Growing up in Strathblane in the 1950s & 60s by Donald Macintyre

Reminiscences

Early Days

I was not born in the village but in Salisbury House, Campsie Glen. My dad was a native of Strathblane, being born in Milndavie House. My mum was born at Little Gala near Biggar but came to Ballagan Farm when her father took over the tenancy there in about 1920. Mum and Dad met on the train going to school at Lenzie Academy. (Balfron High School hadn’t opened yet.) They married in 1937 and I appeared in 1946.

Donald aged one

Dad took over the business of Andrew A. Scott, joiners, undertakers and building contractors in 1950 and we moved to Robinson Cottage on Milngavie Road in the spring of that year. I can just about remember it because I was always wanting to sit in the driver’s seats of vehicles. My uncle’s lorry was parked at the front of the house and I was installed in the driver’s seat. I let the hand brake off, the lorry slowly rolled away and across the road into the verge. I can remember the whole episode because of the swearing I got from Tommy Cathie who was assisting with the flit!  No damage was done and I lived to tell the tale.

Starting School

The next event was starting school. Dad took me on my first day and I was introduced to my teacher Miss Higgins. She was strict but in a good caring way. I was no fan of school but realised I had to go. I possibly should have paid more attention. We had Miss Higgins for about a year and then she left to go to Australia, though she eventually retired to Milngavie and lived to a great age. Mr McAllister was the headmaster, and he had a son Andrew whom I became friendly with, but we lost touch after they moved away and George Allan became headmaster. One of my earliest recollections of going to school was of the Duntreath Estate gun bus coming into the village to drop off the children from the estate. It would park at the top of Station Road and the children would alight under the supervision of AlecMcKellar the chauffeur. I first met Willie Wallace at primary school. Both of our fathers ran local businesses.

Donald (in glasses, second row from back) with P1 Class at Strathblane Primary in 1951.

 If the weather was really bad, sometimes either my dad or Mr Roe would take us but that didn’t happen very often. Most of the time we walked in all weathers. At lunch time we would run from the Police Station (next to the Edmonstone Hall) to the railway bridge over the main road at Edenkiln to try and beat the train retuning to Glasgow. Mostly the train won.

Willie Wallace and Donald Macintyre (ringed) in 1957

Around 1952 Mr Armour at Elandene in Dumbrock Road got a television and he used to invite the neighbouring children in to watch Children’s Hour. This we did for a number of years and Mrs Armour usually had a treat for us. We would watch programmes like Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and Andy Pandy.

The Queen’s Coronation in 1953 was a milestone event. We went to the Douglas Cinema in Milngavie with the school to watch a film of the Coronation and each child received a souvenir Coronation Mug. Mine lasted until quite recently when it came to a tragic end.

Coronation Mug

Pranks & Pals

Occasionally I would go to a friend’s house after school and that meant walking home with them. On one occasion I was going to Lindsay Black’s at the prefabs. He and I set off from school to walk down the track near Wood Placebut we decided to explore the large pipes that were stored in the field beside the track We went through two of the pipes and decided to go down the banking to the burn. Disaster struck. Someone had left paint pots on their side and paint had spilled out and was lying in the ground with a thick skin over it. What did we do but walk over the skin and you can guess the rest? Yes, we were covered in green paint. Mrs Black and my mum were none too pleased at the result. Two pairs of new shorts ruined.

A prank involving one or two of us that had bikes was to leave the Scout Hut and cycle down between the prefabs, pausing only briefly to knock doors and flee into the darkness and watch the doors being opened. Unfortunately for us, one night out of the darkness came our two local bobbies who severely reprimanded us. When I got home I got more than I bargained for, as the police had visited my parents. I had a very sore bottom, and my bike was confiscated for a week.

The Prefabs where Lindsay lived. Later they were replaced by the council houses in Dumbrock Road and Dumbrock Crescent.

