chemical composition.

“But we didn’t have the historical context or story. We didn’t know how this industry grew or what impact it had on our economy and society.

“Because of my grandfather’s papers I’ve been able to glean more information about salaries and working conditions, as well as what the job actually entailed in the 1960s.

“It was a very happy coincidence that my own grandfather popped up in my research project.”

When glassmaking began in 15th century Britain, everything had to be imported, including the skilled artisans who could “take a blob of glass at the end of a pontil and twirl it so the blob would spin and grow outwards to as much as five feet wide”.

The scientist added: “In the 17th century glass was, by weight, as expensive as silver.

“And by the late 1800s, glassblowers earned twice the average national salary. It was a prestigious and sought-after role.”

In the 20th century, like many other things, the industry became mechanised and the role of the glassblower switch to a machine operator.

Over the years Alloa had become a Scottish hub for glassmaking, bringing the brewing industry with it.

While much of the drink-making has now disappeared, modern bottle-making remains strong at the O-I factory.