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Mon Jul 12 12:09 pm  #1

Let her feet do the walking....

Walking back to happy days.

By: Marion Campbell.

It’s been many years since I’ve been there but today I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane and visit Govan.

It’s nine o’clock,and I’m leaving the leafy suburbs where I live. Except for a few people going for
newspapers and the postman doing his rounds, the place is dead. I take the bus to town, walk to
Buchanan Street,%20Glasgow,%20Buchanan%20Street.jpg

and get on the subway. An hour after leaving home I arrive at Copland Rd subway station. (Now named Ibrox ).

My heart begins to thump as I climb the stairs to street level. As I emerge from the darkened station in to bright sunlight my heart begins to thump with excitement; I’m going home. Outside the station I stop and look all around me.

I smile; Copland Road had never looked nicer. On Saturdays, when I was a child my parents used to take me to town. We’d go by subway. After a visit to the Poly (Lewis’s) or Arnot Simpson’s or Woolworths, or maybe the mall, we’d return home. I used to hate when we got off at Copland Rd; it seemed such a long walk to our house. But now, looking down it, it didn’t seem long at all.
Woodville Street is to my left. I heave a wistful sigh. I’m remembering the Scottish Machine Tool
Company that used to be there.When I was a teenager I used to phone a young apprentice draughtsmen who was serving his time there. He was my first sweetheart! But I have to get on; I have a lot of ground to cover.

I start walking down Copland Rd. To my right is Copland Quadrant. I remember Frank Haffey who had lived there. He had been a great footballer and later wenton to play for Celtic.

When we were both still at school, he at St Gerrards, me, at Govan High, a pal of his had told me that Frank had fancied me. Handsome as he was I had to ignore this; the reason being he was a Catholic! But then, that was the early fifties!

Summertown Rd is now on my left. I stop and rememberhow, when I was young I used to run up this road then turn the corner in to Clynder St. Here were the corporation baths and here I learned to swim. I’d have a wooden thrupenny, clutched in my hand. Either my mother or father would have given me the money. When my father was giving it to me he’d make a game of it. He’d hold out his two upturned clenched hands. In these fingers, callused and scarred by working at a foundry, was the hidden three-penny piece. I’d have to prise each finger up to find it!

I walk again but only for about one hundred yards. This is it! It’s hard to believe that once I had lived here in a tenement. That I had shouted up to the window for a ‘piece’ that I had played in
streets, closes and back courts, jumped dykes, roller skated, rang folks’door bells, and took part in back court concerts. And lastly, winched in the draughty back close!

Looking around me, I’m totally disorientated; the area is totally changed. There are new houses, new streets. It’s hard to visualize where 49 Copland Rd once stood.

A lump comes to my throat; a tear escapes from the corner of my eye. For the first twenty years of my life I had lived here; that from here I took my direction in life and my character founded. I am bursting inside. I have a terrible urge to tell someone.

I see a rounded little nun coming in my direction. I literally pounce on her as I say “Good morning!
Isn’t it a beautiful morning?  The surprised little nun smiles, then in a soft southern Irish brogue
replies, “It is indeed. It’s a beautiful day  But I’m not letting her escape from me that easy; I can’t contain myself and I blurt out, - “I was born here; I lived in a tenement right here  “Oh,  she says looking thoughtful. “That must have been along time ago  She goes on and tells me she’s not long over from Ireland. She certainly doesn’t know the Govan I knew. We say our Good byes and she goes on her way.

Once again I try to figure out where our two up, two rooms and kitchen home would have been. I stare in to space; I visualize the windows. The oriel windows which overlooked Copland Rd and Merryland Street springs to my mind and for a few seconds I am transported back in time. It’s Christmas time. I’ve hurriedly finished my tea and run the two flights of stairs.

I want to see the new artificial Christmas tree from outside.   I cross the road and stand outside
Galbraith’s  stores and look upat the oriel window of our ‘Big room’. Although it stands only three
feet high, I can see the tree shining .(My mother has sat it on top of a large box) The tree has about ten stubby branches which look more like toilet brushes. On them, hang twelve sparkling  fairy lights. I think it’s beautiful! But then, that was the early fifties!