My friend David Kane came to our house every Friday for lunch. David had a lunchtime paper round. We would collect the papers from Miss Gove at Blanefield Post Office and walk to Park Terrace where the papers would be delivered to most of the houses, starting with the Thompsons at one end and ending with the McPhersons at the other. We then would quickly make our way to my house for lunch, usually prepared by Margaret Linning our housekeeper.

Park Terrace, which was demolished to make way for the council houses in Park Place

When in Primary Seven some of the boys were given the job of bringing the milk into the various classrooms. (Milk was provided for each child by the Education Authority) The milk came in third of a pint bottles and straws were provided by the teacher at morning break. The milk came from Ross’s Dairies at Fintry and was delivered by a lorry taking milk from Fintry to their Glasgow Dairy in Crow Road.

Exploring the Countryside

In the summer months we would often walk up the Glen. The stream there was known as the Tea Leaf Burn because of its colouring. You could dam it in the concrete channel that we called the Dookie up near the Children’s Home. This part was known as “the deep end”. But sometimes we would climb higher up the burn to dam it, thus restricting the flow of water and frustrating the folks playing in the Dookie.

My Dad took me to the places he used to play in when he was a boy living in Milndavie House. He had two caves. One really was not a cave but three boulders forming a cave-like structure on the escarpment behind the sheep fanks on the Gowk Stane road, and the other which was a more natural structure below the Gowk Stane just above the tunnel to Balmore. To access this one there were the traces of a path running diagonally from where Ian Wright’s memorial seat now sits. As the trees and bushes grew up it became harder to access the cave.

I used to go to these caves with my dog and sometimes the imagination could run riot but all great fun.  But when the tunnel was constructed in the seventies that cave was destroyed by the vibration from the tunnelling.

As I became older I would often go up to Ebbie’s Loch, not to swim but to see Charlie the elephant coming across from the zoo at Craigend to drink and paddle in the loch. I would have my dog with me, and we would cross over onto Craigallian ground and come down at the gate above the Gowk Stane. Often I would meet the keeper and he would warn me about trespassing but eventually we became friends and that would stand me in good stead later in life.

Charlie the Elephant and his keeper Singh Ibrahim

On Sunday afternoons we always went for a walk, the most common one being down Dumbrock Rd to the Black Lawn and up the glen to the Old Mill, up the Gowk Stane road past Boards Farm, down by Carbeth and the Cuilt Brae and back along the railway to home.

During the late fifties shipbuilder Sir Charles Connell from Craigallian was having a cattle court and a silage clamp built at the Boards. He wanted to make the farm more productive and was planning to bring in some Highland Cattle from Colquhalzie, his estate near Auchterarder. When we were out our walks, we quite often met Sir Charles and Lady Connell who would walk round from Craigallian to inspect progress on the cattle court, which was being built by tradesmen from the shipyard who came out at weekends or when they had slack time in the yards. They would chat to Mum and Dad and one Sunday they had a new LWB 107 Land Rover, and I was allowed to have a seat in it. That made my day.

. Craigallian, the home of shipbuilder Sir Charles Connell in the 1950s

The story goes that the maintenance for Craigallian was done by tradesmen from the shipyard, the painters would come out every second year to paint the exterior, but they never painted above the second floor because they did not like heights.

As I grew older, I would often go for a walk with my dog along the railway track to Ballagan and up across the moor to Muirhouse and back down to the village. This was a favourite walk of mine. Later on, when we moved to Yarrow House, I would walk down through Brownies field, up the tunnel brae along the Gowk Stane road and back down through the Squirrel Wood and back home.

The Kirk

The church played a big part in my life. I was christened in Strathblane in January 1947 by Mr Kennedy although I do not remember much about it but apparently a lunch was provided at Salisbury House, Campsie Glen in my honour. My earliest recollection is of Sunday School in Blanefield Church. For man y years after the Parish Church and the Free Church had reunited in the 1930s, the Free Church continued to be used for the Sunday School and Evening Services. Mr Armour was the Sunday School superintendent, assisted by Joey Millar, Bethia Findlay, and I think Wilma Dunbar, Willie Linning and last but not least Bill Chapman and leader of the infants was Mrs Barbara Kinghorn.  We would all meet in the church and after an address by the minister we would split into age-related classes, the infants going out to the vestry and the others spread out through the church. When Sunday School was over, I would walk with John and Danny Muir to the service in Strathblane Church. The children would stay in until after the Children’s Address and then we would go home. As I got older, I was encouraged to stay in for the full service. If Mum was at church, we sat in the Semple pew which was four pews behind the organ but if Dad was there alone we would sit in the very back pew on the far side. Dad was an elder and attended most Sundays.

