Dumbarton Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Last week when we were in Dumbarton, where I grew up and Jack was born, we had a wee walk through the town centre, which like most has seen far better days. Inevitably there were empty shops, but they have tried to jolly things up by covering the shop fronts with these gorgeous photographs of ‘The Rock’. In fact I took the photo on my blog header from the top of this very historic rock which is a volcanic plug. Because of its strategic position at the confluence of two rivers – the Clyde and the Leven – it has been used as a fort and stronghold, and was even used by the army in WW1 and WW2. There’s a tradition (accordng to the author Rosemary Sutcliff) that the Romans had a naval station here and they called it Theodosia, which I believe means given by the gods.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Whenever I see this place in the distance I always feel that I’m home. I don’t know who took these photos but they are very good I think, probably the first one was taken by a drone.

Dumbarton  Rock, west Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Christmas lights 2018

It’s the second of January but some of my neighbours have taken down their Christmas decorations already. Mind you those are the people who put up their decorations in mid November! I did manage to take some photos of the lights in a few of the places we visited pre-Christmas, below are the street lights in Dumbarton, the small town that I grew up in.

Dumbarton HighStreet

I must say that I was really impressd with the town’s efforts. I actually think that they’re the best ones I’ve seen for a long time. I’m fed up with just bright white lights that so many places seem to have opted for, the yellow and red fairly cheered the place up.

Christmas lights, Dumbarton Hight Street

Tha lights of the “Artizan’ area (which by the way is NOT where the old Artizan was) aren’t quite so nice I think, but they’re better than nothing I suppose.

Christmas lights, Dumbarton

The permanent lights that enhance the old stone bridge below are atmospheric.

Dumbarton old bridge, Scotland

You can get an idea of what it looks like in daylight from the photo below.

Swans in River Leven, Dumbarton

In Glasgow George Square is the focus for the Christmas activities, in my young day that used to mean a nativity scene, but nowadays they plonk a fun fair on it. It was ‘sear your eye balls’ bright this year (2018).

Christmas lights,George Square, Glasgow

West George Street in the Merchant City area was the place to go if you were looking for something a bit more elegant. The church doorway was flanked by two Christmas trees, it looked pretty in the distance anyway. The church (St George’s Tron) is actually in Nelson Mandela Place though, the first street named after him – long before he was released from prison.

Christmas lights, Glasgow

And so went another year – in a flash!

Dumbarton and the River Clyde

Back at Dumbarton Castle again, and you get some lovely views from there, below is the River Clyde, looking over to its south bank.

River Clyde

And below looking over to Langbank on the other side of the river from Dumbarton. Obviously I took these photos at low tide, but when the Queen Elizabeth II was launched at Clydebank just a few miles down the Clyde this is exactly where I stood to watch her sail past. I was still at primary school and the whole school walked there to see her and wave at the captain.
River Clyde

If you look to the left in the photo below you should just be able to see the Erskine Bridge in the distance.
River Clyde

The photos below were also taken from Dumbarton Castle Rock although this time looking inland. As you can see there’s a lot of house building going on at the moment. The land around there was the Sunderland aircraft factory during World War 2 I believe, so it was a busy place.
Dumbarton Crags
The photo below is of the area just to the right of the photo above, of Dumbuie and Dumbuck which used to be a huge mountainous rock but sadly when I was about seven they started to quarry it and now there’s hardly anything left, it’s like a big hollowed out tooth. I still mourn for what was the original Dumbuck. I hate quarries.
Dumbuie, Crags

When I was about 13 they started building new houses on farmland which was exactly where I used to walk to get to the top of the hills. I couldn’t believe it and feared that eventually there would be no hills left to walk on at all, but they must have decided that the area was too steep for housing, which it is. I noticed that the houses that are being built now near the Clyde have about a dozen stairs up to the front door. I’m not surprised as being so close to the river they’re in danger of flooding. Rather them than me! Dumbarton was a nice town to grow up in, where I lived anyway, on the edge of town but like many places it has sadly deteriorated, the scenery is still good though.
a pano from castle

The Spanish Gardener by A.J. Cronin

The Spanish Gardener cover

The Spanish Gardener by Scottish author A.J. Cronin was published in 1950 and was made into a film in 1957, it looks like you can see the whole of the film online, if you’re interested. It stars Dirk Bogarde, worth watching for him alone but as I recall it’s an enjoyable watch. Actually I’m not sure if enjoyable is the word, given the storyline. It’s probably more acccurate to describe it as an interesting look at a psychological type.

