IN PEACE AND WAR
Two periods in hospital – (1) Victoria Infirmary – (2) Mearnskirk – Christmas in a winter wonderland – Blizzard – Hospital school – A visit to the X-ray department – Almoner – Reverie – Linthouse & the surrounding area – SS Jaguar– Hardgate Farm – Shieldhall Farm – Mid Drumoyne Farm - West Drumoyne Farm – Farmers – Monkey’s puzzle tree – Hollywood dreams factory – Merryflatts & Linthouse – Changes generated by the building of the Clyde tunnel – Shieldhall Fever Hospital – Renfrew Road – SCWS Factories - Shieldhall Dock railway system – Field of skylarks – British Luma lamp factory – Ships & trains & planes – A platelayer’s trolley – Period road furniture – Businesses in the South West of Govan – Drumoyne Road South - The Rubbish Disposal Plant – Helen Street South - Reflections
TWO PERIODS IN HOSPITAL
(1) THE VICTORIA INFIRMARY
The Victoria Infirmary was partly funded by bequests of £10,000 from William Dixon of the Govan Iron Works (Dixon's Blazes) and £40,000 from Millholm Paper Mill. The original design was by James Sellars and construction began in 1888. Following his death the same year construction was overseen by his partner John Campbell. The Grange Road facade in the photo above was obscured by the erection of what was then a private wing, built in 1931 and extended in 1935. The Battlefield Rest on the right was designed by Burnet and Boston in 1914/15 and contains a shelter, lavatories and a news stand for the convenience of tram passengers. After facing a very uncertain future for many years, this unique building was converted to a restaurant.
On two occasions during my early and mid pre-teen years I was confined to hospital. The first time was in March 1934, when at the age of three-and-a-half Mum took me to the Victoria Infirmary to undergo a simple operation to have tonsils removed. This was something that happened to most children then, because at that time tonsils were supposed to harbour a disease known as tonsillitis, a persistent throat infection. Today it is something that seldom occurs as antibiotics have made it unnecessary. Despite being so young a few scenes from this experience are clear. The journey to the infirmary was by bus, on the number 4A (now no. 34) service, which ran from Govan Cross to King's Park (later extended first to Croftfoot by much the same route it takes today because the outer terminus, now Castlemilk, didn't exist then as a housing development.
Most journeys by Govan residents were made by tramcar, and going by bus to a destination which seemed to be farther away than the town centre was for me an exciting experience, the actual distances being about the same. During 1933 there was a summer holiday journey to Aberdeen, travelling there by bus. As a toddler then, only faint recollections of that occasion remains, and the trip to the infirmary was the first time I was fully aware of being on this form of transport. The experience created such an impression that I was convinced that the bus was superior. Considered now it was because of the novelty, and had I been used to travelling on buses and been taken on a tramcar for the first time there would have been a similar, favourable impression of travel by a different means. In the days of the trams they were always referred to as cars, but to avoid confusion with private cars, from here on they will be designate tramcars, 'cars or trams.
Perhaps I was unaware of the reason for it and have no recollection of being apprehensive or had any unpleasant memories after it. It is mainly the bus journeys between Govan and Langside that are remembered, so probably the reason we were going to the infirmary was concealed from me. The main memory of the outward journey is when the vehicle rounded the Battlefield Monument at Langside, with the then three semicircular ends of the hospital ward towers on the left, it seemed about to drop off a cliff edge where it dipped down the steep slope of Langside Avenue. Once in the hospital, after a delay I was put in a cot, one of a number lined up head-to-tail along the centre of a ward full of other children of all ages, the day-room of which overlooked Langside Avenue.
Awakening on the first morning before dawn at a seemingly unearthly hour, it was to find breakfast being served and the ward full of activity. Asking a passing older patient about the middle of the night activity, I was informed that 'we're aye up at this time' and that it was normal for patients to be stirring at this hour. The strict regime began at 6am and there was an early lights out of something like 9pm. There is no recollection of preparations for the operation or its aftermath. After a couple of days the next faint memory is of seeing my mother coming along the ward carrying a brown paper parcel tied with string containing my clothes.
Another recollection from this time is of walking along a corridor where a man in the dark uniform and hat of hospital porter was working at a closed door, from around which tendrils of what appeared to be white smoke were drifting. The impression retained is of being with someone, so it may have been when going home with Mum at the end of the hospital stay. While the area should have been busy with the patients who were mobile and staff going about their work, this passageway was deserted. The porter was bending down and working briskly and agitatedly, and making puffing sounds as if trying to keep the fumes away from his face.
The man was stuffing a blanket firmly into the gap at the bottom of the door from around which some of the vapour drifted. It was as if we had accidentally ventured into an area where we shouldn't have been. Coming level with the door we encountered the faint mist, and an acrid smell caught at my throat. There was an overwhelming impression of having drawn grit into my lungs that made me gasp and choke. Hurrying on past the area we found a bench on which to sit to recover, and while there were informed that chlorine fumigation was being carried out in the ward behind the door.
(2) MEARNSKIRK HOSPITAL - SEPTEMBER 1936 to FEBRUARY 1937
The smell of Lysol disinfectant has always brought forth memories of hospital visits. Unlike many people who had been in hospital during their childhood and had unpleasant experiences, for me it still produces a sense of longing for this time. Before it was withdrawn from sale as a health hazard, a bottle of Lysol was kept at home and used occasionally. Memories of the stay in Mearnskirk at the age of six are mainly pleasant, which may seem a curious statement to make, but almost eight decades later, when that time is recalled it brings on a strong feeling of nostalgia.
The reason for being in the hospital was because during the early years I had suffered persistent chest illnesses and was in poor physical condition. The family doctor, Dr. Cummings, suspected that I had TB and put forward my name to the local health board for a place in the hospital to have checks carried out and, if required, the most up to date treatment administered. The tests proved that I didn’t have the disease, but it was decided I should remain there to benefit from the therapeutic regime.
Again, there is no recollection of being apprehensive on the day of admission or even being aware of where we were going. The day began with that favourite trip by tram described in A GOVAN CHILDHOOD, part 2, (Favourite journey into town). Alighting in Hope Street, we walked along St. Vincent Street past George Square to the rear of the City Chambers building in either Montrose Street or John Street, where, I believe, the office of the Medical Officer of Health was situated. Memory holds a faint impression of seeing the stone arches over John Street. When the preliminaries were over I was taken away from Mum and put in a room with other children.
Presently we were moved outside, and accompanied by a woman attendant we boarded a dark green ambulance with leather covered longitudinal bench seats, probably one of the fever vans mentioned in part two of this book. At first there was much crying at being separated from parent, but for me the novelty of travel in a vehicle other than a tramcar or bus soon took over. The windows were small slits too high up to see out of properly, but with the exception of one girl who wet the seat in her distress, we gradually settled down and made friends.
Opened in 1930, Mearnskirk Hospital was then still new and seemed far out in the country. Most of it was closed and demolished in 1992 to be replaced with a private housing development. It was built on the land of the old estate of Southfield on low lying ground to the west of the original Glasgow to Kilmarnock road via Clarkston, and was overlooked on a slight eminence by the church from which it takes its name. Laid out in an apparently random fashion surrounded by areas of grass and well tended flower beds, the wards, long, narrow single storey buildings were known as pavilions. After passing through the main gate, the driveway ran past the administration block then descended on a gentle slope through woodland for a short distance to a level area.
Near the bottom of the slope another drive led off at a sharp angle back to the right, and here a little way along were pavilions 1 and 2 on opposite sides of the drive. New arrivals were taken there for screening, presumably to determine their treatment requirements, and girls and boys were put in the separate buildings. Mearnskirk Hospital was built in this rural setting well outside city limits and its airborne pollution for people with chest illnesses. It specialised in treating sufferers of the highly infectious disease tuberculosis (TB), then commonly known as consumption, and other chest afflictions.
During the first week I was confined to bed in pavilion 1. Bladder relief involved asking for the ‘slipper’, a euphemism for a china utensil shaped something like an enclosed sauce boat with a handle at one end and a spout at the other. Events recalled from the first few days are discovering a taste for stewed sausages with mashed potatoes, and a very understanding male nurse on night duty who was sympathetic with small boys who were missing their parents – with no hidden meaning there.
Particularly recalled is the first visit by my father. He was a maintenance-fitter with the Govan Shafting & Engineering Company in Helen Street, and had to work much overtime servicing and repairing the machinery when it was shut down during evenings and weekends. The only official weekly visiting period at the hospital seemed to be Sunday afternoons. But it may have been that, although there was an infrequent bus service at other than visiting time, the then remote location was the true cause of the apparently restricted visiting hours. Because of his working commitment, only Saturday afternoons were possible for him, and to do this special permission had to be obtained from the hospital authorities. The first time he came to visit I was still in pavilion 1 and this event is one of a series recalled with particular clarity.
Pavilions 1 and 2 were divided into rooms or cubicles that were part glass walled above waist height which made them bright and airy with good visibility all round and ideal for supervision of the occupants, each of which accommodated two juvenile patients. My bed position provided a good if distant view of the main descending avenue, so that I was able to watch passing hospital traffic. Dad was a keen cyclist and there had been a suggestion that, weather permitting, he would come on his bike, the road to the hospital from Govan being mostly uphill, it would have taken him about three-quarters of an hour to cover the seven or eight miles.
While watching I experienced the thrill of seeing him through the trees, free-wheeling down the hill and turning into the drive. It seemed that he was the only one who found it necessary to come at that time as no other visitors can be recalled, and he did so occasionally on Saturdays during the five months, travelling mainly by bus if the weather was unsuitable for cycling. The only disagreeable recollection of this period was a constant feeling of homesickness. For decades after this time my mother used to tell of the first time she came to visit, when my first words to her were ‘Take me home and poultice me’, indicating that I was prepared to endure the torture of the poultice in order to get back home. There’s a description of the poulticing treatment in part two of A Govan Childhood.