When George Lugton came to the parish in 1955, he was unmarried at that time and he would often come for meals to our house and became a friend of my Dad’s. I was very fortunate to continue that friendship right up until George’s death in 2018 and I was privileged to attend the scattering of his ashes in minister’s corner here at Strathblane Churchyard.

Rev George Lugton, minister at Strathblane 1955 to 1969 was a particularly popular minister

Illustration 9: Rev George Lugton, minister at Strathblane, 1955 to 1969

A decision was taken not long after George came to the village, to completely renovate Strathblane Church and it closed for about two years with the congregation using Blanefield Church for all services. All efforts were made to raise money to pay for the renovations and lots of events were held in the village. The Women’s Guild played a large part in the fund-raising and had work parties held every week in our house Robinson Cottage to make small aprons with a pocket to give to each member of the congregation to allow them to subscribe to the renovation.

The poem with the aprons read:

“I return the wee apron, tis in very good taste
But to measure just once is only a waist
The need is so great that I feel it is best
As well as my middle, to measure my chest.” 

This raised a lot of money, most people measuring several times. The ladies also made a large number of decorations to sell at the Christmas Fair in the Edmonstone Hall. I think from memory there were two winters of work parties. One thing I can remember of the renovations was the overhaul of the organ. A man came from Edinburgh and spent several months taking the organ apart, cleaning and inspecting all the parts and installing new parts where required. All the parts were laid out on the pews behind the organ, and I can remember the builder’s dust was a problem, this was solved by an appeal for old bed sheets to cover the items.

Strathblane Church in the 1950s

After Strathblane Church was renovated and a service of dedication held, church life continued. The next big event was the closure of Blanefield Church in 1961. Then work started to raise funds to build the new manse, which is the present manse, for which work was completed in 1964. Blanefield manse was put on the market and sold. The church had also been sold to Mr Hugh Crawford, from Dundee. Mr Crawford was an artist and converted the church into a lovely house

Newspaper cutting re the conversion of the former United Free Church (Glasgow Herald 23 Feb 1965)

It should be noted that all the local tradesmen were used by the church to renovate Strathblane Church and to build the new manse. It should also be noted that a lot of unseen work was carried out by Messrs, Muir, Wallace and Scott and quite often no charge was levied by these gentlemen. I can remember in the aftermath of the Great Gale in 1967, my father and Mr Wallace going up onto the roof to secure and replace slates and check the bell mounting. No charge was levied, this being treated as a donation to the ongoing works of the church.

Another event which stuck in my mind was the retiral soiree held in the Edmonstone Hall for the-then Session Clerk Mr J.K. Campbell who had been a long serving member of the Session. Mr Campbell was a self-employed bookkeeper specialising in helping farmers keep their accounts straight, he was also a councillor and a well-kent face about the village. I am correct in saying he was connected to Campbells Tearooms and stayed in one of the villas at Crosshill before moving to his house at Glasgow Road, He was one of my father’s boyhood friends. (See also STRATHBLANE Some Impressions of Village Life in the Parish of Strathblane during the First Decade of the Twentieth Century)

Donald Macintyre Sr (Session Clerk), George Lugton (Parish Minister), RG (Bertie) Brand, Philip McCardel (past minister) and JK Campbell (Presentation to him as retiring session clerk)

Another church event which took place at Carbeth Guthrie every summer during the months of July and August, was the service for the “hutters” at Carbeth. This was instigated by Mr Patrick Barns-Graham and George Lugton to give some spiritual support to those spending time in the countryside at Carbeth.  Quite often afternoon tea would be served at Carbeth Guthrie house by Mrs Barns-Graham. These services were well-attended and supported by the community at Carbeth.

