Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Glengonnar Camp

I came across some old postcards at an antiques fair recently. These triggered some memories!

The images were of the Glengonnar Camp, near Abington. This was one of five such camps built in 1939-40 in Scotland as a Department of Health initiative aimed at improving young people's health by giving them an opportunity to live for some months in a healthier environment than in the city. Because of the war, it was not until 1947 that the Scottish National Camps Association was established. The history of the Scottish Outdoor Education Centres can be found here. Still in existence now as a charity, the website is here.

Through the years, the camps have been used by a variety of organisations. My memories of Glengonnar are of a Scripture Union Inter-School camp one Easter holiday. Previously I had attended a similar camp at Dounans, Aberfoyle - my first ever 'adventure' away from home.

The West Coast Main Line passes Glengonnar, and when I first moved down here to Skip I would look out of the train window when travelling from Lockerbie to Glasgow, across the river, and see if I could pick out the wooden huts through the trees. Then one day, I realised they were no longer there, and I learned that the camp had been demolished.

Passing Abington in my car recently I stopped off with my camera.

There is little trace now of Glengonnar camp.

The oil tanks give a clue to what was here before.

If you listen closely, walking around the site today you can still hear the sound of hundreds of children enjoying the outdoors!

The base of one of the huts.

One of the postcards had been sent to an address in England in 1955. It says, "Dear Aunty Ruth. Having a great time here. Weather is very changeable. The food is not very good."

My own memories are of having lots of fun in a variety of outdoor activites, an abortive attempt to walk to the source of the River Clyde, and taking part in the camp concert in some discomfort, having staved my thumb taking part in a 'wide game'. On arriving home, my parents took one look at my hand, and a short time later I was waiting in Accident and Emergency at the Southern General Hospital. Yes, my thumb turned out to be cracked. My first broken bone!

The whole Glengonnar site is currently for sale, in five lots, see here.

Original photos are © Skip Cottage


  1. Yet again an educational blog Bob - very interersting and even more-so that they still exist today. I had nothing like that in my school days apart from a chaotic trip for a week to a PGL outdoor centre in the Brecon Beacons. Drunk and in charge of a school party is probably the best description of the teachers. I was stung twice by hornets . . very painful!

    Hope thet thumb is better now ';0)

  2. I hated this place with a passion unusual in an 11-year-old (1969). Vicious nursing staff, foul slop for food, forced TV watching, gang warfare between schools, and the weird teacher who would run his hands over us in our bunks each night "to be sure you had a shower". It was an utter disgrace of a place, and I am delighted it has been razed so that no other child has to suffer it.

  3. I remember this place well, I spent 3 weeks there when I was approx 12 years old, sadly, i dont remember it with fondness !! It was the unhappiest time of my young life. When my parents came to visit I begged them to take me home, all my school companions were upset too and wanted to go home. It felt like a prison camp rather than a camp where you were supposed to be having fun and adventure, some of the children were crying in their beds at night because they felt so miserable. The food was disgusting, some of it not fit for human consumption !! my mother weighed me when i came home and found that I had lost 9 pounds, people were commenting on how thin I looked. Thank goodness children are not being subjected to this place nowadays