During the first week X-rays and other examinations were carried out, then I was transferred to pavilion 8 located low down near the Kirk with its small, distinctive and well remembered tower. The regime here seemed to have been less oppressive than during my stay in the Victoria Infirmary. It was less strict than would have been expected at a time when much stricter discipline was enforced on children generally than they are subjected to today. All patients in Pavilion 8 were of school age or younger. Only a few were younger than me but there were even one or two infants, so this situation was the best possible environment for any child, as was no doubt the intention. Although no names or faces can be recalled, the most of the other patients around my age were generally good company.
Of the nine pavilions, the other seven had a different layout from pavilions 1 and 2. They were divided into two wings laid out in a very shallow boomerang ‘V’ form, with a block in the centre in which were the immediate medical facilities, a kitchen, nurses’ quarters, toilets and bathrooms. The wards were open in which each pair of beds on both sides had a French window with a fanlight between them, and for the first few days I was confined to bed in this new location. On days when the weather was suitable the windows on the south facing side were opened up and the beds containing confined patients were pulled out for them to benefit from the sunshine. I’m on the left in the photo above. As it was early October this happened only once or twice before the weather turned colder. After a few days I was allowed out of bed and quite soon was able to join other active boys in their activities.
The central block had the cleaner’s facilities, a boiler house and kitchen, and an Aladdin’s cave of a large cupboard full of toys. The latter was of course the first place to be explored. It was a long narrow room lined with stout shelving reaching up almost to the ceiling that were full of donated toys of the period to suit all juvenile ages. Among the items were a rocking horse, teddy bears, small wooden building bricks (no plastic of any form in those days), tiddlywinks, and board games such as snakes and ladders, Ludo etc.
Outdoor pursuits catered for ranged from balls suitable for football, cricket, tennis (and tabletop), and sets of boxing gloves for juveniles and many other playthings of the more enduring kind. Those items and the seasonal aspects of the rural setting have left memories of interesting encounters and experiences. One boy said he lived in Anniesland, a name that puzzled and fascinated me on that first time of hearing. I simply could not resolve from his explanations of where it was. It set up an irrational curiosity that my mind interpreted as Annie’s landing, and later quizzed my visitors, much to their amusement, as to which house on the landing Annie lived in.
The main meals were probably prepared at a central hospital kitchen and delivered in bulk to Pavilion kitchens for distribution to patients by the ward maids, but breakfasts and suppers were provided from the ward kitchens. In the kitchen of ward 8 very early one dark morning, I was supposed to be helping the ward maid, the period equivalent of the auxiliary of today, who was preparing breakfast when she burned a batch of slices of toast under the electric grill. Gathering up the half-a-dozen smoking slices from the large grill pan, she moved to a bunker where the coal for the cooker was stored near where I was standing, and lowered the front flap and threw them in. As she did so I was amazed to see a pile of previously burned slices lying inside.
The sight of so much bread going to waste made a deep impression on me. Although my father was never out of work until he retired, our lifestyle at home was conducted in a fairly economic way and waste on this scale would never have been tolerated. I remember having to resist the urge to climb into the bunker to recover the discarded slices, and scrape off the charring as my mother would have done in order to use them, something I still do even today.
It would be expected that with youngsters in our age range a certain amount of rowdiness would occur, and perhaps it did outwith my perception. Maybe I was among children from a background different from the one I was used to, although the most likely reason was the fact that we were in hospital being treated for a suspected infection of debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. Most groups of youngsters like this would have had one or two with forceful personalities, who would try to dominate and perhaps bully some of the others, but this did not seem to happen.
Perhaps the supervision was greater than what is recalled, but a possible reason for the low incidence of bad behaviour was the threat of the syringe. This was a seemingly enormous, vicious looking hypodermic instrument, which was produced at bed time and administered in an apparently random way to some of the older boys. The victims didn’t appear to know about it in advance. They had to lie face down on their beds in full view of the ward to receive their injection in the backside, which never failed to cause a howling match, so it must have been really painful. I never actually saw anyone getting the injection, because after the first time I hid under the bed whenever it appeared in case it was my turn. But I do remember once being threatened with it as part of a group if we didn’t behave ourselves after some minor rowdiness.
The only time physical punishment was used happened in the following way. Among a handful of infants in cots in which they were usually left to themselves for much of the day, there was a fair-haired sturdy looking youngster of about two years of age. He was confined in a cot in a position next to a French window, and he was able to play with the two strands of cord for opening and closing the fanlight. To provide a grip for pulling, each cord had a small wooden plug for a weight inside a decorative lace cover on its end, and standing at the end of his cot, the wee lad had been having a great time amusing himself swinging the weighted end around which made gentle thudding noises. The throwing was becoming more boisterous, but none of the ward staff took any notice until after it was thrown more violently than before there was the sound of breaking glass.
The atmosphere, ambience would be the term now, altered immediately among the other patients from the normal state of calm to one charged with apprehension. It was as if all were guilty and expected retribution. Soon after this a doctor accompanied by the ward sister came marching solemnly along the ward to the culprit’s cot, and with great ceremony administered a few slaps on the child’s bottom. This event illustrates very well how much peoples’ attitude to such an episode has changed over the years. To-day such chastisement would be unthinkable; the broken window would be repaired, the fanlight cords tied back or the cot moved, and the incident quickly forgotten.
CHRISTMAS IN A WINTER WONDERLAND
Two events of that period which stand out more clearly than any of the others, were the Christmas celebrations and a particularly heavy fall of snow. As time passed, despite it being the season of long dark nights and cold weather we were warm and cheerful, the windows with curtains drawn giving a sense almost of home. This feeling intensified to the point of ecstasy as Christmas approached. The celebrations generated a festive atmosphere which, though confined to one day, seemed to last all week. That impression no doubt arose from anticipation, and recollection of the main day is of an ongoing party, with much movement as children visit us from other wards and fitter older boys in our ward going to those nearby.
The pavilion was decorated with holly, streamers and balloons, and there was a tree that probably came from the hospital grounds. The highlight of course was the keenly anticipated visit by Santa Clause, but in more recent times I have wondered about the absence of visitors – there were none. It seems that Christmas must have fallen on a midweek day that year, and either the ‘no visitors except on Sundays rule was maintained, which seems distinctly odd compared with today’s enlightened attitude to hospital visiting, or there was no bus service on that day.
At one point later in the day we were called on to be quiet and listen, and when we did so the sound of a bell was heard, distant at first but coming closer. Everyone was in a perfect fever of anticipation, and here he was, a truly genuine Santa ringing a large hand-bell. He was carrying an enormous sack of the presents we had been promised. This one, probably a member of the hospital staff and quite likely to have been a doctor dressed up in the appropriate costume, seems to have successfully carried out the age old deception, because no hint of it reached our ears from older patients who must have seen through the disguise. He was soon busy handing out gifts to everyone, staff included. It was revealed later by my parents, that the presents had been left behind during visiting time the previous weekend.
My present stands out for two reasons; it was an item that could not have been better chosen for me or worse for the situation I was in. It was a model train and rails set, but one quite different from those of today in gauge OO. It was a cheap tinplate gauge O clockwork powered set of the time that was different from the good quality models made by Hornby. A great benefit here was that each boy’s present could be shared and enjoyed by all, the enjoyment multiplied in the sharing, although the drawback was that popular fragile toys were soon broken. On the next visiting day, when my parents asked to see the train set, I had to tell them there was nothing of it left except some broken rails. Naturally they were troubled by this.
In being denied the pleasure of playing with that train set on my own, although well aware that because of the situation there was no way of avoiding what happened to it, I was affected deeply. Railways and models have always fascinated me. Obsession would be a better word to describe a lifelong preoccupation. The only other model railway item I possessed up to that time was a push-along, un-powered tinplate model of roughly O gauge size. It was of the then latest class of the largest steam engines on the real railway, the L.M.S. 4-6-0 Pacific steam Locomotive, Princess Elizabeth, a present from my grandfather on a previous Christmas. It too was fragile but it survived at home for a remarkable number of years. It was a very good representation of the original for that era, and was for a long time my most treasured possession. Tinplate, the predecessor of plastic, was the main material from which most toys at the cheaper priced end of the market were made. But some of them had surprisingly good detail, even if it was only in the printed-on representations of fittings.
My model had wheels of the correct profile which looked solid, but were actually hollow tin pressings that eventually worked loose on the axles, and there is no memory of any coupling or crank rods or other parts of the motion, or even simulated steam propulsion cylinders fitted. In manufacture, the details were pre-painted on thin sheet steel of a lighter gauge than is used today for canned food, then punched out and assembled and held together by bend-over tabs in slots. But the most remarkable feature of some of them was the excellent quality of the printing. Some engine fittings were present like whistle, dome, chimney, buffers etc., while others such as handrails, cab windows, and flange-guards were transfer-painted on in such a way that made the whole model very acceptable to me, given my age. What rather spoiled the whole effect was that there were no rails to put it on.
A highlight of the Christmas party was that during the celebrations I managed to achieve a short-lived stardom as a comedian of the unconscious kind. It happened that I was once again in the kitchen when two strange boys appeared, strange in that they were unknown to me but were probably older able bodied patients recruited from another ward to assist. They brought in an apparently heavy cylindrical object of dark metal that stood on an end, carrying it between them by handles that stuck out from the sides. What impressed me was that they handled it as if it was hot, and it looked much like a stove or the kind of container in which hot food might have been transported. Curious to know what was inside I cheekily asked, to be told brusquely with a lip curl and seeming condescension that it was ice-cream.
Thinking this was great news to pass on, I ran back to the ward and into the centre of the celebrations shouting in my excitement – ‘They’ve brought us hot ice-cream’. For a moment there was silence and puzzled looks, then the ward sister went away to solve this paradox. Returning moments later, red faced with suppressed mirth, she explained that it really was ice cream but in a keep-cool container, whereupon everyone had a good laugh. From having been related to my visitors later by nurses, that story followed me for a great number of years, and mention of it even up to fifty years later would bring a smile to my mother’s face. Needless to say the ‘hot’ ice cream was enjoyed by all.
