THE superintendent of the Cleansing Department of Glasgow shares with the Medical Officer and the Chief Inspector of the Sanitary Department the credit of the wonderfully low death-rate of the city. It is a far cry from the year 1800, when the old "gardyloo" abominations came to an end with the passing of Glasgow's first Cleansing Act, to the present day, when 1,553 men and 326 horses, half a dozen destructors, and as many rural farms, play a part in keeping the city sweet. In December, 1903, Mr. McColl contributed a description of the Cleansing Department of Glasgow and its work to the journal Public Works, and the account reads like a fairy tale. Dirt, according to a certain philosopher, is only "matter in the wrong place." Mr. McColl and his staff undertake to convert the dirt of Glasgow into something else by transferring its constituents to a right place. The magnitude of the task may be judged from the fact that in 1907 the department dealt with 379,922 tons, equal to 569,413 cubic yards of refuse. Of this, 27 per cent, was burned, and of the remainder, 60 per cent. was sold to farmers as manure, and 40 per cent., the unsaleable and surplus portions, were sent to improve the farm lands belonging to the Corporation. The days of the dreadful old "midden-rakers" have come to an end. The department collects the city's refuse at every door, and itself turns the old paper, glass, iron, tin, and other "rakings" into yellow gold, the sale of these in 1907 realising £2,555 12s. 8d. The cinders collected fire the boilers of its works, and even the "clinker" from its furnaces realised in 1907 over sixteen hundred pounds as material for making concrete, bacteria beds, etc. The total sum received from the sale of these alleged waste materials in 1907 was £4,184 2s. 1d. The streets are swept with revolving horse-brooms and washed with rubber hose, and as far as is possible to civic powers, the virtue which ranks next to godliness is cultivated.
Mr. Donald McColl, the head of the department, began life as a business man, but in 1868, when the Corporation took over the cleansing of the city from contractors, he joined the newly-formed Cleansing Department. In 1883 he was appointed Assistant Superintendent, Mr. John Young being then chief; and on Mr. Young's appointment, in 1892, as General Manager of the Tramways Department, which was instituted in that year, Mr. M'Coll was unanimously elected to succeed him. In 1898, on the formation of the Association of Cleansing Superintendents of Great Britain and Ireland, the value of his work was acknowledged by his being chosen its first President.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)