In 1967 I was among a party of Church members led by George and Joan Lugton going to the Keswick convention, I think about twenty-five of us, it was an inspiring and fulfilling event for those attending.

We had a Youth Fellowship which met in the Lesser Edmonstone Hall on Sunday nights after evening service. At Christmas we would go carol-singing, the highlight being the invitations to Lord Fraser at Mugdock and Sir Charles Connell at Craigallian. Tea, mince pies and sausage rolls were the order of the day at these houses after we had sung carols to the families and their guests. Mr Muir and my father would transport the carollers and would also include Moor Road on one of the nights.

Balfron

I was plodding along in the middle of the road academically. The time was 1958 and I was going on to Secondary School at Balfron. That was an exciting day, two buses came and stopped outside our house at Milngavie Road, we all clambered aboard the first one and it set off collecting pupils as it went through the village. The first bus went via Killearn Hospital and the second went up to Killearn and onto Balfron and onwards to Stirling. Our bus terminated in Balfron. My time at Balfron was good: I improved to the top three in class exams, so much so, I was given the option to repeat a year and go into the academic stream with the inclusion of French and Latin. I am not sure if this additional knowledge helped me in later life, apart from the French. I can remember using it to converse with a French couple who had broken down on Mugdock Rd. I did not wish to go on to university and left school in my fourth year.

I wanted to be a farmer but my father informed me that I was to have a trade and I joined Babcock & Wilcox as an apprentice fitter. That was short lived, I hated it and asked Davie McGregor if I could come and work at Peter Lyall’s garage, which was in Yarrow House on the main road. I changed jobs but did not tell my father. He was not very happy but soon came round.

I had first become aware of Willie Wallace at primary school but our friendship developed in our teenage years. Willie would come into the garage on a Saturday morning to blow up the tyres on his car prior to setting off to the motor bike scrambles he participated in and I would give off to him for not being accurate with the tyre pressures Willie just kicked the tyre. Our friendship really developed from then.

Lyall’s Garage (Yarrow House)

Approaching my eighteenth year I decided that I should become a native of Strathblane. My cousin was staying, and we set off for the Gowk Stane for me to slide down it three times naked to become a native. This event was inspired by my dad telling me about my Uncle James who was home on leave from the First World War in 1916 with a Canadian friend and kidded him on that this is how you became a native of Strathblane! I was quite proud of my achievement and am proud to claim to be a native. Sadly, James was killed shortly afterwards at the Battle of the Somme. He was a Private in the Seaforth Highlanders and was only 19 when he died. He is the youngest man on Strathblane War Memorial and, though I no longer live in Strathblane, I always come back for Armistice Sunday .https://www.strathblaneheritage.org/strathblane-ww1-project-15-james-macintyre/

Donald’s Uncle James, killed at the Somme, aged 19

Rev Malcolm Ritchie

In 1969 George Lugton became the full-time clerk of the Presbytery of Dumbarton and his place as minister in Strathblane was taken by the Rev Malcolm Ritchie. I became a Sunday School teacher around this time and then suddenly Sunday School Superintendent in early seventies. At that time Sunday School met in the Edmonstone Hall prior to church with the children going on to the morning service if they or their parents so wished. I had to resign from that position as my business demands at that time were too great.

By now I had taken over Lyall’s Garage and moved into Yarrow House. A couple of little stories about Malcolm Ritchie, the Minister. In the early seventies the village suffered power cuts, and the Kirkhouse Inn purchased some 12-volt batteries from me to provide emergency lighting. The deal was if we had a power cut, I or one of my employees would take the batteries to the Kirkhouse and rig up the emergency lights

Mr Ritchie had noticed over a period that my vehicle was always at the Kirkhouse front door. He approached me one day asking if he could help with my problem? What problem says I? You appear to be drinking a lot says the minister, your vehicle is always at the Kirkhouse. I burst into laughter and explained what was going on. He apologised and left red-faced.  He also had an uncanny knack of turning up to any road accidents in the area and trying to help, at that time we had about two per week.  This was eventually discouraged by the police.