The snowstorm was a heavy overnight fall of about eight inches which arrived in mid January along with a strong north east wind, which piled it up in drifts and gave us a great deal of fun. ‘Us’ being the fittest of the recuperating patients able to take advantage of it, and excluding the staff of course, who were likely to have been greatly inconvenienced. On the Mearns Road above the hospital there was a gateway entrance into the hospital grounds near the church, situated about half way between it and the main hospital entrance (still there in 1993 but long disused). The hospital superintendent Dr. John Wilson lived in a house close by next to what was known as ‘the back entrance’, and probably exercising his authority he mistakenly on this occasion used it as a short-cut.
After passing through the entrance this roadway or track more likely, descended to the right in a diagonal cut down the slope to the main area of the grounds proper in the vicinity of the nearby pavilion 9. It was probably a service access road intended to be used by the hospital works department which looked after the grounds, but the strong wind from the east had piled the snow up in this sheltered location. The morning in question was pitch-dark at the early hour we were up and about, and as the blizzard began to clear, we could see the lights of a car stationary at the top of the slope of the service road, and were wondering why it wasn’t moving. Breakfast was being served and the sky beginning to lighten before the car did start to move, but only in stages. We could see in the light of the head-lamps that the driver had to clear a path down the hill through waist deep snow with a shovel, go back to the car and drive down the cleared stretch then stop to clear another stretch.
This went on until full daylight when he finally reached the bottom of the slope, but it was approaching mid-morning before he got as far as the driveway near the pavilions. Clearing had already been done on the hospital roads here, and when the car passed by we had a close-up view of the snow plastered up over the bonnet. If on this occasion the driver had used the main entrance, clearance would have already been carried out there. How strange that such an unimportant event should remain so clear in my mind after so many years, while others of much greater importance do not.
Another effect of the storm was that during the next visiting day the visitors complained that it wasn’t worth their while coming, because the fitter patients were too busy playing in the snow to have much time for them. Caring parents probably didn’t mind this so much. In my case, mine would have had observed the change in me from being a sickly weakling who had to be cosseted and shielded from damp and cold weather, to a healthy active properly clad wee boy running about in deep snow and freezing temperatures and thriving on it. Once the initial greetings were over and we had inspected whatever had been brought for us, with the inevitable thoughtlessness of the young we were off enjoying ourselves leaving our visitors to talk among themselves. Fifty-four years later, an elderly relative remarked by chance on that very point, as she was one of the visitors.
Other recollections of the period are more relevant to being in a hospital recovering from a series of debilitating illnesses, for recover I certainly had. The feeling now is that it was a week or two spent recuperating while the rest of the time was a long holiday from school. Although not completely without learning however as there was attempts to organise a class. A teacher, probably a student, gave lessons at intervals to a large group whose ages ranged from five to fourteen. She seems to have been ineffective as I cannot remember learning anything, and the time taken up stopped us doing other more interesting things.
A VISIT TO THE X-RAY DEPARTMENT
This is a fairly strong memory which involved a short journey in an ambulance to a room in the main medical block, then being settled by an attendant on the bed of the machine, a seemingly massive unit of the time. After being laid out on it, a deep and sonorous male voice came from an unseen source saying ‘Hold your breath’, followed by a loud click of an electric switch carrying a high voltage, accompanied by an even louder buzz lasting a second or two. Although the operator was out of sight, there is no recollection of any protective screening that is now mandatory with x-ray installations. This was done two or three times lying in different positions, then it was back to the ward.
In 1998 when attending the Victoria Infirmary’s outpatient’s ex-ray department at Mansionhouse Road Langside I told the above story to the radiographer, and suggested that the equipment had probably been updated a few times since then. She laughed and said she had worked there a few years previously and the equipment she had used looked as if came out the ark, and was quite likely to be the same one as was there in my time sixty-odd years on?
Almoners in the hospitals of that time, known in more recent times as medical social workers (but now even this post may be extinct), were woman who helped people with money and other problems. Where the funds came from isn’t known but it was probably operated by a charity. Young patients who came from poor homes, whose parents or guardians couldn’t afford the few pence needed for essentials, benefited from being given items such as night attire, soap and face cloth etc. The Almoner’s function was to provide children from needy homes with necessities.
An experience with the ability to summon up very poignant memories of this time all those years ago, is listening to certain music. My musical preference is mainly classical; while not very broadly based, it is orchestral music of the Romantic era that I prefer. One might ask where would there have been the opportunity, quite apart from a six-year-old child’s inclination, to listen to music like this in a children’s hospital in the 1930s. Well, there certainly was wireless but how it was provided I have no idea now. It can be set down with certainty that hearing certain pieces of piano music by Debussy, in particular Clare De Lune (number 3 from Suit Bergamasque), and The Girl With The Flaxen Hair from Preludes Book 1 (Images), instantly carries me back to an occasion of a few moments when standing at a window of the pavilion with the curtain drawn back on a clear cold evening of bright moonlight. It was during a brief period of peace and quiet away from the activities of the ward, and looking at the stars and watching the lights of a vehicle passing along Mearns Road above. Decades later the significance of the former title became apparent.
The wireless set may have belonged to a staff member, or perhaps it had been installed by the hospital authorities or a charity, but it certainly was present. There was no ‘pop’ as it is known today, the equivalent then was dance music and popular songs sung by crooners, and jazz music was heard more often then. The only two radio stations of the were known as the National and Regional Programmes of the BBC, forerunners of what became with the outbreak of war the Home Service and Light Programmes, and serious music formed quite a large percentage of the broadcasts on the former.
Looking through copies of Radio Times from 1938 in the Mitchell Library in the 1980s, it was noted that the correspondence columns had letters from people complaining bitterly about the number of concerts and recitals of ‘highbrow’ music being broadcast and how little popular music there was. There were regular orchestral concerts, and recitals by instrumental soloists, chamber music and song recitals. Classical music was more likely to have been encountered in random listening then than would be the case today, because the people in charge of programming, under the then Director General, John Reith, were mainly middle class, and programmes would have been biased towards their preferences. Programme segregation in force to-day confines ‘art’ in its various music and drama forms mainly to particular stations. The only station I tune into now is radio 3.
Other music with perhaps an even more powerful effect can also take me back to this period of apparent tranquillity. One in particular forms a link between a popular song of the 1930s and a short piece by Sibelius. The song is The Way You Look Tonight, from the film Swing Time with Ginger Rogers and Fred Astair first screened in 1936. As they frequently are on radio and TV today, in those days many popular songs came from stage and film musicals, and were played on the wireless as entertainment and to publicise the shows.
The piece by Sibelius was heard for the first time some years later, but on that first hearing it sent such a surge of nostalgia through me that a considerable effort was made to find out what it was so that a recording could be acquired. It was from the suit Pellias and Melisande, the movement called Pastoral. Anyone with half an ear for a tune must surely agree that over a few bars the resemblance between them is quite marked. Listening to the Sibelius piece can still generate a dream (or reverie) and fills me with a longing to live over again the happy times at Mearnskirk. Another movement from that suit, At the Castle Gate, was played at the beginning and end of Patrick Moore’s TV astronomy programme, The Sky at Night.
It is likely the real reason for recalling the events of this period is subliminal, because of the feeling of debility prior to entering Mearnskirk, and being in much better health on returning home in February. My parents came to collect me, and we must have travelled by bus from the hospital into town then took a tram to Govan. There is no memory of the first stage of the journey, but the latter part holds another very powerful recollection. It was the first inkling of a major change for the better in life as desirable as it was completely unexpected.
As the tram passed along Govan Road and was approaching the stop for Howat Street where we lived then, I rose from the seat and made to go to the platform in readiness for getting off. Dad caught hold of me and drew me back saying ‘wait a wee while, we won’t go off just yet’. After Mum and he enjoyed a quiet laugh, they explained that while I was away they had moved house from 7 Howat Street to 12 Skipness Drive, Linthouse. An easy date to remember was the 28th of February 1937, as it was my Mother’s sister Molly’s birthday, and almost four weeks previously, at the beginning of the month, at the age of thirty-four she had married James O’Neil. The photo below is of the Govan Road – Howat Street corner in which the woman and child seen could be Mum and me! The sign on the corner is Howie the dentist’s whose surgery was at one floor up at the double window!
LINTHOUSE AND THE SURROUNDING AREA IN 1937
Ground floor tenement house windows were often at a level that allowed passers-by in the street or anyone in the back-court to look inside. To preserve their privacy, most householders in the lowest houses hung a lace curtain or, less often, had a decorative panel of stained, painted or frosted ornamental glass, covering the lowest part of the panes of their windows. These panels were usually dull and uninteresting, but some were quite colourful and attractive so that that the occupants of houses above the ground floor had panels put in their own irrespective of the need.
THE SS JAGUAR
When walking with friends to St. Constantine’s school in the late 1930s I used to pause to admire a very exotic looking car parked at the villas at the south end of Drive Road. It was long and low, with more chrome than was seen on other cars of that time and the wheels had wire spokes. It belonged to Doctor Thorburn who lived at number 25, and any examples in good condition existing today are highly prized antiques and are worth a fortune. There are a small number of them still around in the hands of a few lucky vintage car enthusiasts. The one in the photo below is probably a mid 1950s registration model; note the twin headlamps, horns and spot lamps. When I met friend Sidney Smith at the Govan Reminiscence Group meetings in the late 1980s I found that he had lived in that house in Drive Road, having bought it after the doctor had died, and Sidney had conducted a chiropody clinic there for over thirty years from 1947. At that time lived in Pollokshields, having moved there around 1980.
During the 1930s four steadings of land were still being farmed in the district, though it is possible the farm’s houses were by then uninhabitable. Hardgate Farm in Renfrew Road was opposite the entrance to the SCWS Shieldhall Co-op factory complex in Bogmoor Road. On warm sunny days during summer, while on their lunch break the Co-op workers from the office building opposite often crossed over and sat in the sunshine on the grass at the front of the farmhouse. As pre-teen boys, during the school holidays my friends and I would sometimes go along and ask the farmer there if he needed help. Although I can’t remember actually doing anything that could be called work, and have no recollection of there being any animals, there was a barn with a loft packed with stored hay, and we were able to lounge in the same place as the Co-op workers. Farming was soon to end here, the steading was abandoned, the buildings demolished and the surrounding land was used for the extension of dock storage space at the start of WWII.