Cronin was a doctor, a local GP in a small town (Dumbarton) in the west of Scotland and as such must have met a lot of characters in his daily life, some of whom inspired/appalled him so much that he felt the need to get their characters down on paper and write tales around them. He seemed to specialise in men who were bullying, self centred obsessives, going from the books of his which I’ve read in the past.

Mr Harrington Brande is an American consul who has been sent to a small town in Spain to do his diplomatic bit, he isn’t at all happy about being given the post as he thinks that he should have been given the top job in Madrid and he feels that he has been overlooked for promotion again and again. By Brande’s estimation he is superior to almost everyone, a sure sign of people that are in fact inferior to the rest of us. His feelings of superiority and snobbery leave him open to being easily manipulated by people who know his weakness for the upper classes.

Brande’s wife has left him, she was unable to stand his suffocating and controlling nature and was driven to leave him and their son Nicholas. She wasn’t allowed to have a normal relationship with her son anyway, not even having a say in what he would be named.

Nicholas has been treated as an invalid all his life, so not surprisingly he is a weakling, never having been allowed to go out and do what normal boys do. He has to spend a lot of time in bed reading, no fun for a 9 year old, but the beautiful surroundings of their new home entice Nicholas to go out and walk in the garden, where he makes friends with a 19 year old gardener, Jose.

Jose is supporting his whole family on the pittance that he manages to earn as the gardener, but he is also a very talented pelota player, a sort of local sporting hero. When Brande realises that Nicholas and Jose have struck up a close friendship he is consumed by jealousy, feeling that Jose is taking Nicholas away from him, so Brande sets out to punish Jose, with devastating consequences.

I read this one for the Read Scotland 2015 Challenge.

A Blast from the Past – A Scottish Soldier

Scottish soldier

It’s a while since I did a Blast from the Past and this one isn’t as old as they usually are, the photo above dates from 1965 I think, and it’s of my eldest brother. My mother took the photo, as you can see she didn’t manage to get his feet in it!

John was about 18 years old in this photo and he’s in full Highland dress. In fact he was on his way to being part of the guard for the Queen’s visit to Dumbarton, where she was officially opening the town’s new County Buildings. There is a photo somewhere of the Queen inspecting the guards and it was taken just as she was walking towards my brother, so she is right next to him. It was taken by the local newspaper’s photographer and my mother had it framed and it sat on top of her display cabinet for years, but it has gone AWOL at the moment.

I was only about 6 years old at the time but I can remember the excitement quite clearly. My brother was in the Territorial Army which is the equivalent of the US National Guard I think, and they had all been given this very splendid dress uniform to wear for the occasion. However they were warned not to put anything in any of their pockets or even in the sporran. I suppose those in command didn’t want any unsightly lumps appearing in the pockets.

The upshot of that was that when my brother got back home after the ceremony he was locked out as everybody was either at work or at school. He used his initiative and went around to the back of the house where he managed to push the top sash of the kitchen window down and climbed in that way.

Unfortunately someone in one of the houses which you can see behind him saw him climbing in and phoned the police to report a burglary! Honestly how daft can you get – as if anyone would break into a house in a full Highland kit.

Anyway the cops duly appeared and my brother had a hard time convincing them that he was a legitimate member of the household. When the rest of the family heard about it we thought it was hilarious.