The cul de sac of Merryland Street. I’m amazed; nothing here has changed. St Frances nursing homes is on one side. This is where the nun had come from. My sister was born there fifty-four years ago, then, it was known as Montrose Nursing Home. Now it’s a home for the elderly. Directly across from it is St.Saviour’s church. Today the doors are shut. I remember the days when they were always open. From our two storey windows in Copland Rd we could see right up this avenue giving us a great view of all that went on in the church e.g.funerals, weddings and First Communion processions.  But the thing that sticks in my mind was the tramping of hundreds of feet of the people going to Mass on a Sunday and the long queue for Confession on a Saturday night. But again, that wasin the early fifties!

I’m back in Copland Rd again. Copland Road School has gone. A new one called Copland School stand in its place. I’m just about to move on when I hear a bell. Children begin to spill out of the classrooms. It’s playtime! I watch some children getting in to a huddle in the playground. I have a flashback. The year is about 1948/49. A wee boy from the local Catholic school had died. This was the result of hanging on to the back of a lorry. He had fallen off and gone under the wheels.
It was dinner- time; a crowd of children were talking in the playground of Copland Road School.

The ringleader said to me,“ We’re going up to see his body. Are you coming?" I nodded. I was curious to see a dead body. The family of the deceased child lived in Carmichael Street. I remember clearly the constant stream of children making their way up and down the three flights of stairs.

The front door was wide open. We went in the kitchen.This room of course served many purposes, a living room, a sitting room, a dining room, and with the usual bed recess, a bedroom. In the middle of the floor on trestles was a white coffin. I stared. My face fell; the lid was closed!  On the floor surrounding the coffin knelt boys and girls from his school. With earnest faces they faced the coffin, their hands clasped reverently.

Holy Mary Mother of God!, Holy Mary Mother of God! I stood and stared in wonder. “Are you no’ gonny kneel doon and say a wee prayer for Joseph, hen?  I turned to find the wee boy’s mammy standing beside me. “Oh I  canny,  I said shaking my head. “ I’m no’ a Catholic. “Och, but you can aye say ‘Our Father’. hen  coaxed the mother. The poor woman got nowhere with me. I remember saying I’d have to go back to school. I hope she forgave me!

Back to my walk! I want to continue up Copland Rd to Govan Rd; but that’s no longer possible. It’s all changed. I turn in to Vicarfield St, Cuthbertson’s Dairy the bottling plant has gone. I reach  Broomloan Road, then Orkney St. The police station has gone but the bank building at the corner of Orkney Street and Govan road is still there.

I’m in Govan Road now. My face falls. This is hardly recognizable to me.

The Plaza has gone. In it splace is the new Govan Cross subway station. I stop and look around me. I’m thinking, could this be the spot where I used to queue in all weathers to get in to the Plaza? I didn’t care if the picture had started, nor if I didn’t geta seat. All I had wanted was to get in. The coal depot. This used to be right beside the Plaza. This landmark has vanished too. I have a flashback. It’s Winter. The year 1950/52  time, Saturday morning. Place, the Macdonald household at 49 Copland Rd (I’m about twelve or thirteen) My mother says, “ Marion!  Will you go to the coal depot and  see if you can get me a bag of dross I agree readily; this was something different to do.

I set off for Govan Cross pushing the old ‘Go chair’ This  is  normally used by my mother for taking
her washing to the “Steamie"

After half a hours walk I arrive at the coal depot. It’s a hive of industry. Coal merchants are loading their lorries. I wander around the coal merchants enquiring if they have any dross for sale. Success! A bag is loaded on to my pram. I hand over sixpence then triumphantly I push the pram up Govan Rd, Southcroft St,Vicarfield St, then home.

Mother and father get busy in the scullery. A pail is filled with dross. Water is added. Next, the
mixture is put in tins, then in to the oven. Some time later the baked dross is brought out of the
oven. My mother carefully upturns the tins and slides out the newly baked briquettes, With great
ceremony one is put on the fire. We all watch. Within a couple of minutes the prospect of a roaring fire is quashed. The coal briquette has collapsed leaving a little mound of dross. My poor parents didn’t know, that to make briquettes there has to be another ingredient, cement!