A curious juxtaposition of names and locations is apparent here. While Hardgate farm was at Shieldhall, Shieldhall Farm, which was also abandoned around this time, was on the east side of and set back from Hardgate Road. Part of the land of the latter had become Coila Park, the recreation ground of employees of shipbuilders Alexander Stephens Ltd., with an access track that ran along a hedge row between Hardgate Road and Langlands Drive. A path, a leafy lane which may still exist, ran along the then city/county boundary on the west side of Merryflatts, the name by which the Southern General Hospital was formerly known, entry to which is near the point where Govan Road became Renfrew Road. At the pavement edge on each side of the road here there was a pole with a cast iron sign lettered in black on a white background, with RENFREWSHIRE on the east face and GLASGOW CITY BOUNDARY on the west face. Shieldhall Road had similar signs where the boundary passed across it about a hundred yards west of Cowden Street.
MID DRUMOYNE FARM
From Langlands Road a lane a little to the east of a point opposite Greenhead Drive (later Burghead Drive) went up to Mid Drumoyne Farm. From the farm it continued over the hill to Mallaig Road and Shieldhall Road after these roads were laid out in the early 1930s. The lane had a dense border of hawthorn bushes on both sides, which in spring were a mass of flourish. Mum and I were walking there on a warm calm scent laden evening in late spring of 1937 when a woman approaching us stopped to break off a bunch or two, and as she passed us we were almost overwhelmed by the powerful waft of their scent.
The land to the west of this path as far as the David Elder Infirmary was a field in which cattle continued to graze up to the 1950s. The Infirmary, seen in the two photos below, stood at the corner of Moss Road and Shieldhall Road. It opened 1927 and was demolished in the mid 1990s. Looking over that area during the millennium year, now well built over, alignments of the farm lanes are still visible in the form of rows of hedging, and the lane, lined with the hawthorn bushes to Mallaig Road, is still in use. I remember when walking past in Langlands Road seeing a man attending to cattle in the field in front of one of the farmhouses.
|David Elder Infirmary c1930|
|The Infirmary is in the centre here in 1965|
|Langlands Road c1920|
The small steam traction engine above is hauling a threshing machine from the lane opposite Mambeg Drive (at that time it was Margaret Drive) leading from Mid Drumoyne Farm, after the harvest there had been processed. The engine served the dual purposes of hauling the threshing machine round farms in the district for this work, then driving the mechanism from its flywheel by means of a long driving belt connected to a smaller one on the thresher. Remarkably, the flywheel is almost as big as the driving wheels. Behind are the newly built houses in Drumoyne Avenue and Drumoyne Drive. It was an interesting spectacle for the local youngsters; the white marks at three of their necks appear to be collars. The two photos above and below were taken from a window of one of the terrace houses between Mambeg Drive and Cara Drive looking south-east along Langlands Road. On the left, at the house in the middle distance the track to Mid Drumoyne Farm is going off.
|Langlands Road at Cara Drive c1920|
CAPTION FOR THIS PHOTO ON PAGE 42 IN THE BOOK ‘BYGONE GOVAN’
Langlands Road with the junction of Cara Drive on the left c.!920s. Much of the land leading down to the river here was owned by the Stephens of shipbuilding fame, and when some of it was developed for housing five of the streets in the area were given names of the family's children. Cara Drive vas formerly Agnes Drive, Mambeg Drive was Margaret Drive, and St Kenneth Drive was Katherine Drive. Kennedar Drive was Stephen Drive and Skipness Drive was George Drive. Drive Road (originally Royal Terrace) branches off at the end of the terrace in this picture (built 1898), with the trees of Elder Park lying beyond it. In the distance is the chimney of a cabinet factory in Crossloan Road is seen. The entrance in the pavement on the left was the start of the long track to Mid Drumoyne farm, while nearby to the west there is another much shorter lane which once led to West Drumoyne farm, a strip of which was sold off to become Pirrie Park, the sports ground for workers at Harland & Wolff. In the 1930s this lane continued on past the farm and over i rise to Shieldhall Road at Mallaig Road. The land west of this path as far as the David EIder Infirmary was a field in which cattle grazed up to the 1950s. Farms were often referred to by the name of the occupant, and as far as memory can be trusted West Drumoyne was Miller's farm, Shieldhall farm was worked during this period first by Danny Fairservice who lived in a tenement in Burghead Drive, followed by Christie Celland who also lived in Govan. Hamilton's was a name applied to Hardgate farm opposite the main entrance to the SCWS complex in Renfrew Road.
Surrounded by fields of pasture, the steading buildings set back from Langlands Road were accessed by tracks from opposite Mambeg and Cara Drives. It is likely that the rest of the land to the east, including a race course for what was known as ‘trotting horses’ (horse racing with the driver sitting on a tiny carriage with large wheels), was in the process of being sold off to the Corporation to build Drumoyne housing scheme. My father said he used to go along to watch the racing there. A strip of land next to the bowling green was sold off in the 1920s to be used as a recreation ground called Pirrie Park for employees of shipbuilders Harland & Woolf Ltd. in Govan, of which company Lord Pirrie was Managing Director.
|Langlands Road c1920|
Farms were referred to by people in the surrounding area by the names of the recent occupants, and as far as memory can be trusted of the above West Drumoyne was Miller's farm. Although I have only a hazy recollection, a reliable informant claimed that Shieldhall Farm was worked during this period, first by Danny Fairservice who lived in a tenement close in Burghead Drive!, followed towards the end before it was demolished by Christie Clelland, who lived in Govan. Hamilton's was the name applied to Hardgate Farm.
From the reference to the incongruous situation of a farmer living up a close in a tenement in a suburban area, it is possible the farm buildings were by then uninhabitable because of age and lack of maintenance caused no doubt by the encroachment of suburbia. Another name associated with these farms was Berry. It cropped up frequently and was mainly applied to either Mid or West Drumoyne Farms. But due to conflicting claims, trying to fix it to a particular steading proved difficult, and it can only be assumed that Mr. Berry, whoever he was, rented land for grazing or raising crops on different farms after the incumbents had moved on.
A tall tree in the front garden of one of the Corporation (Council) houses on the north side of Langlands Road next to Burghead Drive, had such an exotic appearance that it held and endless fascination for me. It was called a monkey’s puzzle (Chile Pine). When out walking with Granda I remember quizzing him about it with such intense concentration that seemed to disconcert him slightly, with me wanting to know why it was called that, where it came from and if monkeys were ever seen there. The answer to the first question was plain to see once the bark of spiky projections was pointed out, and the second, ‘where are the monkeys?’ replied to after a quizzical look, was a big disappointment to me as none would ever be fond there.
HOLLYWOOD DREAMS FACTORY
In those days, like much else in the world, little was known about animals other than the domestic and farmyard kind. Today, television displays to all the most intimate behaviour of a multitude of animals and insects, some of which, the manatee is an example, so little was known about seventy five years ago that they were regarded by people other than the experts as legendary. Today, every facet of the lives of lions and tigers etc. are well known and mostly understood by anyone sufficiently interested in them, but in the thirties they were regarded by children as terrifying beasts that were OUT TO GET YOU!
What was known about them was gleaned from sensational big game hunting adventure stories illustrated with drawings in comics, storybooks and pulp magazines with blurred photographs showing wild animals, usually dead. They were sometimes seen in films, which invariably exaggerated their supposed bloodthirsty ferociousness. In our world of fantasy we shared a relief that living on an island meant we could all sleep safely in our beds at night. Then perhaps in the next Tarzan film there would be a gorilla (a man in a suit!) or a made-up crocodile that induced an even greater degree of terror. The very thought had us quaking and wondering what to do if we met one in the lobby if we had to get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. Watching these films today, scenes that used to be full of terrifying menace are patently laughable. But it must be remembered that at that time the cinema medium, the talkies anyway that began to come in at the beginning of the1930s, was the very latest in sophisticated entertainment.
MERRYFLATTS & LINTHOUSE
CHANGES CAUSED BY THE BUILDING OF THE CLYDE TUNNEL
The oldest part of what was the Southern General Hospital, the two long parallel building complexes of stone on either side of the main drive, the larger eastern one of which has that prominent landmark the clock tower, was opened in 1871 as Merryflatts Poorhouse and Lunatic Asylum. The original address and entrance at 1301 Govan Road was at a gate-house with a narrow archway of blackened stone which in a later era caused motor ambulances some trouble negotiating. The arch (now demolished) survived until the mid-eighties, when it was blocked off and a then modern wide entrance built to the west. It and all the other old buildings still display the grimy sooty aspect caused by smoke pollution common to virtually all buildings of stone up to the 1960s, most others of which were cleaned up by sand-blasting. The vast new hospital that has replaced the old one is currently experiencing settling in problems.
Around the time of World War I the poorhouse became a general hospital and the name was changed to the 'General' one, although older people continued to call it Merryflatts, & most people are ignoring the new name & are continuing to use the old one. In the 1930s and '40s part of the establishment still housed psychiatric patients. The fittest of them could be seen working under supervision on market gardening tasks in the hospital grounds at the southern end, dressed in distinctive blue jacket and trousers which made them immediately recognisable. Some of them may have been in military service during WWI who had been affected by what was then known as shell shock. Today the condition is called PTSD – post traumatic stress disorder.
The hospital superintendent's house, built in the same style and of the same stone as the main buildings, stood in the grounds near Moss Road. When the road was widened in the 1920s, the house was left in situ and the new hospital railings at the back edge of the pavement and the pavement itself were made to execute a curve round it which, although the house was demolished about forty years ago, can still be seen. This slightly restricted its width almost opposite but a little to the north of where the junction of Galbraith Drive used to lie. The short stretch of Moss Road from Peninver Drive to Govan Road is the only part of the original to remain as it had been in the 1920s. The area on the south side between Peninver Drive and the houses in Galbraith Drive where the Clyde Tunnel access road passes was a wood-yard and sawmill, The Linthouse Lumber Store.
