Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Dumbarton Memories

It's about time for another 'nostalgia post', 2014 being my 'Year of Nostalgia'. What prompted this one was a question that popped into my head when I was out for a walk recently. I wondered when was the first time I had ever walked up a slope, and who it was that first sparked my interest in climbing hills!

The answers were easily dug out my memories. My mother's sister and her husband lived in Dumbarton and as a youngster I often visited my Aunt Jenny and Uncle John there. The latter took me to the top of Dumbuck Hill, on the outskirts of the town near Milton. The photo above is of the hill as it looks now, in a lovely photo taken by Danny Kearney from the other side of the River Clyde. It didn't look like this in the past though. It rose to just over 500 feet in the fifties. Much of the hill has been quarried away since then. The shape of the hill was said to resemble a giant man lying on his back, or an elephant's head. As a wee boy, I could never see this myself!

I found a photo of the hill from 1960, showing the quarry in its early days, here.

You know you are getting old when the hill you climbed as a young boy is no longer there!

Thinking about my aunt and uncle sent me delving into the box of old family photos, always a bitter-sweet thing to do. But I did find some pics that made me smile! They are not the best quality, but I thought them worth sharing. Black and white memories!

That's my father on the left, with the cigarette. The year would be 1947 or early 1948. I'm being carried by my dad and by Uncle John, with my sister on the right! If you recognise where we are, do let me know. It could be Dumbarton, or somewhere else entirely.

This is Aunt Jenny on the left, with my mother. And that's me on the little tricycle, in the garden of my aunt and uncle's home in Geils Avenue!

I loved my bike, and I enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle. As I grew up I spent many holidays in Dumbarton. I still remember playing with my Dinky toys on paths cut out in the pebbles you can see in the foreground of this photo. Now, that must be one of my earliest memories!

My uncle's garden had a lane at the bottom, running alongside the railway line, which was on the other side of the wall made of old sleepers. I remember playing cricket in the lane with the children who lived next door. It was fun waving at the trains passing, although, when I stayed there, it took a bit of getting used to the noise, especially during the night.

This section of railway, the North British route through the town, was closed and is now a footpath and cycleway.

The car must have been our family car back then. This one I don't remember though. Do you like my sun hat? 

There was one other member of the family at Dumbarton, a little smooth haired fox terrier, called 'Gyp'. This is the only photo I have of this much loved pet. There is no doubt that the dog was the boss! Coming back to the point of this blog post, Gyp took us for regular walks, and the big adventure was climbing Dumbuck, which we did on a number of occasions.

I wondered if I could find some old photos of Dumbuck, before the quarry. I was thrilled to discover this old postcard, the photo taken from Geils Avenue. My aunt and uncle stayed just a little way up in one of the terraced houses on the right!

The houses were constructed, I believe, to provide accommodation for the workers at Babcock and Wilcox, a major employer locally in the twentieth century, see here, and here.

I remember that right on the top of Dumbuck was a small brick building which had been an observer post during WW2. Gradually it came nearer and nearer to the edge of the quarry, before it disappeared forever. I wonder if there's a photograph of it in an old album somewhere. Uncle John would tell stories of serving up on the hill, looking out for German bombers using the River Clyde to navigate up towards Clydebank.

This photo of Geils Avenue, looking west, is by Richard Webb, taken in 2009.

I remember well that Uncle John loved his garden. Roses and carnations (one of which you can see in the foreground of this pic) were his specialty, as well as blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes, which provided the fruit for the jams which Aunt Jenny made every year. I'm not sure exactly when this photo was taken, but it would have been in the early 1970s. I was amused to note that I still had a full head of hair then.

Memories, memories!

The top photo is © Danny Kearney, from the Geograph website and reused under a Creative Commons licence. Similarly the photo of Geils Avenue is © Copyright Richard Webb. Other photos are © Skip Cottage.

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