Burleigh Sreet. I’m baffled. How did I get here? I never crossed any road. I retrace my steps to see how I had arrived here. It’s clear to me now. Helen Street had disappeared and the pavement has continued to Burleigh Street making it pedestrian all the way. I‘m going up the street now. I find something new, a shopping mall. There are still some shops, but the ones that were familiar to me are gone, the Co-op, Boots and Clarks. It’s only ten thirty, but already the place is buzzing with people.

It really is vibrant. I stop and smile to take it in. This is the Govan I knew. I get on my way again, passing Harmony Row and then I’m in Langlands Rd.

There are fine tenement buildings here and below them, lots of little shops. The latter entrance me. I stop and stare in their windows. A butcher’s window catches my eye. The meat looks good and I go in. As I wait to be served I am entertained by banter flying back and forth from butcher to customers. They are on familiar terms with each other. On paying her bill a woman says, “Oh, take a pound off Jimmy. Put it in my Christmas club. This comment fills me with nostalgia; I didn’t want to leave the shop. For this is the world I once knew. But needs must and I leave clutching my parcel of meat.

To my left is Hill’s Trust school.

It’s now a Community Learning Centre. Now looking ahead I see great changes. A housing development has been built smack bang in the middle of Langlands Road. I cross the road and pass between bollards in to a long walkway bordered on each side by trees, plants and shrubs and new terraced houses. It’s lovely. I walk from one end to the other and marvel at the greenery.

At the end of this wide path I have to pass once more between bollards. I’m amazed; I’m back in
Langlands Rd at the corner of Elderpark St. This area looks quite unchanged except that the road has been narrowed by the introduction of parking bays, flower tubs and traffic calmers. The Elderpark  Library, is on my right. From here I continue my walk following the curving perimeter of the park.

Every now and again I stop and peer through the railings. I’m searching for something. My eyes light up. I see it. The pond!

And because of an incident here I now believe I am a true Govanite. I wasn’t yet at school when I fell in.  My big brothers were fishing for baggy minnows.“ There’s one!. There’s one!  I shouted excitedly and then. splash!  I plunged in and joined it. My brother to this day recalls how my knickers billowed out as I went under! I take up my walk again; I’m still hugging the park railings. After a large bend, the road swings round and opens up. To the right is Crossloan Rd. Straight ahead is Arklet Rd. Once again I am mesmerized by the changes. Where once stood the huge Vogue cinema is a block of flats.

This makes me sad as I remember. It’s the last day of the school term. The whole school is crowded in to the cinema. It’s prize giving ( I’m  not  getting one. as usual!) But like the majority of pupils who are not receiving a prize; I’m prepared to sit it out. A carrot has been dangled at the end our noses; when prize giving is finished, a film will be shown be shown!

My ‘pilgrimage’ is just about over now but there is one final landmark I must see. I cross to the other side of the road. I pass Arklet Rd; then some vacant ground where The South Govan Town Hall used to be and I’m at the hallowed ground where Govan High School once stood.

Govan High School:,-4.332401&sspn=0.010887,0.027423&ie=UTF8&hq=Govan+High+School&hnear=&ll=55.858202,-4.334042&spn=0,0.013711&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=55.858483,-4.333952&panoid=NyM2RzDjiBfc3kB1hXDArA&cbp=12,125.42,,0,2.32

This landmark pulls at my heartstrings. I loved this school but a las, many years ago it was razed to the ground by fire. All that remains are the railings and the gates. It doesn’t seem fifty years ago that, dressed from top to toe in the school uniform I nervously walked through them. For a few minutes I remain there, then, with a lump in my throat I turn and walk away.

I’m on the bus on my way home. This morning I set off from home in an exuberant mood but now I’m feeling sad. The Govan where I was born and bred is gone. The streets I played in as achild, from dawn til' dusk are gone. Worse an that, nobody knew me. I was astranger! But then, I think, there is another way to look at it. The Govan of today has changed but the Govan I knew is still vivid in my mind. I

have a host of wonderful memories of Govan and of the people who came my way. And as the song goes ‘They can’t take that away from me’ (That is, as long as my memory holds out!)

P.S. Since I started writing this, I attended a reunion organized through Friends Reunited. Seventeen of us met. The majority of us hadn’t seen each other for forty-eight years. We bonded right away and had a great night. But then we all had something in common.

we were Govanites!

Haste ye back.
             Jimmy. (

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