The biggest change of all, and a piece of unavoidable official vandalism in the further widening of Moss Road for the Clyde Tunnel access roads, was that a number of the good quality council houses on the west side, along the front of Shieldhall housing scheme from Langlands Drive to Rigmuir Road, were demolished. 'Council' housing is a modern term imported from the south. Back then they were referred to as Corporation houses, and with the demise of Glasgow Corporation, this is surely an example of usage going out of fashion. At the same time a strip of hospital ground containing many mature trees, some of which, aligned along the pavement edge on the west side of Moss Road close to where a pedestrian underpass is situated today, were cut down. The latest change c2012 is that a new addition to the hospital is being built that will be known as the South Glasgow Hospital.
SHIELDHALL FEVER HOSPITAL
Langlands Drive, which ran along outside the then southern boundary railings of the SG hospital grounds, was for vehicular traffic a long cul-de-sac. It had uneven pavement surfaces of rough beaten earth or ashes on each side. The hospital boundary railings ran along the north side, and on the south side behind a very high open fence of vertically set square-sectioned timbers, there were the back gardens of houses in Carleith Quadrant. Beyond the fence and houses there was Shieldhall Hospital, a separate establishment built as a fever and infectious diseases unit where strict quarantine was maintained. It became the geriatric wing of the Southern General to which my Mother was taken after a spell in the main hospital after she had a stroke in March 1988, but it has been demolished.
In the 1930s, infectious diseases hospitals in Glasgow had the special ambulances referred to before in the story about being taken to Mearnskirk Hospital. They were dark green vehicles with high up horizontal narrow strip windows, and were known as Fever Vans. They, the vehicles and the fever hospital itself, generated apprehension among the populace. If you suffered from an illness such as scarlet fever and were taken there, it was regarded as being very serious indeed. In certain cases visitors were not allowed to be in contact with patients until after a period of quarantine, and until they were cleared of the infection they could only communicate through window glass. Anyone in that situation was talked about with wide-eyed apprehension. When we had occasion to pass that way we did so fearfully, keeping as far away from it as we could and walking on the other side of the road. When a fever van appeared in the streets to collect some unfortunate individual it was the ‘talk of the steamy’. A group of spectators would gather round an ordinary ambulance to see who was being taken away, but if it was the fever van everyone kept their distance.
Langlands Drive began at the small triangular park at the end of Langlands Road, at the north eastern point of which was one of the bundy clocks in which bus conductors stamped their time-cards. Because of the re-arrangement of the roads here in the mid 1960s connected with the laying out of the southern access roads for the Clyde Tunnel, the eastern section of Langlands Drive was changed to become the end of a much extended Skipness Drive, but a Langlands Drive nameplate could still be seen in its original location in the hospital grounds. All the houses along the east side of Moss Road had their addresses changed to Skipness Drive. Before the change, the highest street number in Skipness Drive was a barbers shop at number 18. After the change the highest number was in the 250s. When the hospital was extended in the 1970s the cul-de-sac portion of Langlands Drive was incorporated into the hospital grounds where its alignment, and that of the footpath that extended as a track beyond, can still be traced by the road past the maternity building. That track, bounded on one side by a hedge, crossed between fields to Hardgate Road next to Coila Park.
One of the facilities here was the football pitch of shipyard Alexander Stephen’s employees recreation ground, which was laid out north of where the maternity unit's western car park was situated in the 1980s. The first football match I attended was here. Dad took me along on a Saturday afternoon in 1937/8to a game, probably of a West of Scotland Industry League which was likely to have been between teams of the recreation clubs of Alexander Stephen’s and the Govan Shafting. It was a cold day, and at half-time the players gathered to sit along the low embankment behind a goal post in front of where we were standing at the south end, to have their cups of steaming Bovril dispensed from flasks. Presently, one of the players noticed that I was feeling the cold and held out his cup. But doubtful of the offer from a stranger, I was reluctant to accept until urged to do so by Dad. The man was probably a workmate of his.
There were two wood-yards between Peninver drive and Hardgate Road. The structures of the Linthouse Lumber Company in Peninver Drive, mentioned previously, and the Clyde Sawmill farther along Renfrew Road along with rough timber stored in the open, had the distinctive wooden buildings common to all large wood yards, with open-slatted walls and curved Belfast type roofs used for storage and seasoning of timber to protect it from the weather. The Clyde Sawmill & Wood Storage Company's yard was to the west of the path outside the hospitals boundary fence from Renfrew Road to Shieldhall Farm. It occupied the eastern corner site of Hardgate Road, access to which was through a wide gate in the cut-away corner. The path running south between the Southern General Hospital and the wood yard was, as mentioned before, on the boundary between the City and Renfrewshire. It past through a glade of mature trees, and was a cool leafy walk in summer to which Granda and I occasionally ventured, and it led to the farm and Coila Park.
A rail spur emerged from Shieldhall Goods Station on to Renfew Road to join the tram line, but the opportunity to venture in this direction with my pals did not often occur during weekdays when it was in use. In the 1930s, steam hauled by Alexander Stephen's own engine, goods trains ran intermittently between the goods yard and the shipyard. The photo below was taken after a request for the engine to be driven out onto Renfrew Road for a photo-shoot. After 1945 Stephen's acquired a battery powered locomotive seen next below. Shieldhall Goods Station was always interesting because although smaller and less busy than the Govan station it was easier to see into.
For a few hundred yards along Renfrew Road the tram tracks used by route numbers 4 and 27, was the best way of transferring wagons loaded with steel plates and other heavy items from the goods yard to the shipyard. The Parliamentary Vale of Clyde Tramways Act of 1871 stipulated that provision had to be made for the passage of railway vehicles over the tram tracks, so a gauge of 4ft 7¾" was adopted - ¾" narrower than standard railway practice. This allowed locomotives and wagons to travel on their flanges in the shallow 1¼" groove where the tramcar wheels ran. In the photo below, in bright morning sunshine on 26th of February 1958 Steven's Andrew Barclay 0-4-0ST makes its way towards the good yard past 'Cunarder' tram number 1391 heading back to the city from Shieldhall on route 27. This service was withdrawn on 5th March 1958 followed by service 4 on 6th September. The tracks here were retained for shipyard workings until the Linthouse complex closed in 1968.
On the other west corner of Hardgate Road the goods yard road entrance for road vehicles to the goods station was also cut-away. Strathclyde Regional Archives had an excellent series of aerial photographs dating from around this time which show in detail the areas described in this section. While other photographs show much of the rest of Govan, unfortunately no view of the centre of Linthouse has come to light. Between the goods station and the large complex of factories of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society (SCWS) to the west below, there was originally a double track railway line running down to the riverside. Road accesses to the Co-op works were off Renfrew Road and Bogmoor Road.
To the west beyond the Co-op factories, the northern end of the portion of land lying between Bogmoor Road and Renfrew Road where it curved through 90 degrees to pass round King George V dock, was fenced off with iron railings. Part of it belonged to the Clyde Navigation Trust and much of the rest was used by the Co-op as open air storage. In one section there were long rows of barrels stacked up lying on their sides with the bungs (stoppers) uppermost, the nearest of which was close to the railings. On an exploring and scavenging expedition with a group of pals, we were attracted when we noticed that the bung on one of the barrels within reach had been eased out, and a clear liquid was visible inside. As well as passing traffic there were workers busy in the yard, so we had to wait for a suitable opportunity to investigate what the barrel contained without being detected.
Reaching in, a member of the group dipped a finger in the bung-hole and had a sniff, and after screwing up his face, he let the rest of us smell it. It had a sour but familiar odour, but what was it? Then one bright spark identified it as vinegar, and further investigation revealed that the barrel contained pickled cauliflower, part of the stored stock for the nearby Co-op pickling works. This discovery produced a mixed reaction among us because some liked cauliflower, but others, me included, complained that we didn't. We wanted to extend the search without having to climb inside to look for onions, gherkins and beetroot, but had to abandon this idea and accept the cauli, some of which we managed to fish out. When another expedition party returned after a few days to acquire more, its members found that the nearest barrels in the stack had been moved back from the railings and were out of reach. We had been rumbled and no doubt other scavengers had been at work there too.
On that same occasion, at the southern end of this extensive area across which the M8 was built in the 1970s close to Shieldhall Road, we came upon a field of turnips that was almost ready for lifting. One member of the group was enthusiastic about our find, claiming that raw turnip tasted great and was good for you. I loathed cooked vegetables and was reluctant to try any of them raw. However, after we had gathered a few small neeps between us and retired to a place of concealment, where someone produced a pocket knife and proceeded to top, tail and peel one, and we all had a bit. Sceptical about it initially, after tasting it I found I liked it - almost.
SHIELDHALL DOCK RAILWAY SYSTEM
The Shieldhall Branch leading to the goods yard at Hardgate Road was originally part of the Glasgow & Paisley Joint Railway. It was the first of a number of branch lines to be built in this area and dated from around the 1880s. It left the main line at Cardonald Junction between Cardonald and what later became Hillington, and ran in a northerly direction to where the Shieldhall goods station was laid out. The next development here was a single track extension running down the east side of the S.C.W.S. factories on a gradual descent in a cutting to pass under Renfrew Road. When the Renfrew branch was laid in 1903, it left this line at Cardonald North junction and ran by Deanside, where a seldom used passenger station was built in a cutting on the south side of the Old Renfrew Road before continuing on to Renfrew.
When construction of King George V dock began in 1926 it caused a major expansion of railways in this area that included doubling the track to Shieldhall Sewage Works. The works then only occupied the ground on the north side of Renfrew Road between Renfrew Road and the river. A spur curved off sharply to Shieldhall quay to the west where it joined the new KGV dock line to be described below. A number of storage loops were put in starting on the westward curve off the sewage works line. But the biggest development was to the west from Cardonald North junction. It consisted of a multi-loop marshalling yard to cope with traffic generated by the dock, access to which was off the branch to Renfrew. The northern end of the loops merged to double track and passed under Renfrew Road at its junction with the newly constructed Shieldhall Road.