One other thing which sticks in my mind was that according to my brother they were ordered not to wear any underpants under their kilt -and they were inspected before being allowed to go on parade. Did they have to lift their kilts up I wondered!! No, apparently someone had to go along the lines with a gadget like a car wing mirror on a stick and poked it under the kilts, just to check that they had all obeyed orders and were properly dressed kilted Scotsmen. He swears that it is true but I’ve never been too sure about believing it!

BBC Art – Your Paintings

Did you know that the BBC has been busy putting all the British paintings which are in public ownership onto a website? They have just completed the mammoth task so all of the paintings which are owned by local authorities are now available for viewing online. You can see them here.

I’ve been snooping around on that site for quite a while and have pinned some of the paintings already, particularly ones which feature scenery which is dear to me, it’s that ‘hills of home’ thing, but I see that since I last visited the site quite a few more local scenes have appeared, I’ll have to get pinning.

This is one of my favourites. It’s the Cloch Lighthouse at the Tail of the Bank on the Clyde estuary. It dates from the 1930s and is by Norman Wilkinson. I love that 30s style.

The Clyde

This one was painted in about 1853 and is of the town I grew up in, albeit more than 100 years before I got there, it’s Dumbarton from Kirktonhill, by David Octavius Hill.

Dumbarton from Kirktonhill

If you have some spare time you should have a wander around the site you never know what you might find.

Dumbarton from the Air

Have you been on to the new site Britain from Above? I just had to go on to see what the town I grew up in looked like in the aerial photos. The houses in the top left hand of the photo below were new builds in 1939 when the photo was taken and I was brought up in one of them, albeit in the 1960s, by that time more houses had been built along to the right hand of those ones and the road behind them was bigger, in fact it’s now a dual carriageway to Glasgow.

Dumbarton east from the air.

I had to cross that road to get to the hills which are beyond the photo, and in the summertime that was where I could be found, it was the days when we were all running wild and climbing trees as kids, in the fashion of children in Enid Blyton books, we had such freedom compared with the poor kids of today.

If you want to see more photos of the Dumbarton, Loch Lomond area and even photos of the Queen Mary on the River Clyde have a look here. The very first photo is of the castle rock which is at the left hand side of my header and the town is just beyond it. Loch Lomond is an easy walk on a good day, but the best walk is the one up the hills towards Overtoun House, sadly there don’t seem to be any photos of the house though. I could spend hours looking at this site.

The Cutty Sark Sailing Ship

The Cutty Sark was in the news recently again, this time it was good news, something which seems to be thin on the ground at the moment. The refurbishment is going well and people will be able to visit her before much longer, they were lucky that a lot of her timbers were away for conservation at the time of the fire.

The ship went up in flames a couple of years ago at Greenwich, it was thought then that it was set on fire deliberately but the investigators discovered that someone had left an industrial vacuum cleaner switched on over the whole weekend and, surprise surprise, it caught fire! The fact that the 2 night-watchmen were asleep meant that by the time a passer-by discovered the fire the whole ship was ablaze.

Prince Philip was instrumental in getting the Cutty Sark to Greenwich. I think he should have made sure that she was returned to her place of birth at Dumbarton, the River Leven in fact, not the River Clyde as all the news reports stated.

It would have been great to have her at Dumbarton, she would have been a wonderful attraction for tourists who go to that beautiful area only to discover that there’s nothing for them to do there.

Song of the Clyde cover

It would have been a fantastic opportunity for the youngsters too as there would have been jobs and training schemes for those involved with it. I like to think that she would have been looked after better at Dumbarton, well they didn’t make a very good job of it at Greenwich.

As ever, it seems that all good things have to go to the London area, as if tourists never go anywhere else in Britain.

If you’re interested in the history of Clyde and River Leven shipbuilding then you might like this book which has lots of photos and information on the many shipyards on the rivers.

Flights of Fancy

I’ve got into the habit of paying calls to favourite blogs late at night, just before I get ready for bed. You do this at your peril because it can be really bad for your sleep pattern. Sometimes an interesting post just grabs a hold of your brain and you can’t stop it from wandering around. This happened to me the other night when I read this post from Karen at Books and Chocolate.