Rev Malcolm Ritchie, minister at Strathblane 1969 to 1982

Scouts

I also had a long association with scouting in the village. I joined the cubs when I was eight years old, the cubmaster was Alex Duncan and he was assisted by Janette Chapman, followed by June Armstrong, I was in the guard of honour at June’s wedding to local man Archie Campbell.

June Armstrong’s marriage to Archie Campbell (Donald, fifth from right)

I progressed to the scouts, we had an annual camp each year usually going to the east coast, to places like Cockburnspath, Gullane and West Barns. The scout master was George Abercrombie, I can’t remember who assisted him but when we went to camp Mr Gair came along as cook. During my time in the scouts an extension was built on to the scout hut to be used for storage of the camping equipment and a meeting room. We started to raise money to build a new hut, and this was done by collecting waste newspapers on a weekly basis round the village, transport provided by Mr Muir and my father. The paper was stored and sorted into bundles under the leadership of Mrs Muir and my mother. Either Mr Muir or my father would take the bundles to the pulp factory at Milton of Campsie, usually about every six weeks. This proved a good source of income and continued for several years, but we never had enough money to start on the new build.

Summer outing 1957 (Donald back row second from left)

I took over for a while as cubmaster and I think Alice Gibson helped me. Often we had weekend camps at Leddriegreen. Col Cameron who stayed there was the local District Commissioner, and he had a site cleared for us to camp on.  We also took part in the County Flag Competitions which took place annually at Torwood near Plean and we would be visited by Sir Ian Bolton the County Commissioner. He had an uncanny knack of finding minute sweetie papers and hollering “who has left this newspaper”?

Farming

There were about 22 farms in the parish when I was growing up, though now from what I can gather they are reduced to a handful. Milk was supplied to the village by Findlay’s at the Cuilt, John Arneil at Ballewan who supplied milk in quart bottles, and Pirie’s of the Mains at Balfron. You could go to Puddock Hole and take your own container and Mrs Waddle would fill it for you. Latterly John Findlay was the main supplier to the village and surrounding area.

Tractors came to the area in the late forties but Mr Waddle at Leddriegreen continued with horses until his retirement. Danny Haggart worked with Mr Waddle and often gave us a ride to school in the cart. Despite not having a tractor the two horses managed to keep pace with those farms with a tractor. My grandfather at Ballagan had a Ferguson and four horses and often said work was easier with the horses than the tractor, but he qualified it by saying the tractor was quicker and easier to feed and that it was most certainly the way forward.

Ploughing with Clydesdale Horses. Leddriegreen was the last farm to use horses

Grandfather had farmed at Ballagan Farm since 1920 and retired in 1949 when Mr Baird came to the farm. Both my grandfather and Mr Baird were tenants of Col McFarlane who lived in Ballagan House. He kept racehorses and out of season you could see the horses in the policies of the big house. Col McFarlane had a game-keeper, Jimmy McDonald, who also acted as chauffeur, and a gardener, Mr Hollinsworth. When Mr Baird retired from the farm it was sold to Charles Connell and he put the under-manager from Colquhalzie Farms in to run Ballagan Farm and the Boards, but all the major decisions were taken at Crieff. After the under-manager left Alastair Bain came as shepherd and subsequently became manager and then tenant of Ballagan and Boards farms. Connells sold Ballagan Farm to the Grahams at Ballewan who have added further farms to make their operation one of the largest in the area. Duntreath also has taken a lot more ground into its own farming operation, as tenants’ leases expired or the tenant died.