The multi arch bridge to the east carrying Shieldhall Road over the northern exit from Shieldhall goods yard and dock lines also covered industrial premises, two of which were another timber yard and the Clyde Oil Extraction Co’s factory. After passing under Renfrew Road, the line from the marshalling yard split to run down both quays of KGV dock. A number of long sidings were installed lying parallel with the dock behind the shed on the east quay, over which road traffic, entering by the main entrance from the Govan direction, crossed over the lines by a wide cobbled road crossing. Parallel with these sidings, an extension carried on to Shieldhall quay on the riverside, where it curved round to the east to join up with the line which ran between Shieldhall Goods Yard and the SCWS factory complex. This connection made a reverse loop, so that an engine going in past the Hardgate Road goods yard chimney first, could come out through the marshalling yard to the main line still lum leading if its work took it all the way round.
Like all main and side roads carrying heavy industrial traffic, quaysides and access roads here were surfaced with cobblestones. The access to the dock off Renfrew Road at its north end described in the previous paragraph was a short section of the old Govan to Renfrew road before it was diverted to the south when the dock was built. Docksides and quays had a number of cranes spaced out straddling the rail lines which themselves ran on rails of a wider gauge. Another road access at the head of the dock was used by traffic arriving from the Shieldhall Road/Renfrew Road junction, which may be still visible today but is disused. It ran down a ramp from a point close to the road junction, where today there is a roundabout, and passed over the rail tracks by another cobbled crossing.
FIELD OF THE SKYLARKS
The south east corner of Shieldhall Road and Hardgate Road opposite the fifty pitches was, until 1937, a field in which cattle grazed and where sticky willies (the plant gallium) could be gathered. Gallium is seed-pods produced by a plant resembling the thistle, which had many tiny spines having tips that curled into hooks similar to Velcro, and was the method by which its seeds were distributed. If the pods came in contact with animals or clothing they stuck firmly, and were gathered by children to throw at each other and passers-by. Walking past that field with Granda on a warm sunny afternoon in the late spring of 1935, I had my first experience of bird watching - the feathered variety.
Attracted by seeing a few behaving in an unusual way in the field, we stopped to watch them apparently foraging for insects. They rose straight up from among the long grass, giving out a continuous series of trills. Granda identified them as larks and we lingered for a time, noting that they went up quickly out of the thickening seasonal growth, silent at first, to a height of about twenty feet. Then they began to trill while flapping their wings in short quick bursts, rising slowly up more or less vertical until they were tiny dots in the blue sky. Then the trilling stopped and they flew off quickly out of sight.
Granda Joe's explanation of the bird's curious behaviour was that their nests were likely to be in the vicinity hidden in grass, and they moved some distance away before flying off in an attempt to foil predators such as hawks, that might have found and raided them to steal the chicks. Later my friends and I searched that field looking for the nests without success; the bird’s deception seemed to be perfect, but we were probably looking at the wrong time of year after the nesting season was over. Alternatively, they were probably collecting insects there to carry back to where the nests really were, but if so how are they able to carry them and sing at the same time, we wondered?
BRITISH LUMA LAMP FACTORY
A year or two after that intriguing experience the Co-op, which owned the ground to the west of the field where we saw the larks, erected a factory in association with the Swedish manufacturing company Luma, designed in art deco style and built to manufacture light bulbs. The factory had a tower in which the bulbs were tested. It had (and the building still does) a curved semi-circular front, which is glass-faced all round, projecting above roof level, and as there were no houses this far out along Shieldhall Road there was no street lighting, it made the tower a spectacular sight. In recent times, after lying for decades in a derelict condition the building was refurbished in the 1990s and converted into flats, the design of which won an award. The art deco architectural style is very evocative, and when seen today it causes stirrings of nostalgia.
That fondness is partly generated by a longing for familiar sights and scenes of the past, which becomes more powerful as time between them and the present increases. The Vogue cinema was a contemporary of the lamp factory but is long since demolished. The Aldwych cinema on Paisley Road West at the corner of Tweedsmuir Road with its Birrells Confectioners shop (above), where today there is a supermarket was designed in this style. The Lyceum, a much older building converted from a theatre to a cinema in the 1920s, was reconstructed after being gutted by fire in 1935. Much pleasure can be gained from the study of buildings of this era, and enjoyment is derived when looking through the books of photographs on the subject.
SHIPS & TRAINS & PLANES
The western section of Shieldhall Road from Moss Road always held an attraction because it led to so many places of interest such as the railways visible from it. To carry the road over industrial properties, the long multi-span cast concrete bridge that had been built in the late 1920s provided a good vantage point overlooking the previously described eastern leg of the Shieldhall dock line. John Woyka's sawmill was on the south side of the bridge next to the railway into Shieldhall goods yard. There was a soya bean processing plant on the same side that later became part of Clyde Oil Extraction, to which an access road left the centre of the bridge and ran down a curving ramp having concrete wall parapets similar to the bridge itself.
High sided open tipper-lorries ran between the docks and here, carrying uncovered loads of beans loose like gravel, with them spilling out in a constant trickle from gaps in worn tail-gates as they passed along the road. We tried tasting them but found they were hard, dry and tasteless. The bridge then passed over Bogmoor Road and continued on an embankment which descended slightly to the T junction with and thereafter became Renfrew Road at the roundabout. It was at this slightly lower elevation it crossed over the railway running into KGV Dock.
The south side of this bridge, a double span joined to the main bridge by the long embankment described above carrying the road, provided a grandstand view from the south side of the main dock marshalling yard. The M8 motorway now covers all the land where this yard lay. The north side of the A8 Renfrew Road Bridge overlooked lines, sidings, roads and the dock itself, all of which made this location a favourite spotting place for trains, ships the and aeroplanes at Renfrew aerodrome. From the marshalling yard another line, the original Renfrew Branch described above, continued on from the west side of the yard and headed north west to run parallel with the road for half-a-mile before turning again to pass under it at an angle towards the river. Of the three bridges in the embankment on this stretch, the middle one was provided as access for the farmer of Shields Farm and his livestock, because the surrounding land was still farmed when the road was constructed. Deanside shopping centre and its access roads now occupy much of the land between here and the river.
The line to Renfrew which passed through the last of the three bridges is currently the rail access by a reverse shunt to Deanside Transit Depot. The intention here had been to build a much shorter connection from Cardonald Junction on the main Paisley line a few hundred yards to the west to run direct into the depot. If this had been done the line involving the reverse shunt would be closed, releasing the land for redevelopment. Beyond the third bridge, the main road with its tram lines to Renfrew descended to the level of the surrounding land at its junction with Hillington Road.
Another road, Mossland Road, shared the Renfrew Road junction with Hillington Road, which ran south to link up with Pennilee Road. It was constructed during WWII in the general expansion of industry with war work, to provide better access between the docks and the west side of Hillington Industrial Estate, in particular to the Rolls Royce aero engines factories. When the M8 interchange was built, the northern section of Mossland Road, which in its time had a long straight section with an unusual feature for the period, a surface of poured concrete sections, was diverted and realigned to join Hillington Road south of the motorway.
If instead of descending to the level of the surrounding land the embankment carrying Renfrew Road had been continued, it would have provided a grandstand if somewhat distant view of the aerodrome, which at that time was an extensive grassy field. In the expansion of the airfield at the start of the war the main runway was laid past Arkleston cemetery. Subsequently it became Renfrew Airport and it was along this alignment the M8 was built. For two decades after the transfer to Abbotsinch to what is now Glasgow Airport, the old terminal buildings and control tower, built in the 1950s, remained as a landmark on the Renfrew side until the 1980s, when they were removed to make way for a Tesco supermarket. At the interment of my grandfather in the cemetery in 1947, as the coffin was being lowered a Dakota DC3 landed, which rather distracted me. My overwhelming thought at that moment was if only he had been there even in spirit he would have been as diverted as I was.
THE PLATELAYER'S TROLLEY
That final bridge in Renfrew Road, the one nearest Hillington Road, was the farthest point to which my friends and I ventured in our explorations in this direction, and it was the scene of an exciting but irresponsible adventure that could have had serious consequences. It happened on another evening exploring-cum-scavenging trip to this region which was normally deserted, apart from the occasional tram, bus or car passing along the road at that time of day. We climbed over the parapet of the bridge and went down the embankment on the south side of the road and on to the overgrown railway line, which seemed disused. After passing under the road the single track line continued in a shallow cutting then passed under a second bridge.
This bridge, now demolished to make way for the Deanside shopping complex, was later identified as carrying what was the original road between Govan and Renfrew which ran past Shiels Farm, and is the site of where Deanside Station once stood. Beyond here the line curved again and passed out of sight to the left near the river towards Braehead and Renfrew, giving us a limited view of the section. We walked on from the first bridge and were heading along the track towards the second one intending to continue the exploration, when a member of the group spotted a dismantled platelayer’s trolley. We didn't know then what it was. It was just a light wooden platform lying partly hidden in the long grass alongside the line, with rail-wheeled axles lying nearby clamped together by two pieces of metal strip and two bolts.
A quick examination revealed that if the clamp could be undone, we might be able to assembled the trolley on the axles on the rails and have some fun with it. Some of our number began work to free the clamp, while the rest tried moving the platform to see if we could handle its weight. After a delay we succeeded in both aims, and after much effort had it assembled sitting on the wheels on the track. For a time we enjoyed taking turns pushing the trolley back and forward with some of us as passengers who pretended to enjoy the rough, un-sprung and rather noisy ride. It was during the school holidays and was getting late, so we decided to go home, arranging amongst ourselves to return the next day with absent friends who we considered were missing out on the exciting novelty.
Early the following evening an enlarged group returned full of enthusiasm for the anticipated fun, only to find the trolley missing. We suspected that perhaps others had found what was now considered to be our trolley, and had made off with it. They might even be nearby, playing with it just out of sight round the curve to the north-west. So, full of righteous indignation at their imagined cheek and ready to make something of it, we set off in that direction. But approaching the second bridge and the start of the curve we became aware of a familiar sound, and stopped and looked at one another with mounting apprehension.