Before I knew it I heard the clock downstairs striking twice and I don’t know when I actually did get to sleep. The upshot of that is this list of places I would like to visit, or books I would like to be in. Karen, I hope you don’t mind me ‘nicking’ the idea.

1. I would have loved to have been a woman lucky enough to escape to the small mediaeval Italian castle, San Salvatore, which features in The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim.

2. Cornwall. I wanted to visit Cornwall for years after reading Rebecca as a young thing and eventually did get around to it. Many Cornish books later, it’s Winston Graham’s Poldark books which, set in Napoleonic times, I would love to be able visit. Minus the “morbid sore throat” obviously.

3. In a punt on the Isis at Oxford during the Brideshead Revisited era. It would have to be a gorgeous day for a picnic and ideally Aloysius the bear would be my companion – he doesn’t have a big appetite and he is teetotal!

4. On a Mississippi riverboat with Mark Twain as my companion and the smell of good cigars.

I found this riverboat photograph on Wikipedia and almost swallowed my tongue in surprise, (honestly) when I read that the Delta Queen was built in Dumbarton, the town I grew up in. I love the internet!

5. In Neverland telling stories to the “lost boys” and giving out lots of “thimbles”. (I’ve obviously got empty nest syndrome.) Sadly, few people read the original Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.

6. In Newfoundland around about the Quoyle’s Cove area, as featured in The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. Lots of warm clothing required.

7. An inhabitant of Tilling in the Mapp and Lucia books by E.F. Benson. I would love to contribute to the gossip.

In reality, we have a little list of places which we hope to visit one day and we are working our way through it.

1. Stratford upon Avon. To see the sights and whichever play they have on at the theatre there.

2. The City of Bath. I know that Jane Austen wasn’t keen on the place but I would love to walk in her footsteps and visit The Pump Rooms and generally soak up the Georgian atmosphere.

3. Derbyshire. For Jane Austen reasons again.

4. Norway. Ideally on a ship so we could sail up a fjord. I did this when I was 12 and remember it as being magical.

5. A certain French farmhouse in Normandy again, close to the D- Day landing beaches.

6. Cornwall again, especially the atmospheric Tintagel area which is steeped in King Arthur lore.

7. American Civil War areas. I’ve been interested in the subject for a long time and have the Ken Burns film with that great character Shelby Foote. This isn’t likely to happen as I don’t want to fly or have to go through all the security stuff. Still waiting for that “Beam me up Scottie” thingy.

I could go on for a long time, especially with the book ones, but seven seems like a good number to stop at.

I’ve just realised that I forgot to mention The Orient Express, minus a murder of course.

If anybody would like to share their ‘wish to visit lists’ with me, please leave a comment or a link to your post on the subject.

Glencairn House, Dumbarton

This is the oldest building in Dumbarton, it dates back to 1623 and it is situated in the High Street next door to what used to be the good old Woolworths store, now sadly missed.

Most of the time I lived in Dumbarton, Glencairn House was empty and neglected. Believe it or not it has had a bit of a facelift in recent years and at least now it is being used. It seems to be home to a credit union nowadays. The credit union is a great idea but I’m sure they could have found somewhere else for it to be housed. I wish somebody would deal with that buddleia before it does serious damage to the building.

Glencairn House would be the perfect location for a tourist information centre/museum, which as far as I can see, they don’t have in Dumbarton. It has links with Robert Burns as he was made a freeman of the town in the building.

Tobias Smollett and A.J. Cronin also have links with the town and Coleridge and the Wordsworths visited the town and castle too.

A.J. Cronin did the research for his book Hatter’s Castle at the local library, sadly years before I was working there. Like many of his books it was made into a film in the 1950s.

Considering all the history involved with having such an important landmark as the castle/rock, the links with Mary, Queen of Scots and even Merlin, the town council has done absolutely nothing to bring visitors into the town and exploit the treasure which they have on their doorstep.