Local Businesses

Andrew A. Scott, Joiners, Building Contractors and Undertakers. My father purchased this business in 1950, when we moved to Strathblane as I have already mentioned. When we took over the business it had a branch workshop in Lennoxtown, which was heavily involved in the joiner work to do with the building of the Holyknowe housing scheme in Lennoxtown. We had seven joiners and an apprentice; all the men were local with the exception of one who came from Kirkintilloch. Tommy Thompson was the shop joiner, and he made all windows, doors and coffins, even making garden sheds in slack time and many other bespoke pieces with the help of Andrew Armour, foreman and a very accomplished joiner.

Wm Wallace, Slaters and Plasterers, based in Station Road. I had known his son Willie since our early school days and we became lifelong friends. He was my Best Man and I was his! Willie took over the business from his father, though he and Sheila are now happily retired.

Donald Macintyre and Willie Wallace both acted Best Man at the other’s wedding

Daniel Muir, Builders. Mr Muir had three employees and built quite a few houses in the area as well as a number of well-known buildings in the village, including the Village Club and the Edmonstone Hall. Daniel’s son, the late Arthur Muir, took over the business and was a well-kent face locally.]The business was established in the late 1800’s and Muirs still live in the village. Until recently Arthur’s son’s John and Kenneth ran the plumbers J&K Muir.

Adam Carmichael, Plumber carried on business in the village from the mid-50s until his retirement when one of his employees. Ian Boyd, took over the business.

McLean the Painter, based at Milngavie Road, had several painters working for him and he did mostly Council work with some private house work.

J. McPherson & Son, based in the old Carters sheds at Dumbrock Road, built a few houses locally and were mostly jobbing builders, mainly a father-and-son operation with, I think, one labourer.

McAdam, Plumber based in Station Road and mainly a one-man enterprise, though he bred dogs in his spare time.

Thomas Kilpatrick, Electrician, based in the Old Smiddy in Glasgow Road (Now the Smithy Gallery). He was again a one-man enterprise but a very busy one.

Peter Lyall Ltd. The Garage Blanefield. This substantial business was established around 1912, David McGregor was the mechanic and they repaired all makes and types of vehicles.  They had taxis and limousines and built up a haulage contractors’ business comprising of some seven lorries with A & B licences.  Some of the lorries were involved in the construction of the Rest and Be Thankful road. There were some well-known characters employed by Lyall, such as Geordie Skene, the Sangster brothers and Sam Houston to name but a few. Geordie Skene drove the fire engine from Lennoxtown during the 2nd World War….. apparently, he sometimes had a job keeping the machine on the road, not due to the black outs but through an alcoholic mist.  After the war Davie McGregor did most of the work himself and Mrs McGregor ‘manned’ the petrol pumps. (Peter Lyall was his son-in-law.)I became involved with the business in 1960 as a Saturday petrol pump attendant, then gradually rose to puncture repair man and started to serve my apprenticeship as a motor engineer in 1963.  I worked there for three years and then left to gain more experience. Little did I know then that I would be back to that business as Managing Director by late 1969.

20. The Lyall’s bus fleet 1979

Cuthbertson’s Coal Merchants, Strathblane Station. This business was run by two sisters, Bessie and Marion Cuthbertson, with a driver and coal carrier. Bessie did the paperwork and Marion supervised the filling of the bags and went with the lorry on deliveries and collected the money.

McPherson and McLean, Coal Merchants and Haulage Contactor, Blanefield Station. Jimmy McLean ran this business with his wife in the office and two bag-fillers at the Station. I think one of the fillers was a patient from Lennox Castle. Jimmy drove the lorry and his niece Nancy went with him collecting the money. Both these businesses were taken over by Peter Haggart and his sons Billy and George and continued into the late sixties.

The Aizle, Blacksmiths and craft metal worker, based in the old McLean Painter premisses at Milngavie Road. Run by Roddy McKerracher, he was a talented metal worker and made many works out of copper. One such work was commissioned by the Dewar family of whisky fame, it was for a bar top in Dupplin Castle and depicted the family history. It was large and I was enlisted to assist him with the delivery and installation at Dupplin.

Though my wife Jan and I now live in Angus, I still think of Strathblane as home and we often return to meet old friends and go down memory lane.

END

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