Collection MS 121 - The McClean Hydrometric Data Collection

Identity area

Reference code

MS 121


The McClean Hydrometric Data Collection


  • 1909-1965 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

18 linear metres

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

The collection was created by Captain William Newsam McClean, a freelance hydrologist. Born in 1874 he was educated at Rugby and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he obtained a first in Mechanical Sciences in 1895. In 1908 he became Director and Chairman of the Cannock Chase Colliery Company and was also in charge of subsidiary railway and electric companies as well as privately providing an engineering consultancy. During the First World War he served time with the Royal Engineers, the Australian Corps and the 9th Corps, retiring with the rank of Captain. He returned to the Cannock Chase Colliery Company as Chairman and Managing Director; however, of particular significance was his role from 1919 as a director of the River Flow Records organisation. McClean was especially interested in the theoretical and practical aspects of hydrology and this aspect of his life grew in importance as time went on. Even as early as 1912 he was one of the first people in Britain to measure river flow using a current-meter instrument, and in 1913 had initiated the first systematic approach to river gauging on the River Garry at Invergarry. Because of his commercial activities he had become quite affluent and thus was able to spend a large percentage of his own fortune gathering scientific data on river flows. One of his aims in later life was to convince the government that the heavy rainfall in Scotland meant that harnessing and exploiting Scotland's water power was a viable possibility. In 1929 he began to measure river flow on the River Dee, installing a gauge at Cairnton, and later installed gauges on the River Spey. Indeed, his pioneering work in developing a database of river flow measurements later proved of great value in the planning and development of hydro-electric schemes for the rivers Garry, Moriston, Foyers and Spey. He died in 1968.

Archival history

The items were deposited in the University of St Andrews Library, having been in the care of Professor Peter Wolf, an eminent civil engineer at London City University. After Professor Alan Werrity of the Department of Geography moved to the University of Dundee in 1994 it was agreed that the entire collection be transferred to the University of Dundee Archives.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Daily rainfall postcards, and weekly charts of water levels at selected sites in Scotland and Cumbria including loch levels and river gauging stations. The places recorded include: River Garry, Ness, Foyers, Dochfour Ferry (Ness), Arkaig, Moriston, Gairlochy, Loch Oich, Ness - Fort Augustus, Glen Quoich Lodge, Spey, Aberlour, Spey-Laggan Bridge, Loch Arkaig, Ness Castle Farm, Loch Garry, Spey-Lochaber, Windermere Records, Loch-Gairlochy, Loch Garth, River Oich, River Foyers, River Dee. Also includes Norman Lockyer Observatory Council's Reports, Directors Reports, photograph albums, plans.


Not expected

System of arrangement

Usually chronological within series.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act (2018), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, 2018) and any other relevant legislation or restrictions. Clinical information is closed for 100 years.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges may be made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply; please check with the Duty Archivist.

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Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

The records are on paper.

Finding aids


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Notes area


More of MS 121/58+59 is located in Cabinet G Drawers 6 to 15, by Camera Area.

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Description control area

Description identifier

MS 121

Rules and/or conventions used

Description compiled in line with the following standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) General International Standard Archival Description; International Council on Archives, ISAAR(CPF): International Standard Archival Authority Record for Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families; National Council on Archives, Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997



Dates of creation revision deletion


  • English



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