Looking ahead we saw, puffing round the curve and coming towards us, a steam engine with a train of wagons. We promptly took to our heels and ran as fast as we could back towards Renfrew Road, but in a fleeting backward glance I saw the train had stopped and a man was visible at the rear waving his arms, which spurred me on to run even faster. That last scene has remained with me into later years, and subsequent experience of railway practice provided the explanation of what I was seeing. Meanwhile, with our imaginations running riot we ran all the way home, to arrive there out of puff and full of apprehension, quite convinced that police would be scouring the district for the trespassers and asking awkward questions of our parents. We were feeling only a little relieved they hadn't got there before us.
We thought the line was disused and the last thing to enter our heads was that trains actually passed along there. But it was part of a through loop to Braehead freight yard and beyond, serving a number of industrial locations before continuing on to connect with the old Glasgow & South Western Railway's Renfrew branch from Paisley at Renfrew. The line beyond the point where we found the trolley should have been known to me even then, because the recently married aunt and uncle had gone to live in Orchard Street in Renfrew. On journeys to visit them, one of the structures to be seen over the high stone wall bordering the main road on the right where it entered Renfrew, was an isolated bridge built of stone some few hundred yards to the north, the lower part of which was hidden behind the wall.
Seemingly intended to carry a road over something, it had no road or even banked approaches on either side. In fact it resembled the kind of bridge complete with parapets that might come with a toy train set. Whatever it straddled was out of sight, and I now wonder why there never seemed to have been the opportunity to go upstairs when travelling on the tramcar between Govan and Renfrew, from which vantage all these interesting features would have been revealed. Another structure was an over-bridge in Ferry Road at Orchard Street in Renfrew, where the line itself continued west on an embankment behind the tenement in which my relatives lived.
Not much attention was paid to the line while visiting them in the tenement, even although it ran close by with the rails at eye level from their one-stair-up kitchen window. Knowing it was there and that there was traffic on it at these points, I should have been aware of the connection between the line at Braehead and here. Perhaps as visiting the relations was mainly in evenings and at weekends, with no regular movements at these times there was no inducement to watch out for traffic. What we had encountered that evening was a shunting operation at outlying sidings, with the guard or shunter signalling to the engine driver. In that quiet location, probably the train crew were used to trespassers they may not even have noticed us. The locomotive was an 0-6-0 tender engine, probably an LMS ex-Caley Jumbo. All the features described here were obliterated by the construction of the shopping precinct in the late 1990s.
PERIOD ROAD FURNITURE
Since the Clyde tunnel approach roads were built, Moss Road between Govan Road and the railway bridge at Cardonald station has been a busy artery linking the M8 with the tunnel. But between the 1930s and 1960s it was a wide straight road that was relatively quiet by today's traffic flows. Today there's a fly-over (seen in the aerial photo in the section Mid and West Drumoyne Farms above), at the crossroads formed by Moss Road passing over Shieldhall Road. In the 1930s increasing traffic caused the original ground-level crossing to become an accident black-spot, and stories of incidents there can be recalled. It was relatively busy on weekdays, but the period of the slow pace of horse-drawn and early motor lorry traffic was passing, and as the number of motor vehicles grew so did the number of accidents and measures were being taken to try to make it safer.
Short narrow islands of pavement height were constructed in the centre of each of the four roads at the crossing, with a red painted cast-iron bollard mounted at each end of each island. Standing around four feet high, the bollards had deep vertical fluting at 90 degrees with orange or yellow flashing. On top there was a kind of round silver coloured solid domed cap surmounted by a knob, and the whole structure gradually flared out from below the cap. In the centre of each island there was a tall thin pole with a thicker lower section, encircled with alternate broad black and white rings. It was surmounted by a plain double-sided internally illuminated glass KEEP LEFT sign, in white letters on a blue background, the first of this design I had seen (or noticed) and which became a common sight.
The four points of the corners of the Moss Road/Shieldhall Road junction were cut-away, the north east face of which had a narrow access to a roughcast brick-pillared gateway and drive leading up to the David Elder Infirmary. There were simple barriers along the pavement edges here to deter pedestrians from crossing the road at the corners. They were of 2" metal tubing bent in a wide flat U set up inverted at adult waist height. Strangely, where the road to the infirmary cut across the pavement, even this seldom used road entrance to the hospital had a barrier like this on each side.
One of these barriers hold another memory of a milestone event in life which remains clear, and served at the time as a pointer to the fact that I was growing up. One day when out walking with Granda Chambers we came this way, and while he walked round the barriers at the hospital entrance, I was able to walk underneath without having to duck. After some time we passed there again, and like the previous occasion I made to walk under the same barrier, only to crack my forehead rather severely. Through the pain, my initial reaction was indignation at 'them', whoever they were, for lowering the barrier. However, Granda was full of concern and sympathy and made sure I was all right. Then when we got home he had the other family members laughing, because of the painful way it had been impressed on me that in the interval between visits I had grown a couple of inches.
In the Shieldhall housing scheme there was a Corporation Highways Maintenance Department storage depot on the west side of Cowden Street between Langcroft Road and the rear of a Masonic Hall and Shieldhall Road. The yard contained all the machinery, tools and other equipment and materials used for the work; a tar boiler, steam road-roller, and piles of cobblestones, signs and barriers, heaps of sand and grit and there was a resident watchman or 'watchie'.
The site was reputed to have been a pit, a coal-pit presumably, many years ago that had been filled in, but over time the filled area had become a depression that filled with water. People who lived in the area in the '30s who knew the origins of the site said they heard the land was unsafe and could never be used for building. All attempts to fill in the hole permanently had been unsuccessful and it had remained flooded and became known as Criven's Pond. That name might generate a spark of recognition in older people who knew the district. However, by the 1960s the authorities must have been able to stabilise it and low density Corporation (council) housing now stands on the site.
BUSINESSES IN THE SOUTH WEST OF GOVAN
The southern end of Moss Road had a row of shops which extended south from the corner of Meiklewood Road almost to the entrance to Cardonald railway goods yard. A family called Spiers owned the cafe on the corner (above) and most of the other properties in the row. From the corner, Moss Road curved left then on a rising gradient it swung right at the entrance to the goods station behind which was Cockburn's Valves (for pumps) factory.
At the foot of the road embankment on the north side of the railway, to the west there was a grassy area separate from the fifty pitches where younger children could play in relative safety, away from the bigger boys. The Fifty Pitches was a large area of ground laid out with many football pitches for junior and amateur teams, and at Rigmuir Road there was a long hut with toilets and changing facilities.
Crossing over the railway line at the passenger station, it went on to become Berryknowes Road seen in the early 1930s above, which soon after the Hillington housing scheme was built, had been widened from a narrow tree-lined country road to dual carriageway.
An unknown team ready for a game on the fifty pitches. Note what's written on the ball –
GLASGOW (SOMETHING) CHAMPIONS 1932/3
The building on the corner, a double five-apartment semi behind, was where my father's family lived in the right-hand house at that time.
During the 19th century there had been a coal pit in the area where Aberlady Road is today, and to carry away the coal a rail connection had been laid to it from the Glasgow - Paisley railway line. After the pit closed in the late 1920s just before the Drumoyne housing scheme was built, Shieldhall Road was constructed as a bypass, allowing traffic from the city travelling west to avoid having to pass through Govan. When the housing scheme was built, Drumoyne Road was laid out to run south from Langlands Road to the railway boundary. While the northern section was all council housing, the shorter southern section had a number of industrial premises on the west side only, the other side having the sports grounds. At this time, with the pit long closed, the railway branch was terminated at a massive buffer stop at the junction with Shieldhall Road, a feature which fascinated me each time I passed there.
The busy stretch of the main line between Shields Road and Arkleston at that time had one of the very few long stretches of quadruple track in Scotland, of which the two outer were ‘slow’ lines and the inner two were for non-stop traffic. The former pit siding left the eastbound slow line in a ‘back-shunt’, and after passing through a gated gap in the low boundary wall it curved round and split into two to provide a loop for shunting. There were two factories in Drumoyne Road with connections from the siding, the first of which was a steel works with a foundry, George Benny & Co. Ltd., which in later years I thought wrongly was connected to George Benny of the Milngavie rail-plane fame. The other connection was to a steel stockholding company. Each time I was in the area I lingered as long as possible hoping to see an engine shunting wagons on the road at the two works, but that never happened.
THE RUBBISH DISPOSAL PLANT
A brief description of the method of collecting rubbish and the vehicles used for it will be found in two paragraphs with photos in AGC near the end of chapter I under the heading THE MIDDEN. Because of a later acquisition of the aerial view beolw, the following is a more comprehensive description of the plant.
Glasgow Corporation's south-west refuse disposal plant know as The Destructor that stood on the site where the ASDA supermarket was built, was accessed from Craigton Road. It reduced the rubbish by burning, after which the residue had to be cooled with water then drained before it was carried away by road for disposal in tipper trucks. Originally it was removed by rail on another 'kick back' siding from the Govan Cross line. The plant had the four tall chimneys and three enormous cooling towers for the water seen in the photo. Standing on elevated ground, the chimneys and the towers were well known landmarks in the district. The towers were of wood and had a very distinctive shape not seen by me in cooling towers anywhere else. With a long oblong shape at ground level, their longitudinal elevation narrowed slightly to about mid height, the ends sloped in at about forty-five degrees then rose up to a height of around 150 feet as seen below in the 1930 aerial view.
In the photo of the plant, the Benburb Juniors Football Club's ground is seen at top left with Craigton Road just below it. This was before the new railway bridge was built to replace the old one to allow the tram lines to be laid to Bellahouston, and two trams are seen standing at what was then the terminus. At top right is the junction of Craigton Road, Shieldhall Road and Edmiston Drive. The loaded road cleansing trucks entered the plant where the trams are seen, and ran up a ramp to the three-bay building where the loads were deposited, probably on to a moving belt and carried over to the furnaces at the chimneys. The empty vehicles ran down the longer ramp to Helen Street, and the ash was deposited into the railway wagons in the low level siding.
Mentioned previously, what came out of the 'lums' (chimneys) was well known and dreaded by local housewives on washday. The amount of soot and grit the plant put out was prodigious, and in the surrounding districts wind direction had to be checked before hanging out a washing to dry. Living to the north-west about three-quarters of a mile away, I got to know that if the wind was from a south-easterly direction and was strong enough, the pollution could contaminate washings as far away as Linthouse and windows had to be closed. The volume of pollution varied, but at its worst each breath taken in left the impression of having grit in the mouth. The prevailing wind was westerly and residents to the east must have had a hard time coping with the dirt.
HELEN STREET SOUTH
How many people have notice the hump in Edmiston Drive where westbound it climbs up steeply from the Helen Street roundabout, and the lesser hump in that drive between Helen Street and Broomloan Road. The latter passes over a bridge that crossed the rail line into Govan Cross Goods Station, and the former too is a bridge that looks as if it might be over another line or even a road. What happened was that The Gourock Rope Works had a rope walk here which ran parallel with Helen Street in a long narrow low building, which stretched for about a quarter of a mile north from roughly where the entrance to the Asda supermarket is today, to a point where there were allotments off Helen Street. In the 1920s, when plans were beng made to build Edmiston Drive, property along its alignment had to be acquired by the council road-building department. But the rope works building could not be divided so the bridge had to be built carry the road over it. The Benburb Amateur Football Club, known as The Bens, played their games on a pitch at the corner of Helen Street and Edmiston Drive.
The area of ground on the east side of Helen Street occupied today by the Govan Police Office and garage, was a dog and later stock-car racing venue called The White City which fronted onto Paisley Road West. The rest of this plot in Helen Street and Edmiston Drive was taken over in the late 1930s by Glasgow Corporation Transport Department to build Ibrox bus garage. This is the area where the gambling school described in the last page in AGC was encountered. On the north-east corner there was another football park used by the amateur league club connected to St Anthony's Church in Govan which was known as 'The Ants'. North from 'Ant's Park in Helen Street there were factories, mainly engineering, the first of which was British Polar Engines that began in the late 1800s as an Italian company with Fiat in its name. Among other factories beyond BPE there was Thermotank, and the Govan Shafting, the engineering works where my Dad worked as an engineer-fitter until he retired at the age of 67 in 1965.
Where they backed on to Govan Cross railway goods yard there were up to ten factories on the west side of the yard, one or two of which had rail connections. The Govan Shafting was one of them, and because of a charge by railway companies known as demurrage, goods wagons being shunted into the works premises had to be unloaded and returned ASAP. This charge was introduced because some companies taking a delivery and short of space delayed the unloading if they could get away with it, and held on to the vehicles which deprive the railway company of other revenue. Farther down Helen Street, at the corner of Robert Street there was a derelict building which had been one of the first cinemas to be built in Govan.
On the west side of Helen Street, on the site of the allotment gardens referred to above as being at the end of the Gourock Rope Works shed, one of the largest glass-clad buildings in Europe was built by the Harland & Wolf Company which was known locally simply as Harland's. It was the Clyde Foundry and was known locally as 'the glass house'. It too had a rail connection which left the goods yard and crossed over Helen Street by a tramway into a yard alongside the building. It would have been used by Harland's own battery operated shunting engine (photo seen in AGC) to bring in wagon loads of iron ore from the goods station, and move castings made in the foundry to their shipyard 500 yards away across Govan Road. Between the foundry and the McGregor Memorial Church in Craigton Road there was a field accessed from Crossloan Road known as 'Cuddy Park', where horses used by a trading business to haul the their carts were put to graze.
Initially Govan Cross railway station was built in the 1860s as a passenger station which on its first day was reported to have been used by over 4000 travellers. By the turn of the century, as the tram system spread through the city and was electrified it was found to be more convenient and cheaper to use, so gradually the passenger trains were withdrawn and the station became a mainly coal distribution and goods transhipment facility. But as industry became established in the surrounding districts the goods transhipments increased; a look at a large scale Ordinance Survey map will show the large number of loops and sidings there.
At my current stage in life the most desirable event would be to go back and re-live over again all the pleasant experiences of these early years with present perception and total recall. To see in particular and study land and townscapes; the shape of what was then modern architecture, much of which has now disappeared with most of what remains today wearing a scruffy and unkempt look. To be able to examine locations now altered by road and other 'improvements', and buildings that no longer exist and can only be seen in photographs or films, not least of which would be the Holmfauldhead Drive end of Skipness Drive. To examine closely the railway system and the operations as they then were. But most desirable of all would be to have the privilege of seeing again and questioning long gone relatives, friends and others with a knowledge of family connections and events from their past. And be able to add to family and local history records information which is now inaccessible or would need time and expensive research. However, some of that is now available on the internet.
Other points of special interest would be to discover the names of other ships, in addition to those described in AGC and in a later part in this book, I saw being built or moving on the river. In the days when the sound of an aeroplane would attract attention and made everyone who heard it to try to catch a glimpse of it, it would be fascinating to know what types could be seen overhead. And nearer hand, the makes and types of motor vehicles, railway engines and rolling stock, and trams and buses. It may be that my own offspring having lived during the time of the building of such vast civil engineering works as motorways might look at them in the future and regret not having taken an interest at the time in the changes their construction was making.
My perception of the ‘feel’ of that era is by no means the least interesting experience to recall. The changes since the 1930s are greater by far than most young people can imagine, but in setting down that observation, there comes the realisation that in the ‘thirties old people then were most likely saying the same thing about my generation. People old enough to go back fifty years from then to the 1880s, could recall Linthouse as a small but growing village surrounded by the farms, estates and mansion houses. There were the farms of Sheils, Hardgate, Shieldhall, Greenhead, Moss, Fairfield, West, Mid and East Drumoyne, Berryknowes, and Craigton, and the still surviving estates and mansions of Shieldhall, Fairfield, Holmfauldhead, and Craigton. Alexander Stephen's shipyard had been established on Linthouse Estate in 1870, and the first tenement housing for their workers was built in the street called Linthouse Buildings adjacent to the yard.
In the thirties there was a peculiarly attractive feeling about a Sunday. The quiet mornings except for church bells and muted rumble, whine and screech of an infrequent tram passing along the main road. The yards and factories were normally closed, and other than churchgoers, the streets were almost empty. That impression probably dates from before the end of the depression in the late 1930s, because work generated by the threat of war began to build up as the decade advanced and Sunday and evening overtime working became the norm. The only shops open on that day were newsagents in the morning and cafes in the afternoon and evening. There was the wearing of Sunday clothes; the stern admonition to me to behave, ‘because it's Sunday’. There was the sedate walk to church in the morning, meeting acquaintances going to the same service and others returning from an earlier one.
In the afternoon, if we took part in outdoor activity, playing games involving noise, shouting and running about, it was done furtively, watching over our shoulders expecting to be 'checked' at any time by any adult, not just our parents, particularly in the back courts within the tenements where sounds were enhanced. The best that could be expected without being frowned on was a walk in Elder Park, usually accompanied by a grownup, to go across the river on the ferry to Victoria Park, or a wander round by Coila Park and Hardgate Road, Renfrew Road and Shieldhall Road.
Even a walk through Craigton Cemetery, then a well maintained place, was undertaken with interest. There would be intermittent glimpses of the railway with its infrequent Sunday traffic, and the opportunity to study old grave stones and look at a family lair. At that time I didn‘t know there were two of them. Perhaps we might pay a visit to relatives or friends who lived within walking distance with my parents. Or travel farther afield by tram or bus to other houses I vaguely remember, one of which was a bungalow but who lived there or where it was I've no idea now.
A different ambience pervaded Saturdays, particularly on drowsy warm sunny afternoons in summer. With Mum and Dad at ease, reading or napping. Myself browsing through a comic purchased that morning, and dreaming of the exciting film I hoped to see in the evening at one of the four local cinemas, Vogue, Lyceum, Plaza, Elder, to be discussed at length later with friends and school acquaintances. We looked forward to the evening episodes on the wireless of the police drama series Inspector Hornleigh Investigates, the private detective Paul Temple, and the programme In Town Tonight. The town of course was London, and the programme was introduced with a few bars of the Knightsbridge March by Eric Coats, during which notable visitors were interviewed. The introductory music was accompanied by background sounds of a London street, with cockney voices, traffic and a woman pavement flower seller who could be heard saying ‘lovely sweet violets’.
Kitchen windows would be wide open top and bottom and the sound of children playing in the back courts was audible. From a neighbouring house there would be a wireless broadcast of a brass band playing in the regular 2pm Bandstand Concert. On other Saturdays Dad came home after his normal half-day’s work, had dinner then went off on his Raleigh cycle with friends on their bikes for a 'run'. He would be dressed in a cream coloured linen cycling jacket, shorts and top hose. When I reached the age of ten there were the two cycles and I was able to go with him. On these occasions we went off by ourselves, just the two of us because I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with his friends.
Recollections of that jacket and short trousers were evoked for me some ten years later while on National Service in the army. Before departure for Egypt, draughtees were issued with tropical kit, the primary item of which was a linen tunic and shorts that can be seen in family photos of the time, just like the ones my father wore when cycling for pleasure in summer. On his return from a Saturday or Sunday outing with friends he talked about his travels to Gourock, or Largs, Helensburgh, Balloch and Loch Lomond or Aberfoyle. He might have an alarming tale to tell, such as getting the bicycle wheels stuck in tram lines somewhere. On one occasion he was couped off, keeling the bike over when a tyre became firmly wedged in the rail and came off the wheel altogether. That occasion meant a walk home from Renfrew carrying the cycle over his shoulder. On two occasions he went away for his two weeks summer holidays cycling round the north of Scotland. The cinema feature films of the thirties referred to above, when seen today on TV they are boring, but in the thirties they were regarded by young people as enthralling and the last word in entertainment.
A situation referred to by many of the older generations when reminiscing, that we seem able to recall the warm sunny summer days of childhood more readily than cold, dull, wet ones holds true for me also, with the recollections set down here in particular of the former.